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"Horse Girl" Archive Jan - Jun 2011

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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June 30, 2011 – My horse lays down and rolls over. He won't eat and seems to be in pain. What's wrong?

This appears to be colic, which is to say, he has a very severe belly ache. HOWEVER, since horses cannot vomit, this is a life threatening condition for them. Call your vet immediately, and while you're waiting for the vet, keep walking the horse and don't let him roll. Rolling presents the strong risk that your horse may twist his bowel during his rolling. A twisted bowel can kill the twisted section of his intestine, which usually kills the horse. This is not good obviously, so call the vet and keep on walking!

June 29, 2011 – Why does my horse keep falling to his knees?

Some horses are stumblebums naturally because they're heavy on their forehand and don't pick up their feet. This can sometimes be dangerous for the rider. Another cause is a horse that has a neurological condition causing the falls. In this case, you need to get a vet to identify and treat him for this condition.

If your horse is just clumsy, then there are ways you can train him to get him further back on his hindquarters when he moves around. You can also ride him differently with an eye towards balance. However, if you elect for this latter approach, you need to realize that there is still some elevated level of danger, but with care and attention, you can still ride him. I recommend you instead take the training approach because it makes for safer riding for both of you.

June 28, 2011 – My horse stomps one of his front feet while I'm riding him. Why does he do this? It's annoying. How do I get him to stop?

This is likely one of two things:

  1. It could be flies he's trying to get off his legs; or
  2. It could be an expression of an editorial opinion on your horse's part.

Whichever it is, you should be able to tell the difference by observing the timing of the stomp. If he's stomping because of flies, you'll be able to see the flies on his legs, be bumped off by the stomp, and then land again to try for another bite. In this case, apply some fly spray and use it whenever flies are biting. Note: Be sure to follow the manufacturer's application instructions on the side of the product — some employ serious chemicals with other potential hazards to the horse, humans, and other wildlife.

If your horse is stomping to show an opinion, try to determine what it is. Some opinions, such as him resisting something you want him to do require immediate and consistent correction.

June 27, 2011 – What could be causing my horse to lose her hair?

It could be one of many causes, such as mange, a vitamin deficiency, a skin disease, or over enthusiastic rubbing by the horse. Even over aggressive grooming by us can cause hair loss.

If the cause is not obvious, such as constant rubbing or something you're doing, have your vet check the horse for a biological reason just to rule it out. It's always better to find a problem early than to let it fester and grow.

June 24, 2011 – What does a "clunking stifle" mean?

You mean the clicking stifle? The stifles are the knees of a horse and they exist ONLY on the hind legs. On the front legs, the closest equivalent would be the horse's elbows.

I'm not a veterinarian and I don't know if this question pertains to your horse, but I can share what little I know about this. A clicking stifle is caused by a loose patellar ligament and creates an odd clicking sound. The sound is caused by fluid moving around the stifle joint and is normally not a concern.

You should probably have your vet check your horse to be sure exactly what it is you're hearing. As I mentioned, most of the time, this is not an issue. And if it were to ever get extreme, there is a surgical procedure that can often fix the problem. Check with your vet regarding your particular situation.

June 23, 2011 – I have a new horse and she won't go into her stable, not even for food. What should I do?

Try feeding her outside and keep her in the pasture with a companion horse. As she gets more comfortable and used to her surroundings, she may witness her companion going into the stable and be thus reassured. Horses often become more comfortable with an action when they see other horses doing it and remaining ok.

June 22, 2011 – How can I tell if my horse doesn't like me?

This is a fairly obvious event. He will turn his back and walk and/or run away from you if in a pasture, or will present his buttocks for your inspection if in a stall. If he seriously dislikes you, he'll attempt to bite, kick, or run you down — not good.

Now, mild dislike you can live with, because it's situational. It usually depends on things such as whether or not you're feeding him, or whether or not there's any other fun activity in store. In these cases, you'll notice that your horse will seem to overcome his mild dislike immediately and want to go with you for that food or fun event.

However, if I ever saw any signs of biting, kicking, or physical manhandling by the horse, I'd immediately be on guard and would consider getting rid of him because life is too short to be attacked by such a large and powerful animal.

June 21, 2011 – Is it ok to let a hot horse drink water?

Sure, he can drink a bit. Just don't let him down a whole bucket of water at a sitting. Let him take some sips, walk a bit, take some more sips, walk a bit, and so on. The key is to cool him out slowly.

June 20, 2011 – I've been giving a horse at my barn injections for a friend. Another friend said that makes me liable for problems. Is that true? What can I do to protect myself?

Yes, it makes you liable. Are you a duly licensed veterinarian in your state? If not, you risk two avenues of legal attack:

  1. If the horse has problems from the injection you administer, your friend (the owner) could sue you for negligence; and
  2. If your local vet finds out, you can face an action from the Attorney General concerning the unlicensed practice of veterinarian medicine. This has nothing to do with whether or not you're charging money for the service; it has to do with the physical action of injection.

Don't laugh about the last one; veterinarians and teeth floaters (sometimes calling themselves "dentists") are currently locked in a virtual "death battle" in these fifty states over who has the right to provide this particular service of equine dentistry. Those who float teeth, quite sensibly, maintain that they don't need to be doctors to do the floating — it's not surgery. And veterinarians, quite sensibly, maintain that the definition of the practice of veterinarian medicine includes the activity of floating procedures as defined by state law. I don't see an easy way out of this one. I'm waiting for the inevitable coming legal battle — don't forget I predicted this — it will be coming to a state near you soon.

So, though I understand and appreciate the appeal of horse owners to do their own shots, I would never do that except with my own horses because I won't be tempted to sue myself if I mess up and hit an artery or other horrible possible consequence. I know barn owners who will inject banamine or bute for borders — I think they take the risk above. Aren't lawyers horrible people? I think most horse people could live without knowing the above.

June 17, 2011 – When I go to see my horse, I brush him and pet him. But when I walk away, he pushes against his stall door, whinneys at me and acts like he wants to come with me. Is this true?

It does appear that he wants to come with you. He likely hates being confined and you're his buddy. So he reckons that you'll attend to his desire. It is cool when horses really do like to be around us.

June 16, 2011 – I have an unusual problem. At least I've never seen or heard of it before. I have a boarder that doesn't pay his board, but keeps coming to visit his horse. What's up with this? What can I do? I don't want to let his horse starve. But I can't keep paying for this horse myself and the owner ignores me when I ask for payment.


FIRST, file a notice of trespass with the police, and send the horse's owner a certified copy of it via certified mail. The letter should notify him that he is banned from your property until he pays his bill.

SECOND, you need to utilize your state's "agister lien" provisions to recoup unpaid board, the termination of which process includes an order for sale of the horse to recoup the monies you've spent. DO NOT sell the horse without going through your state's official procedures for this process — all states have this process; You can bet that this is not an uncommon event because horses are expensive to keep and stables have a duty to provide care.

SO, you don't have to take this behavior from the horse's owner. But you definitely should contact an EQUINE LAWYER licensed in your state to help you with this. In fact, I'm currently in the middle of disposing of a stable's improper quantum meruit action (suit for services, in this case, for board). I represent the horse owner who paid for horse boarding services with goods rather than money, and the lawyer who represents the stable just doesn't know equine law. You can likely imagine my delight at going to court on this one. Don't make the same mistake of hiring an attorney unfamiliar with the vagaries of horse law. It can seriously reduce your chances of winning.

June 15, 2011 – Am I allowed to haul my horse on an open trailer with no sides? I have such a trailer for my tractor and don't want to have to buy a horse trailer if I can avoid it.

WHAT????????!!!!!!   Are you joking?   Tell me you are kidding.   A trailer with no sides???   What makes you think the horse is going to be able to stay on a moving trailer with no sides to lean against and to stop the onrushing wind?   Do you anticipate tying the horse down on all four corners like a tractor?   Using bungee cords?   Chains???   OH MY GOD!!!!!   Please consult your psychologist immediately.

June 14, 2011 – Hi! I've got a sweet little filly that I rescued this past winter and she is coming along well and is gaining weight nicely. I've got her on equine senior as well as alfalfa three times a day and free access grass hay at all times. She is looking so much better and shedding her winter coat out, but now I'm noticing a lot of dandruff flakes in her coat and wondering if it may be body ash or something insignificant like that. The brand of senior feed I'm giving her has plenty of fats and omega III and such, so I'm not sure that I should add yet more fat to her diet. Do you have any suggestions? I also have bathed her a couple times, but not excessively. Would you suggest maybe a medicated shampoo with some betadine in it or should I add some corn oil to her diet? Just wondering. Thanks in advance for your good advice!

I use Selsen Blue® when this happens. It works well and takes about three weeks. Shampoo every three or four days.

As far as I can tell from your description, the problem sounds like it's just flaky skin. But, it could also be rain rot. Either way, the Selsen Blue should take care of it.

June 13, 2011 – I have a very difficult decision to make regarding my horse. Should I get a goat for my horse? She is the only animal in my barn and this situation seems a little unfair to her. I was wondering if I should get her a pasture buddy. I have access to a free baby goat. What do you recommend?

Uhm.....well, your horse may like the goat, or he may not. And you may be happy with the goat, or it may be the guest from Hell. It's hard to tell in advance. The famous racehorse, Seabiscuit, apparently went through a number of companion animals before he found his "buddies". But more to the point, are you ready for the challenge of keeping a goat?

Cute as they are, a goat WOULD NOT be my first choice of a companion animal. They eat literally anything, can climb like cats, are as smart as ferrets, and are almost impossible to keep fenced in. In other words, be prepared for potentially frequent property damage and enraged neighbors until you figure out how to keep the goat confined and fed only on the things you want him to eat. All I'm saying is that there's a reason why goats can be found in extremely arid areas running around loose as well as at mountain tops.

I will, I suspect, get lots of comments regarding how good and how wonderful some of our reader's personal goats behave. And believe me, I'm perfectly willing to agree with and acknowledge that. It's just that I also know there are OTHER goats out there that are quite a bit more challenging, so I'm reluctant to recommend that you take this route. Selecting a less challenging companion or another approach (e.g. boarding out) might be better.

June 10, 2011 – Hi! I gave my horse as a companion because he was lame. The woman I gave it to then sold him at the sales where he went to turners for humans to eat, but he was full of bute and the passport is still in my name. The police do not want to know; can you help?

Unfortunately, if you gave the horse to another person as a true gift, (in the sense of giving title), you have no recourse other than as a citizen pursuing rights to prevent animal cruelty. While I've seen horse rescue operations attempt to thread this needle by insisting on a right of return for horses, I'm not sure this kind of agreement would hold up in court if the agreement was unduly restrictive. Also, the right of recourse would only exist against the first person in the downstream of transactions.

I'm very sorry this has occurred for you. My strong suggestion is to contact an equine lawyer to see if there may be some other rights which attach to the situation (in your state) that I'm not able to see in this short description of the events you've described.

June 9, 2011 – I just recently got a horse, a mare. I bought her from a friend and he said that she was in a type of gun show act until she was sold to him. My concern is that she is very afraid of spray bottles, the hose, and any kind of water on her whatsoever, causing me to be unable to put fly spray on her or give her a bath. I'm in desperate need of the best techniques to getting her to let me do such things without getting either of us hurt!

You have to desensitize her to those actions. There are many articles on this topic that you should research. We have one here entitled: Step 6: Water & Bathing. I would also bring her to clinic or two with good trainers. They will show you some techniques and oversee as you give these items a chance with her.

June 8, 2011 – When I ride my horse, she is perfect on everything except I can't enjoy that because she is a barn lover and always puts up a fight to go towards the barn. She is short term and barn sour. After about a minute of riding in the pasture, she will walk straight to the barn door with or without a bit in her mouth. Are spurs the option? This problem really takes all of my enjoyment out of riding my horse. I really need a solution!

This is a real problem, and one that you may not be able to solve by yourself. That is, this is a problem that you, by ignoring small signs of disrespect, have allowed to grow into an actual danger to yourself.

A barn sour horse, if confirmed in their sourness, may fight if challenged. Now, if you're fearless (in the sense of actually feeling no fear and having the skill to provoke a battle and deal with the consequences), you would in short order deal with the problem, by ruthlessly squashing the signs of sourness and making her work whenever she displays them. She would learn quickly that getting along and obeying you is the best way to go. This would involve whip, spur, and whatever other means of getting her attention that you would need. (NOTE: The whip and spur are for getting attention, NOT for punishment.) I find that extra work is the best motivator because it's clear the horse doesn't want to do that extra work AT ALL.

However, because you're asking this question, I believe you do need to enlist the help of a horse trainer. The trainer will train you, in specific detail, how to train your horse to get over this problem. You'll also find this training valuable for dealing with other problems that horses can develop that involve them testing you.

June 7, 2011 – I was wondering if you can give me any tips or tricks on how to become successful in the horse industry. Little things that may help or any advice would be great. Thank you.

The trick to making it in the horse business is the same as in any business. Here are some universal business tips in no particular order:

  • Pay attention to the details;
  • Commit yourself to quality work only;
  • Be careful and disciplined with money, yet invest in your business and do it wisely;
  • Learn everything you can about your business and keep up with the latest developments;
  • Work smart and hard; and
  • Some luck (never hurts — helps a lot).

More specifically, the biggest problem with the horse business is that the profit margins are small because horses are so expensive to keep. To make it harder yet, it's a seductive business and that results in many talented amateurs willing to work for little or nothing. (This is hard to compete with in any business, but it seems there are more such people in horse businesses.)

Therefore, it's my opinion that, if you serve an industry that serves the horse industry, you typically have better luck. In other words, rather than being in the horse business directly (boarding, training, grooming, etc.), provide services to it. For example, provide equine law services, sell equine products (tack, fly spray, riding apparel, etc.), barn and arena building, equine real estate services, equine health services, etc., are some fields that service the horse industry without being in the business of providing horse care or training directly. There are some barns and trainers who make a great living, but they don't represent the majority.

The foregoing are my observations and opinions only. There certainly are others. I hope this helps and gives you some ideas of well-paying work related to horses that you might enjoy.

June 6, 2011 – How does a horse perspire?

They sweat through glands located at the surface of their skin. Believe it or not, horses actually sweat really well and cool off very efficiently compared to humans. They generate much more heat because of the calories they need to burn to move their greater size, and their bodies have adapted to get rid of that heat quite efficiently.

Of course, that doesn't mean we can overwork them with no fear of heat prostration or stroke — that's a risk for all mammals. But considering their much bigger size and bulk, their perspiration/heat-control system is quite impressive.

June 3, 2011 – Why did my horse try to lay down with me on her back?

Because she's exercising the ultimate in passive disobedience. Literally, she's lying down on the job — don't let her. This no different than the horse that's always grabbing leaves or grass on a trail ride when she should be working and listening to you. Or the horse that doesn't follow your commands to move, turn, or stop.

So, whether it's not following directions and running when you tell her to stop or lying down and rolling with you on her back, it's dangerous and you need to stop her. If you don't know where to start, get a horse trainer in your area that has a good reputation to work with your horse. And make sure you're present so you can learn the valuable techniques of how to be your horse's leader.

June 2, 2011 – What can I give my horse to quiet her down when ridden?

AARRGH!!!!!!! I hope you're not seriously suggesting that your horse be tranquilized as an ongoing event so that you can ride her. This is a real "NO NO!" A tranquilized horse cannot respond quickly to changes in weight or surface, and so has more risk of falling down.

Unfortunately, the use of tranquilizers is not completely unknown in the annals of polo horse sales. There are unscrupulous sellers out there who do this. The buyer then wonders why the horse is trying to commit homicide two weeks later.

Here's the deal: if a horse is too much for the rider, then the horse is not safe for the rider, with or without a tranquilizer. You should sell the horse (with full disclosures) if you're not comfortable with it or take lessons to learn the skills of how to deal with more spirited horses. Anything else is just not safe.

June 1, 2011 – Why won't my horse's winter coat fall out?

Possibly because you may not be feeding your horse properly; or it may be too cool yet for the hair to loosen. In New England recently, we've had that problem. It was in the 40's at night just last week, so I don't blame my horses for hanging onto their winter coats a little while longer.

Use a curry comb and groom daily. It'll all fall out according to plan as long as you're feeding hay, grain, providing adeqaute water, and grooming regularly. Also, consider putting a sheet on your horse if it's cool at night so that the beastie won't be too cold.

May 31, 2011 – What does a rider's weight feel like to a horse?

Wow. I will have to consult my empathic ability to project myself into the mind of a horse, an ability that has often gotten me into trouble especially when I was a pre-teen girl. (My neighbors viewed me with suspicion because I would trot around the neighborhood jumping fences and whinnying.)

However, not actually being a horse, I don't truly know. But, I bet it feels a lot like a person riding on another person's shoulders in a pool. If the rider is out of balance, the carrier wants to fall down and likely will strain a back muscle trying to stay upright.

I have ridden quite a few young horses in my time, and taken note of the efforts they make with new, out-of-balance riders learning to ride. I had a young quarter horse once that was convinced he was going to fall down if he made any sudden moves with a rider on his back. You could see the confusion and the fear on his face. As he got stronger and more conditioned to carry weight, he got more and more confidence. He was in the position of feeling kindly and superior towards riders that don't know how to properly ride. You could see the look on his face, which was more like, "well, you don't know any better do you? Here, let's just take a moment to let you adjust yourself."

There might be some who'll read this and be convinced that I'm projecting my own thoughts onto the animal. Well, maybe. But then again, they weren't there when the horse started walking in slow motion during a particularly rough patch for the rider. I guess I'll just have to think what I think, and let others think what they think.

May 27, 2011 – How often should you take a horse bath?

How often should "I" take a horse bath? NEVER!!! I'm not a horse.

But horses do need to be bathed when very sweaty to get rid of that sweat on their skin, or when suffering from certain skin conditions, or if very dirty as an aid to keeping them healthy. HOWEVER, these baths should be given ONLY when it's not so cold that they could suffer from hypothermia from the coldness while wet. In the colder seasons, your only option is to wait for warmer weather unless you have access to a warm bathing area where your horse can be allowed to dry before being brought back outside into the cold.

I think that about covers it.

May 26, 2011 – Yesterday I had both of my horses in a large covered arena (not unusual). They both rolled as usual. I started some ground work with one while the other just kind of "hung out" waiting for his turn. All of a sudden some gals that were close by brought to my attention that my other gelding (a rescued ex-race horse) went down different and then twitched all over almost like a slight seizure. It lasted a minute or two. I've never seen him do this before. I called him, he got up and seemed just like normal. I observed him for a while and then worked him a little and he was like his old self. But I would like to know what happened to cause him to shake. I even thought that maybe a mare in heat might have left some "discharge" that caused him to react strangely. What do you think? I can't get this off my mind. I hope you reply, thanks!

Is your horse a Quarter Horse? You called him an "ex-race horse" and Quarter Horse racing is big in California. If so, then the malady could be HYPP, or Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis disorder. This is a genetic seizure condition introduced into some Quarter Horses by a gene mutation. This mutation appears to only be suffered by some of the descendants of the impressively muscled foundation sire named, appropriately enough: Impressive. He was the winningest Quarter Horse stallion ever in the halter ring competition from the early 1970's. Even more impressive about him, many of his get were also impressively muscled and conformed. As a result, there was lots of money to be made in competition, so Impressive was heavily bred and sired well over 2,000 foals. Unfortunately, it was later discovered that some of those gets and their offspring suffer from this condition, which is manifested by muscle paralysis and sometimes seizures.

Unfortunately, HYPP can also be suffered by other animals as well. For example, it can occur in Thoroughbreds, although less reliably than with the descendents of Impressive. You'll need to determine whether your horse has this gene mutation.

There is a genetic blood test for HYPP which your vet can tell you about. If your horse tests positive for HYPP, then discuss treatment options with your vet. It may be that the horse is not safe to ride, even with medication, and so this is something you definitely need to investigate. Even if the problem is not HYPP, a horse suffering seizures from any cause needs to be fully examined and investigated to determine whether or not it presents a safety issue for you and the horse.

Good luck and be safe.

May 25, 2011 – We often get questions from would-be riders, or parents of children wanting to ride, asking about the dangers of horses. So, I've written about this topic in an article entitled: The Risk of Riding Hortses.

May 24, 2011 – What are the legal aspects of someone giving you a horse, and then asking for it back a year later? I've been paying all costs for this horse for the year and thought it was mine. Do I have to give it back?

This all depends on the circumstances and agreement between you and the owner when he/she gave you the horse. If at the time the horse was given, the owner intended that it be a permanent gift, then the horse cannot be "retrieved" because it was a gift and is now yours.

If the horse was just given on a undated, term-less, "free lease" basis, then the owner can retrieve it because he/she never gave up ownership, they just let you use it. So, in your case, much will depend on the words, gestures, actions, and most important, the writings (including emails) sent at the time the horse was transferred to your possession. If you assert ownership, the burden of proof on you will be that you must show that, at the time the horse was given to you, that it was a true gift.

I would definitely consult an equine lawyer on this one. There is a lot of law around this issue, and though I can tell you what the law is, how it applies in YOUR situation is something I would have to know a whole lot more about before I could talk about it intelligently. Plus, it will revolve around the laws of your particular state and a local equine attorney would know those laws.

Therefore, in order of business, you should check your files (paper and email) for all proofs that would show that the horse was gifted to you, or proof of behavior of the donor that indicates permanent gift. Then, go to see an equine lawyer. This is definitely an excellent example of a situation wherein a written agreement, Bill of Sale, or other document would make the disposition of this horse very clear both to law enforcement and to a court of law. That's really what you and the owner should have done, and for your sake, hopefully did.

Good luck!

May 23, 2011 – How can I stop my horse from pushing me around with his head?

Don't let him! This can be the beginning of a more dangerous situation in that your horse is not respecting you and taking it further means that he'll start pushing you around for real. At his size and weight, that can become very dangerous.

When your horse pushes you again, correct him immediately and sternly — do this consistently. He'll get the picture soon enough. Horses are very good at making the connection between their action and your immediate response.

May 20, 2011 – How can I stop my horse from grazing while I'm riding?

This is actually your fault — DON'T LET HIM GRAZE! You're supposed to be in charge and he's testing you — at the moment, you're failing the test. That means, he's free to decide what he's going to do. And because you're along for the ride and at his mercy, he's actually in charge — is that how you see it? Next time he puts his head down to graze, yank it up and trot off immediately. If he does it again, add to the work, perhaps four or five tight circles (horses HATE tight circles).

Horses only do things like graze when they shouldn't because they figure they can, and you've been supporting this notion by letting him do so. If you're consistent about stopping him and making him work each time he grabs a bite while being ridden, he'll quickly learn the penalty is not worth a quick bite. Horses really do learn fast and your horse will be much easier about this issue once you've been consistent with him.

Remember, we're always training our horses. That means we're training them to do something, such as grazing while riding, when we don't stop them from doing it.

May 19, 2011 – I was out in the pasture with my horse today and she was just standing there chilling out with me, and pretty soon she started working her mouth and licking her lips (she didn't have a bridle on) and then nuzzling my ear and licking my hand. Why did she do this? She has never done this before.

If you weren't asking her to do anything at that exact moment, then she could have been having a private taste treat moment. If you were asking her to do something, then this is a gesture of submission. She may just have been happy to be with you. Based on your description and without having been there to see the interaction, these are my best guesses.

May 18, 2011 – Hi! I recently planted a bag of "deer feeding plot" mixture of grasses and such near my horse pasture. As the seeds started to grow I realized there were sweet pea seeds in the mixture. My husband thought that perhaps these were poisonous to the horses. Now I am paranoid! Could these plants or the seed pods they produce be harmful to my horses? Yes, I will be calling my vet as well, but I like multiple opinions. Thanks for your help!!

YIKES! The ASPCA confirms that sweet pea is indeed toxic to horses. Check out the Animal Poison Control part of their Website for the complete list of plants that will harm horses.

I would get rid of that seed mixture immediately and everything that was planted and has spread from it. Good luck!

May 17, 2011 – I have a horse that I share with someone, but she can't keep her pony and the horse, so she has to like the horse. The thing is that he is very spoiled and does not respect us, but he can be very sweet and I love him very much. He nearly destroyed her trailer and threw a big fit. She was NOT happy at all. What do I do? Can he be retrained, he is 14 or 15. I am a first time owner, should I get another horse? We have him on a trial for 30 days.

I see variations of this question all the time. Here is both the short and the long version of the answer to this question:

Short Answer: Don't keep the horse. You don't have the training to deal with the horse's issues. YES — get another horse without these issues.

Long Answer: The mere fact that you're asking the question indicates to me that you don't yet have the background, training, and expertise necessary to re-train the horse. That's ok because few people do and you can get another horse that's a better and safer match for you. Now sure, you can enlist a trainer to train you and the horse at the same time. BUT, it's actually a lot harder to train you than it is to train the horse. That's because training humans takes lots and lots of time. That time is needed for repetition, to gain experience, to provide hand holding and get you through bad decisions, to provide emotional support, etc., etc.

You would additionally expend money, lose work time, need band aids, ibuprofen, more reading and networking with others about this training, experience wear and tear on your personal relations, pain, drama, possible injuries such as mashed toes, broken fingers, busted ribs, a nose break or two, as well as require constant observation to keep you safe and assure you're "getting it right". You would also need a whole lot of tack that you don't now own, or even have any idea you might need, before you can say that you're in a spot where taking on a horse with known issues of dangerous disrespect might make sense. Even then, there will be no guarantee that, at the moment of truth, you won't freeze and engage in or repeat behavior which calls forth an unwanted response. Heck, that even happens to experienced trainers all the time. The difference is that an experienced trainer also has the experience necessary to try a different approach on the fly and still emerge alive.

Ah, you may think I'm joking about the last part. Well, didn't you say in your message that the horse damaged a horse trailer? Do you know how hard it is to damage this engineered, heavy duty piece of equipment that is designed to take horses in and out and endure normal wear, tear, and abuse from those horses? What if that was your head in the way?

So, do the smart thing and don't go into this situation at all. There are plenty of horses out there that don't have issues, other than the ones that come with the territory of being a horse. And that is quite enough for you at this stage of your training career. In fact, it's enough for most of us.

May 16, 2011 – If you stand in front of your horse, will it run into you?

That depends on the horse. Some will — some won't — mine don't — yours might. Some might even if they start out across the paddock. Others could even if they start the move with their back end facing you. Others wouldn't even if their life depended on it.

Just like people, all horses are individuals. I must say though, that absent a panic attack, which all horses are susceptible to, IF YOUR HORSE is more likely to do this than other horses, you'll be able to tell because of a consistent pattern of disrespect that he aims in your direction. If this is the case, either get expert help or sell the horse. Equine disrespect can kill a human.

May 13, 2011 – What exactly is the danger if I don't cool my horse out after some hard riding?

Your horse could "tie up", which is a horrible way for lactic acid buildup to kill muscle tissue. This is something you definitely DO NOT want to see or have your horse undergo because it's extremely painful. If you yourself work very hard over a period of time, and then stop immediately for a while, you'll feel a tiny fraction of what horses will go through (fractionally based because you have only a fraction of the muscles that a horse does). Since it's a prey animal, your horse has all this muscle because it depends on speed for survival to escape predators.

At its most severe, this ailment (also called sporadic exertional rhabdomyolysis and recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis) can literally necrotize the muscles (kill their tissue) in your horse and then you'll have to put him/her down. A form of this malady can sometimes occur through improper feeding, but for now, I'll presume that you mean what your question asks, which is, "is it ok to ride a horse hard and put them away wet?" The answer is: NO! IT DEFINITELY IS NOT OK.

Symptoms of this ailment include:

  • Obvious discomfort and irritability
  • Abnormally short strides
  • Profuse sweating
  • Muscle stiffness, contraction
  • Difficulty moving
  • Elevated pulse and labored breathing
  • Inability to sleep.
  • Brown colored urine resulting from the kidneys filtering myoglobin from the blood. (Myoglobin is an indication of severe muscle damage.)

If you suspect that this has happened, then call a vet immediately.

May 12, 2011 – How can I find out what my horse's natural balance speed is?

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Horses should be balanced at all speeds. If they're not, then they need work to build up their muscles so that when you're riding, you and your horse are never out of balance. In addition, you need to be properly balanced and over your horse's center of gravity when you ride or you, too, need training and the building up of your muscles.

As for your horse, this process is different for each one. Some horses are naturally heavy on one end or t'other. Some are naturally less balanced. But all horses can be ridden so that, over time, they develop muscles that allow them to carry you naturally in a balanced way no matter what you're doing.

For my polo horses, this process begins when the young'ins first come off the racetrack, clearly in shape, but not muscled or balanced for any task but a straight run. They're narrow up front and weedy behind. I spend up to two years riding them in circles at all speeds and on the trails up hill and down at all speeds. By the time I'm done, they look like different horses altogether. I'll take some comparative photos sometime to post the difference so readers will be able to see a horse that has worked for balance and one that has not. Both will be fit, but the differences will be immediately obvious.

May 11, 2011 – Food is always falling out of my horse's mouth. Why does my horse drop all this food on the ground? She does eat it all up afterward, but it seems inefficient to me.

It sounds as if your horse badly needs dental attention. If your horse's grinders have overgrown to the point that they can no longer properly grind her food, then she'll spill food out of her mouth and will eat the grain whole. This can cause colic, not only from the whole grain, but also from the dirt and sand that she eats off the ground.

For your horse's sake, CALL AN EQUINE DENTIST RIGHT NOW!

May 10, 2011 – Why does my 8-week foal always turn his back to me as if he's going to kick out?

Because he's just a baby and he IS afraid of you. Therefore, he might kick out at you if he can figure out how to kick and how to do it while standing. Though, as I said, he's just a baby, they do learn quickly, so you're right to be concerned.

Here is a question for you: how does his mother treat you? Is she afraid of you? Is she happy to see you? I would work on increasing her demonstrable desire and interest in seeing you, and if the baby sees that, he'll copy her attitude quickly. Conversely, if his mother is not comfortable with you, you can expect the same from the foal because he'll take his lead from her.

So, if "mom" is not comfortable with you, work on resolving that, not only because of the foal learning from his mom, but also because his mom could injure you if she feels the need to protect her foal. Then, spend some time with the baby, brush him, give him some treats, and handle him overall and show him that he has nothing to fear. If you're firm, but kind, consistent, and boost momma's interest in you, then you should be fine and be able to develop a good relationship with the foal.

May 9, 2011 – Hi there! Just recently was given a year old paint mare who is wonderful. However, tonight, when I went to say goodnight to her while she was out to pasture, she turned and kicked at me, ran off, continued bucking and throwing her head, circled back around and ran back to me and stopped right in front of me blowing hard. She did this a few times and on the last time, she began pawing the air on her way back towards me and she backed me into my barn causing me to run on the side to get away in fear of her. She has never done anything like this before, is great on the ground as well as in saddle and doesn't bite or anything. Is this play or intentional? And how do I stop this before she really hurts someone???

Your mare (or filly, since she's just a year old) is doing the teenage equivalent of, as we say, "testing boundaries".

In the herd, this sort of disrespect is met with firmly and decisively. Though you can't give her a good kick in the ribs, you do need to meet such behavior with an unmistakable response. However, though I'll tell you what I would do in such a case, I must say that I'm not certain, given what you've said about your reaction so far, that you should do this without expert guidance at your side while you go forward. There's a lot of "on the spot" decision making that needs to occur and you need to remain safe. Still, this is something that MUST be done because you don't want her to get the idea that this is acceptable behavior. She wanted to play and to spar with you, and while you can play, it MUST be on your terms and in a safe manner. She's not old enough to understand the differences yet. With that caveat, let me tell you what I would do:

First thing, do some round pen work with a trainer so that you know how to "push" her away from you using body language, a buggy whip with a plastic bag tied on the end, and eye contact. Then, whenever you approach her in the field, (and I would do so often and each time insist on correct behavior rewarded with a treat), require that she stand and face you. If she doesn't, then push her around the paddock at speed until she indicates that she's tired of the game and just wants to stop. This will be shown by mouthing, licking, and/or pleading glances with ears pointed at you. If you do release the pressure and she stops and faces you, then either give her a treat right then if she's close to you, and then walk away and leave her alone for a while or for the night; or, if she's too far away, then just disengage and leave her alone for the night. Say your "night nights" right then. But by no means should you allow her game to continue. It's very dangerous for you and not doing anything is teaching her some bad habits on how to deal with humans.

Good luck!

May 6, 2011

Editor's note:The Horse Girl is writing this post from beautiful Lexington, Kentucky, where she is attending the annual National Equine Law Conference.

I'm spending two straight days in a large conference room discussing lots of issues currently surrounding horse ownership and the horse industry. Needless to say, I find this to be a riveting set of topics (yes, I might be crazy). For example, the first day's conference included topics about equine liability and risk considerations, and how to manage risk for both rider and horse facilities. Another major crowd pleaser was collecting equine judgments (yes, my fellow attorneys might also be crazy). Also very interesting was a talk about how industry participants can, with help from the tax code, create captive insurance entities to insure against unusual business risks that most insurance companies refuse to insure (Ok, ok, Yes! We're all crazy at this conference).

Of course, these wonderful topics are discussed in a sea of "Derby talk", an ongoing minute-by-minute assessment of the prospects of the horses that will race in the Derby. At least one scheduled speaker to the conference had to beg off because the draw for the post position of his Derby horse coincidentally occurred at the same time as his presentation.

The rain clouds have now cleared up, the sun is out, and driving is hazardous because I'm rubbernecking to look at all the long-legged foals bounding in the blue-grass paddocks lining the highways. Though the economy is still not back on its feet, the international political environment is uncertain, and all the cares of life continue to multiply, fortunately, much appears right with my world of horses as I watch those adorable foals. For me (and other horse-crazy people), nothing seems to make things feel right with the world like watching and being with horses — I wouldn't trade it for anything!

May 5, 2011 – Is it common for a horse to be sore after trailering?

No, it's not common. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is your horse striking or kicking the sides of the trailer while it's in motion?
  2. Does the tow vehicle driver have a lead foot with lots of abrupt stops and starts? That can create a bumper car situation for the horses inside.
  3. Does the horse have a companion that's kicking the stuffing out of him in a stock trailer while it's moving?
These kinds of problems will result in a sore horse. You may even see injuries. Otherwise, horses usually do fine with short trips.

Longer trips can create a stiffness issue, just as you might be stiff if you had to stand up for many hours bracing yourself against constant motion. But, most horses do fine even on long trips and walk this stiffness out shortly after being released. You should occasionally stop and visually check your horses on long trips and can learn more by reading How Often Should I Stop When Trailering?

Investigating the ride conditions of the trailer and the driver's technique of the tow vehicle is what I would do if I were you. That's what it sounds like to me.

May 4, 2011 – Is it ok just to always ride your horse in the arena? I'm not comfortable riding any horse away from the barn?

Well, your horse will get bored to tears, could get barn sour and pull a snit as a result, which could be dangerous for you. Riding inside is no guarantee of safety. If you're going to do that to your horse, then please spend an appropriate amount of time worrying about his mental state.

Give him lots of turn out with his buddies, take walks outside on a lead and let him graze at will. You should also vary the work inside the arena, that is, occasionally play games in addition to working on your stuff. If he does start looking dissatisfied with life inside, then pay a trainer to take him on trail rides and hacks on "off" days.

Also, I'd work on a trainer for you to find out why you're uncomfortable outside. Confidence is worth working on! The bottom line is, if you make your horse happy, he'll make you happy. Funny how it works like that (I should be a marriage counselor!)

May 3, 2011 – Why does my horse keep losing weight along his back and back end?

How old is he? Older horses will get very gaunt in the back end and will have a hard time keeping weight on. Only regular exercise and lots of high quality feed can stave this off. Even then, as your horse ages, you will reach a point where he can no longer sustain weight. At that point, you'll have to call your vet and make the hard decision to put him down.

Though you notice the weight loss and muscle wasting more in the back end, I'm sure the problem is systemic with your horse overall — they don't lose weight only in certain spots. Be careful; if your horse loses enough muscle, he'll not be safe to ride. Call your vet on this one — you need expert help on this.

May 2, 2011 – Why does my horse put his head down whenever I mount him?

Because you let him do it. Also, he's getting a head start on a long rein. Are you grabbing his mouth for balance as you get up? If so, then he's taking preemptive measures because it hurts him.

If he's standing still and you have a long rein already, what happens then? Does he still put his head down? If so, then I'm not sure what he's doing and would have to see it happen. This is something you should have a trainer see and advise. Some things are almost impossible to diagnose without more information or seeing first hand. Altenatively, pay attention to your reins, watch your horse does as you approach and mount, and let me know.

April 29, 2011 – Hi, My Daughter is in 4H and is allowing another girl in the group to share her horse for shows. Do we need to have her or her parents sign a release? Both girls are about the same riding ability and the horse is well trained and quiet, BUT we all know things can go wrong. I don't want to end up being sued for trying to give a girl without a horse an opportunity to try showing. Thank you for your time.

You're wise to think about and ask this question! You absolutely need a waiver of liability to protect yourself. The waiver should be signed by the girl and her one of her parents. This waiver needs to be drafted according to the laws of your state and that should be handled by an equine attorney, not a "joe blow" citizen attorney, because experience with equine law is vital here.

In the event of a problem, every single word on that waiver will be tested in court, and if found wanting, could be a huge legal and financial problem for you in the event of a fall or injury by the girl. In addition, you also need to purchase and maintain horse owner's liability insurance. Even without letting someone else ride your horse, you should have this insurance to protect yourself in case your horse ever harms someone by any method (biting, kicking, bumping, etc.)

Although your generosity feels informal now, in the event of injury, which you really can't rule out given the nature of horses and the inherent risk their behavior poses, things will get formal and nasty pretty darn fast if something goes wrong and someone gets hurt. Such policies usually cost in the $200 - $400 per year range and are more important than any other horse insurance you may also buy. The barn owner's policy covers only them — NOT YOU! This policy would cover you.

Protect yourself first, and THEN go on to exercise your big heart.

April 28, 2011 – What exercises can I do in the stall with my horse?

Well, there are lots of exercises that YOU can do, but very few that will profitably involve your horse in the sense of exercise. A horse is too big and a stall too small to do much by way of exercise with your horse. In addition, such exercise would involve danger for you if you're in the way. For example, if you were to push your horse one way in a stall and he goes the other way, you're toast, or pulp, as the case may be — I wouldn't try it. Save the exercise for the paddock, round pen, arena, etc.

One other thought: if your barn has wide aisles and they're long enough, you might be able to trot your horse down and back multiple times. Even walking back and forth lots of times when the weather is bad outside will still give your horse some exercise and keep his body moving much better than you could ever do in a stall.

If you do this and your stalls have waist-high gates as many barns use to give horses a way to see each other and what's going on in the barn (a good thing), stay to the center of the aisles because many horses are very territorial about their stalls and will snap at passing horses. Make sure your horse is far enough away that none of the stalled horses can get to him as he passes/trots by. This is why I mentioned it being good to have "wide aisles". Alternatively, if the stalls also have doors, you can slide the doors closed on each occupied stall before commencing your horse exercises, and then open them again when you're finished.

April 27, 2011 – What does it mean when my horse walks on her toes?

It could mean that your horse has foundered, although typical founder means they rock back on their heels as they try to get the weight off the bottom of their feet. I would check with your vet right away, as this can't be a good sign. The sooner it's addressed, the better for the health of your horse.

April 26, 2011 – Why is it important to keep your horse cooler versus warmer?

Well, speaking very generally mind you, and dependant on the weather, a horse has a lot of body mass and can generate and store quite a bit of heat. So, it's usually easier for him to warm himself up with some activity or by eating hay. Also, the weather is typically not so cold that he can't manage, given his body mass, to deal with colder weather if he has his seasonal coats.

Hot weather is harder for horses to get rid of excess heat when active. Now, this is all relative. Extreme weather on either end will defeat your horse, just as it will us humans. So, keep an eye on your horse and keep an eye on the weather. Take appropriate measures to keep him warm when the weather is very cold and to cool him off in hot weather as needed. Pay particular attention to not overworking him on hot days and providing walking cool-downs after exercise, especially before giving food — you don't want to feed horses when they've been working hard and haven't had an opportunity to slow and cool their bodies.

April 25, 2011 – Why does my horse blow bubbles when eating his grain?

Does he blow grain pulp out of his nose while eating? If so, then he has the horse version of a cleft palate, and the contents of his mouth are making their way down his snout and out. I had a polo horse with this condition once. It required some caretaking and rinsing of his nose and mouth before exercise and after eating to make sure he wouldn't inhale grain.

If it's something else, then I have no idea; he could have a cold. Your vet is your best resource on this.

April 22, 2011 – My horse doesn't like it when we ride out on our own. He just keeps fighting me. How do I make him go?

He doesn't trust you to keep him safe, and he's barn-sour to boot. That means, he wants to stay home, and you're not sufficiently "high ranked" in his eyes to make him behave as you'd like.

This is a common issue, and it'll take work on your end to handle both problems. You have to consistently be on top of your horse in terms of rank (that is, you have to be the boss both on the ground and in the saddle), and you also have to be sufficiently consistent in your reactions to all manner of circumstances and stimuli before you'll convince him that you're a good bet as a herd leader that's safe for him to follow.

The best way for you to start is to work with a horse trainer to figure out how to outrank your horse in specific ways on the ground, moving to how to outrank him in the saddle, and then work on how you manage different scenarios in the ring and out on the trail. This is a problem that will yield to consistent work, but ONLY if you do, in fact, have what it takes to earn his respect. If not, if you're afraid and your horse senses it (they sense EVERYTHING), you're better off sending him on his way to someone else more suited.

I often advise readers to trade in their horse if they can't control him. That's because all their efforts have already failed and that's why they're writing in to ask for help. So, the only solution is to get local help via a trainer/instructor, or to trade in the horse for one with a personality that comports better with their own and that they can handle. There is no shame in sending a difficult horse on to a better-equipped owner if the current owner has tried everything they can or is not comfortable doing what they must to be the leader with a horse. It's also the only safe thing to do.

April 21, 2011 – Is it ok to keep trained horses together with untrained horses?

Not only is it ok, it's a better approach and most trainers prefer to keep horses this way. That's because horses learn best by imitation, and if they see one of their buddies acting in a certain way, they quickly pick up the cues from them — never believe that horses don't see almost every nuance of an interaction — they don't miss much about what's going on around them!

To elaborate, it's very reassuring to an untrained horse to watch a trained horse negotiate a scary set of circumstances and make it through the experience in fine shape. It won't substitute for training, but it sure makes the training easier. Horses are happiest if they can learn the job as one big group. There's nothing like teammates nearby to keep horses feeling safe and happy!

April 20, 2011 – I have a horse named Riley and he is the most amazing horse I have ever been on. There is nothing he loves to do more than sort cows, and he is great at it. I love riding him, but recently the vet told me he has arthritis in his knee. He does limp a little, sometimes more than others, but he seems a little dejected when we leave to chase cows or take a ride without him.

Is there anything I can do? He loves to work and I hate to see him just sit there out in the pasture. Thanks.

Ah, this is a great question!!!!!

I have in my experience formed a series of friendships with good horsemen and farriers, all of whom have similar experiences in keeping the great campaigners interested in their chosen line of work, whether as a school horse, a polo horse, or a race horse. The truth is that a hurting horse just can't do his job with the same abilities, but if you can make them halfway comfortable, their heart will do the rest.

So, here's a compilation of techniques that usually keep the old war horses on their best game, in no particular order, and only under veterinary supervision — this latter point is very important!

  1. Naproxen works for horses. Five or six tablets in feed on the day of a contest makes the pain go away and I'm told it has no long term side effects. BUT, I would definitely check with your vet on this for your specific horse. The brand name is Aleve. I know a number of racehorse trainers that swear by this, but the vet may say differently for your horse. Remember, the vet's word controls!
  2. Joint supplements with chondoitrin are a good thing. Ongoing in the feed.
  3. Sparing use of hock injections can lubricate hock joints. By sparing, I mean, NO MORE than two in a year, PERIOD! Just once a year is ideal and much better. These shots require antibiotics to be taken both before and after the shot. The concern about no more than twice a year is because the shot itself causes joint damage, so when I say "sparing", I MEAN IT!!! The shot literally lubricates the joint with joint fluid that is otherwise missing, so it can give real relief until re-absorbed by the horse's body. DEFINITELY ONLY DO THIS WITH AN EXPERIENCED VETERINARIAN. I have seen horses that died when this was misused, so be very careful.
  4. Good weight management is key. Your horse shouldn't be too fat because that puts a real strain on his joints. Also, a malnourished horse feels the pain more, so don't keep your horses too skinny either. This also means attention to teeth, worming, and diet because they affect appetite and ability to consume food for nourishment.
  5. Good warm ups are essential! A horse with this issue will be slow to start and will feel better as his muscles and joints warm up to the exercise. DON'T PUT THE HORSE TO WORK until you've walked, trotted, and cantered on both sides, and in circles bigger to start, and then getting smaller as the horse gets more limber, for AT LEAST fifteen minutes and gradually. No warm up + work = injury!
  6. Good shoeing or trimming is essential. A horse that's unbalanced on his feet will have more pain and injury. Regular trimming and shoeing is a necessity.
  7. Watch the bute. Bute is good only for acute pain and is NOT RECOMMENDED for long term use because it causes ulcers.
  8. Cold water hosing on the joints after a workout will reduce inflammation caused by the work. Walking to cool out is also recommended.

If you follow these techniques, you can often keep older horses going until they literally can't go any more; and that could be a long time in the future.

April 19, 2011 – I've recently been given a horse that hasn't been ridden in at least five years. I think she's about 16 years old. How can I prepare her for riding again?

I would spend a fair amount of time lunging the horse with tack on, in both directions, and at all gaits. Do this for a few weeks and then start your riding in an arena with other horses around. Just ride a few circles the first time and build up from there. Not too long after that, if she behaves well, she should be ready to start training or to take out onto the trail, depending on your riding intentions.

April 18, 2011 – My horse is a real handful and always wants to go where she wants no matter what I do. I can't control her and she's scaring me.

I think you've answered your own question. Life is too short for unruly horses unless that is your profession. The biggest problem is that your horse has no respect for you and does what she wants — that can be an extremely dangerous situation! Sell the horse with full disclosures and disclaimers and get a more respectful animal. They're out there and a lot safer to be around.

April 15, 2011 – Any ideas for calming down a young ex-race horse that's toey?

I am not sure what toey means, but I did answer a post two days ago (April 13th) about how to get a speed horse to stop thinking that speed is the only function of a horse while being ridden. The same thing would apply to this situation. You need to work him and be consistent in your reactions. You also need to vary the routine so that he stays interested.

I've found that polo is one of the best disciplines for ex-race horses because it gives them something to think about and turns them into solid equine citizens, on both a mental and physical level. Much of polo training is riding at all gaits in circles and lots of long hacks under different conditions until the horse stops trying to mug you, and instead gets interested in the project at hand.

Good luck!

April 14, 2011 – When I'm working my horse, her feet keep hitting each other. Why does this happen and what should I do? Am I causing this problem?

No, some horses overstep or hit on glancing blows for conformational reasons (e.g., their back feet will step on their front feet). Consult your farrier, and depending on what he observes and recommends, consider having your horse wear boots that'll protect his shoes and heels from damage. This is not an uncommon problem and you should take steps to prevent injury.

April 13, 2011 – How the heck can I get my speed-horse under control and slow her down? She scares me!

I bet she does. She scares me and I'm not even on her. Is this an ex-race horse we're talking about, or are you just hacking her when she does this?

Well, this is actually a problem in the polo world that I live in, and the fix there is to work with the horse on circles, in an arena, and in hacking on long trail rides until the horse gets it into his head that speed is not the only function of a horse with a rider on him. This takes a long and consistent effort, though. One mistake and the horse's knowledge may fly right out the window if he gets to repeat a horse race. Then, good luck stopping him! He'll be in the next county before you can say "boo!"

In that case, it's back to the training schedule again until you and the horse can agree on the speed issue. Colin (whose last name I will preserve out of prudence), a true daredevil rider if ever I saw one, used to work the speed out of his chargers by running them on a ten mile mostly uphill course. I admit that would do it, that or you would get an extremely fit runaway.

Now, if your horse is truly "speed-mad", I wouldn't even attempt to do this. Sell the horse and preserve your life. Oh, and do so with full disclosers to the buyer so you don't get sued when the horse does "his thing" to the new owner.

April 12, 2011 – What steps can I take to get my horse to not run away from me when I approach?

Well, you generally have several ways to approach this:

  1. You can work your horse in a round pen training him so that he learns the signals of your direction to stand. You may want the help of a trainer on this one so that you learn more about training your horse. What you learn will also be valuable for dealing with other situations.
  2. You can make it so that your horse looks forward to your presence by doing fun things with him when you visit, and by visiting frequently.
  3. Another approach is, as you're trying to catch your horse in the pasture, push him on until he indicates to you that he's tired of running. Then, approach slowly. If he runs again, do another round of push until he again stops and then approach him again. Your horse will indicate when he's lost interest in the chase game by licking his lips or mouthing, and he'll then pay more attention to you and look at you pleadingly. You may have to do this last bit a few times or every time until he learns to like you better or until you learn how to change his mind about you.
  4. Assuming that you don't have time for the previous approaches, you can do the obvious and bring treats when you visit your horse. He'll want to see what you've got for him and will come over. BUT, this is not the best way to attract your horse. Treats are a bribe. 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? You'd also risk making him a mouthy horse.
Having your horse come to you because he likes you and has fun when you're around is the best approach. It requires you to be a part of his life in that you can't expect much if you only see him rarely. It is a nice feeling to see your horse get excited and come to you because he genuinely likes you and being with you.

April 11, 2011 – Why do my horse's back feet hit the ground hard when I walk him?

EEEK!!!! I really hate to say this, but you need to call your veterinarian right away. The only equine malady I can think of that does this is "stringhalt", which is an equine nervous system disorder that causes the horse's back feet to slam the ground hard. Not to alarm you, it may be something else, but you do need to rule it out immediately. Please let me know what happens with this.

April 8, 2011 – At what age does a horse learn to roll over?

Pretty early on. It's a matter of coordination and scratching the itch. Once a baby sees its mother horse do this, or sees other horses, then it's only a matter of time before they try it themselves. As a rule, horses are wired fairly for fast coordination with other horses because they're prey animals. So, they learn fast from one another, and to them, rolling over is just another horsey maneuver.

April 7, 2011 – Why does my horse gallop away with his tail high when I release him to his pasture?

He's expressing how happy he is to be galloping. And if he looks saucily back over his shoulder at you as he runs, then he's also saying, "nyaah, nyaah, nyaa nyaah, you can't catch me! Go ahead, TRY!!!"

April 6, 2011 – Why does my horse dig in her pen?

Most likely because she's bored. Also, if she is eating mud, she might have a vitamin deficiency. Other than that, she's bored, bored, bored!

Give that horse some work, some companionship, and more hay. Horses are not pigs, and if you see one putting on a good imitation of a pig, then change the horse's living situation until she starts acting a bit more equine and a little less porcine.

April 5, 2011 – My horse has been biting his knees lately. What does this mean?

Biting his knees, you say. Hmm. Haven't seen this behavior before. Without seeing it, I would say it's because he has itchy knees. If there's no skin irritation and he's not lame, I'd not worry about it. However, if there is something to see on the knees or he is lame, then you need to call a vet to check it out.

April 4, 2011 – How do I tighten my horse's seat from the saddle?

I presume you ride English and mean the saddle's girth? To tighten it, push your leg forward and reach down and tighten. The foregoing notwithstanding, I don't recommend tightening from the saddle — I would get off and do it from the ground — there's much less chance of a mishap.

If you ride a Western, Australian, or endurance saddle, they use a cinch instead of a girth and that's almost impossible to tighten from the saddle. So, it's again the time to dismount, check the cinch's tightness, tighten it properly if needed and check it again, and then remount.

April 1, 2011 – Should I worry when I run my horse through the mud?

It's not possible to answer this question definitively because it's condition dependant. Some mud is a killer, literally. You could break your horse's legs to try it. Other mud is the natural byproduct of wet pasture and no more than what a horse would meet naturally and is not a problem. I guess I'd say that, whenever the conditions are, when going through mud, you should use caution, and be careful. Even a thin layer of mud is still very slippery and a horse and rider are at risk of injury if the horse should slip and fall.

March 31, 2011 – I'm wondering if you could address a problem I am having this winter at my barn. I have a three-stall barn with stall doors across the front which open to the paddock and then into a larger pasture. The stall doors are left open all the time and my horses have free access to the paddock which contains their water, the pasture and their stalls.

My two geldings seem to have decided to use the area in front of the stalls as a urinal all winter long. Now, with the melting snow and frost going in and out of the ground, it is super wet with standing, smelling mud which extends roughly three feet out from the stalls and into the paddock. Once I get across the three feet of mud it is okay, but I'm worried about this area and am wondering what I can do once the weather gets better to clear things up and hopefully stop them from relieving themselves in that particular area.

My stalls are clean and dry and the rest of my paddock and the pasture are dry and clear (aside from the obvious snow). I am very careful in the dry months to always daily pick up manure to try to keep down the fly population and also so that no hoof problems develop. Do you think that once winter is over I should dig up the area and bring in gravel and then put a good amount of sand on top? I am wondering if that might at least clean it up through the summer, but what would be a good way to discourage them from continuing to urinate there? I appreciate your thoughts on this.

I think your plan sounds like a good one. Also, there are commercial products you can buy that will reduce the smell (stall fresheners I think they call them) that you should also put down on the affected area. Now, I have read from some people that they can train their horses to keep a clean stall or put the manure only in certain areas of the stall for easy pick up. It seems to revolve around the notion that you keep a bare floor at the front of the stall, and older bedding with some manure at the back of the stall with the fresh stuff in the middle. It continues that, supposedly, the horse will learn to do his business so that it all falls in the back with the rest of the older manure-smelling bedding, and away from the bare floor where the urine and manure splashes back up on him while he takes care of business.

While I will not "poo poo" this notion (sorry, couldn't resist), it does seem to me to that horses are capable of decisive action on this front, and that it'll work both for you and against you. It's been my experience that determined stall pigs cannot be reformed. Nor can you explicitly command your horse's selection of the proper place to take care of business. However, I believe you can influence them to change their minds as to the proper place in some cases, and your outlined actions below may well do it; it's hard to tell in advance.

Good luck with this! And please let us know what happens.

March 30, 2011 – Here in CT we've had TONS of snow. The spring melt is going to be a terribly muddy and smelly one. I have been cleaning my 50 x 75 paddock daily through the winter. However, with 2 horses I'm afraid it will still be very smelly and don't want to upset the neighbors. When the snow is thawed and almost gone can I sprinkle lime on the ground? Is it harmful to the horses? Do I need to remove them from the paddock and how soon can they be put back in? Can I sprinkle lime on my manure pile (which I use for compost)? Any info would be helpful. Thanks so much!

You can use lime on the manure pile for odor, but the real issue is whether or not you're letting that stuff pile up. In suburban areas, there is NO tolerance for manure piles, so you'll have to use a dumpster and weekly hauling to address the problem. You have more leeway in rural areas, but essentially, the golden rule needs to be followed: if YOU can smell a problem, then likely your neighbor can too — DON'T do that to them!

As for lime, don't use it where the horses walk. Lime can burn flesh and will hurt the horses' frogs and skin around their feet. It's true that pastures are limed to maintain PH balance for growth, but usually that's done only right before a rain so that the lime can dissolve and soak in. Therefore, only if you let the manure pile up, or the paddock pile up, will you run into problems. Pick up your paddock daily, or every other day at the outside — practice good manure management in other words.

You can hire manure haulers who'll take your pile and turn it into money by composting it and selling to greenhouses. Or can sell it to farmers to spread on their fields. Or you can compost it yourself (the subject of a whole article well beyond the scope of this note). But whatever solution you choose, do choose something that is effective, meets the sniff test and doesn't create a fly problem. In this way, you'll serve both your horse's health needs and your neighborhood relations.

March 29, 2011 – My mare refuses to leave my property. She spins around, crow hops to get back to the house. My husband rides with me on a horse who's well-seasoned and her best pasture mate. When I walk her out of the property, over the country road and into the woods, I get back on her and she's fine for hours. She's fine coming back to the property; doesn't hurry to get home. When we trailer her off the property, she's fine and will cross roads with no problem. She's a fantastic trail horse.

Is she being stubborn/lazy? What can I do to get her to ride off the property?

Unfortunately, the fix for this is likely beyond you right now, as what you really need is the confidence to move her beyond her stuck place of barn sour attitude and the judgment to employ a range of tactics that will manage the task, up to and including an out and out rodeo, bronco busting, mano-a-mano "mine is bigger than yours" slug fest. This refusal to ride off property trick didn't get built up overnight, and it will take some work to undo the learned behavior.

I would get a horse trainer to work with you on this who can take a shot at the initial stages of "barn sour" retraining and also give you some tips you'll need to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Good luck and get some expert help on this one — it'll make a big difference.

March 28, 2011 – How can I control my horse's speed when I have her on a lunge line?

A smaller circle is harder for the horse and she will naturally slow down if you gradually take her in to a tighter circle. You can use this to help her understand how to slow down on command, especially if you signal her with a light tug on the rope as you begin to take her into a tighter circle. Once she understands that when you signal to go faster, (clucking or an actual voice command such as "canter" or "trot", along with a tap or two of the the lunge whip), that she has to go faster, then the command to slow down occurs naturally when you take the pressure off.

Oh, and horses will slow down easier at the end of the session. You may have difficulty in getting the horse's attention at the start of a session with a shut in horse.

March 25, 2011 – Why does my horse try to snuggle me when I'm walking her?

Well, much will depend on the attitude with which she does it. Some horses are naturally affectionate and will snuggle whenever possible. Others have an itchy head and view your life's work as being the person responsible for scratching that itch. Still others enjoy pushing you around to see what you'll do about it, not having enough drama in their lives otherwise.

Which of these do you think it is? I could come up with an informed guess after watching the interaction for a few minutes. But since I'm not there to watch, you'll have to venture the diagnosis without me.

One a word of caution: if the reason turns out to be the last one I mentioned, you need to enforce boundaries and your personal space with this horse.

March 24, 2011 – If a horse is removed from a barn, does the horse's owner have to pay for the unused portion of the monthly board?

Well, it's a matter of contract, verbal or written — whatever you and the current barn owner agreed to.. Some barns return and refund while others do not. Remember, a barn owner may not be able to fill the stall in the middle of the month because most board contracts go month to month. Therefore, the owner who's horse will replace yours is likely waiting until the month is up to move their horse from the barn where they are currently.

What you most likely bargained for originally was a stall that was open for that month. It makes sense then, like a cancellation fee for hotels, that cancelling after the contract has started should carry an amount of recompense for the barn owner of the unfilled stall for that month.

Of course, you're free to try to negotiate any other deal with a new barn owner. Just don't be surprised if you don't get any takers, even in this economy where the boarders have the upper hand.

March 23, 2011 – Why does my 17 year old gelding charge at me when I'm leading him to a grazing pasture?

Because he really, really, really wants to get out there and start enjoying the good life. The disrespect shown to you via the charge, however, is a very dangerous situation that must be addressed.

You can't let any horse take one step that isn't sanctioned by you — you have to be the one in control. If he moves out of line at all, discipline him either by a pop on the lead line (a chain over the nose is what the Thoroughbred people use for the really hard chargers) or a strong tap with a crop on his chest. In any event, if he charges, circle him around you and get after him until he's happy to stand. If you have any difficulty at all, get a trainer to help you.

Charging is not a behavior that you can allow a horse to get away with because the problem will only grow over time and you'll end up getting hurt. The reason I'm telling you all this is because if it's just a small rush to the gate, you can likely deal with it now with help and attention. However, if it's a real charge, such that your horse is actually running into you, then the risk is much greater. In that case, you're better off getting rid of the horse immediately with appropriate disclaimers to a suitably experienced horseman.

If you still intend to keep the horse, you must definitely get proper training on dealing with this problem from an experienced trainer right now. But, this is not a small matter. The majority of this training is actually for you. It's to become much better experienced at recognizing the danger by better watching your horse's actions and expressions. Then you need to learn how to consistently respond to the horse with corrective measures. This all takes quite a bit of time and experience, enough that most people won't bother with it. In that case, the only safe approach is to exchange the horse for one with a much safer disposition.

March 22, 2011 – My horse flattens his ears back when I feed him. Why?

He's warning you and any other potential feed stealers to back out of his way because he's hungry. Be very careful when he does this because he may snap at you. Most horses flatten their ears automatically and are still able to distinguish between people (dispensers of feed) and other horses (stealers of feed). But not always. I don't know which one your horse is, which is why I'm warning you now to exercise caution.

March 21, 2011 – How can I teach my horse to ground tie?

I start with a halter, a long rope, a lunge whip, some treats, and the horse in a corral. Clip the rope onto the halter, let the end drop onto the ground, square the horse up, look at him in the eye, and then back up slowly. If the horse moves, stop him, place him again, clip the rope and let the end drop. Eventually, he'll stand for a minute. When he does, stop the training, praise him, walk towards him, give him a treat, and try it again. Do no more than 3 or 4 times in a session. Then, leave and let him think about it. Do this several times over several days. Over this period, gradually increase the length of time you stand while the rope is on the ground and the distance you back away. Each time he moves off, stop him, place him, and repeat the same moves — DO NOT treat him when he moves off. But also be reasonable and increase the times and distance you move away in small increments. Your horse will actually learn this fairly fast.

After that, he'll be testing you to see if you really mean it. By that, I mean he'll be testing to see if you're consistent about having him stand without moving and then getting a treat as the reward. If, by consistent behavior on your part, you prove that you do really mean that he's to stand tied to the ground, he'll do it. After you've done this consistently many times, you won't have to treat your horse every time thereafter. But it is good to occasionally ground tie from time to time just so it stays fresh in your horse's mind.

March 18, 2011 – How do people teach their horses to lay down?

I've seen the teaching approach described as follows, though I've never done this myself:

Get a lead rope and stand besideyour horse at his shoulder facing forward. Pick up his front leg nearest you and bend it up so that the hoof is near his elbow. At the same time, pull back on the lead rope so that it pulls his head away from that leg and around so that the rope actually goes over his back while you pull backwards on it. After a while, your horse will have to go down on one knee, the knee you're holding. Praise him extravagantly and give him a treat.

Get him used to doing this and follow with praise and treats. Eventually, as you continue to pull back, he'll have to go down all the way. Praise and treats, praise and treats.

The Plains Indians had this technique down. I guess you can do this suddenly and forcefully and put the horse on his side, but since that will likely scare and possibly him, he won't be motivated to do it again and will lose trust in you. The gradual way with treats and praise will make it more of a command performance, which is I think, what you're looking for.

Good luck!

March 17, 2011 – How do I keep flies and mosquitoes off my horse?

There are a number of good insect repellents out there for fly season. Also, many people use fly masks that fit over the horse's head and protect their ears and eyes. You can also get lightweight fly sheets that look like a blanket that will protect your horse's body.

That's about all anyone can do. In the final analysis, horses sometimes just have to live with it.

March 16, 2011 – My horse gets very offended when I make her mind. For example, today I was lungeing her in the round pen, and when I let off the pressure, instead of turning in, she turned away from me with her rear end toward me. So, I got after her and made her work even harder, and after that, she treated me almost like something to fear. She would listen and do as I pleased, but she looked as if she would much rather run away even though I have never laid a hand on her other than a light tap with the lunge whip.

Horses have opinions, don't they? And well, they don't like working, generally. Mostly, they want to loaf in their turn out eating hay and hanging out with their buddies; they have no corporate ladder to climb. Mostly, it's about eating and playing with friends — a great life if people cooperate. Now, here you come along with a whip and an attitude about work that seems self-defeating to a horse. So, it's not that surprising that she'd want to change your mind and sass you if she could.

You don't say how old the horse is. A horse's degree of "sass" will generally dissipate with age. It also will if you remain firm in your convictions and correct misbehavior.

Now, the question you've not asked, but which I'll tell you about is that you can change a horse's mind about work if you maneuver it right. See, horses also like to move, and they like to play. Confinement all day in a pen eating hay is actually very boring. The trick is to make people time fun time even if it is work time.

To do so, vary what you do. Include treats for good behavior. Don't just do circles in a ring, that's very boring and horses figure it out almost immediately. Give them more of an intellectual challenge: play a game; go on trail rides; trailer to a fun place; take them home and feed them right away. If you work it right, then a horse will greet you with ears up and an expression that says, "ok, so what are we going to do today?"

Polo ponies mostly have this attitude down pat; at least mine do. They self-load onto the trailer and get all happy when it looks like we're going to play. I do hack them quite a bit also and they don't play every day.

During the polo match, I ration how much I push them, and for many plays, I sort of hang out and let them try to figure out how to make the next move. After a while, they're playing the game better than I am, so I have to sell them to better players. (Nothing is more wounding than a pony's editorial comment on your level of play).

At any rate, think about these suggestions and write back to let me know if you tried this approach and what happened.

March 15, 2011 – Hi! I've recently brought home a lovely little Percheron cross filly who will be 3 in April. She is a recent rescue horse and is now under my care, putting on weight nicely, and looking better and better all the time. She is the sweetest and most loving little horse I have ever been around. I've been told that is a Percheron trait.

My friends and my vet think it would be okay to break her out this summer, but my thoughts are: since she was undernourished for nearly two years which were the developmental years of her life as well as the fact that she is half percheron (I've read that Percherons and all draft and draft crosses develop more slowly), I am considering waiting until she is four to begin breaking her out to ride. I am doing basic ground work with her now and working with her on leading and lots of maintenance type things, like picking up her feet and such. She is very smart and willing and so easy to work with. I feel no rush to push her since she is, in my opinion, still very much a baby so far as development goes. Once warmer weather gets here, I plan to do some more concentrated training.

I respect your opinion and would like to ask what you would do if she were your filly. Do you have any specific ideas that you would be willing to share with me that you would use on a young horse to prepare her for more in depth training? She is such a sweetheart and I want to do all the right things for her.

In my opinion, it won't hurt your horse to back her at age three (that is, get on her back). But the real training will occur with her mind as she learns how to be a horse and how to interact with people. I don't advocate rushing this process, though you can start with long line and lunging, progressing to riding.

At age three, I wouldn't ask her to do anything other than hacking and slow ring work until four. You can also teach her to drive at three — that's a good way to settle her and add a useful skill.

March 14, 2011 – My horse is losing hair on her face and body. Could you please tell me what is causing this and what can I do for it.

There are a number of reasons this can occur. And since it's spring, it could just be aggressive shedding. Conversely, it could also be mange, rain rot, or something else. It is hard to tell without looking at the situation.

Give your veterinarian a call. Your vet needs to look at your horse to assure that this is not a serious condition.

March 11, 2011 – I recently moved to a new boarding barn and love it, except for one thing: the horses are turned out together and are shod on all four feet. Is this a deal breaker?

Shoes are necessary if the horses are in work. My seven polo horses are turned out together all shod, all year long, except for the barefoot months on vacation in winter. Now, that doesn't mean I let kicking wars and naked aggression go unchecked. If the ponies are at war, I separate the combatants and shift herd composition until I get a harmonious group.

Shoes can definitely do damage in a kick war, but so can work without shoes depending on the surface the horses are working on. Whether or not to include your horse in a group of shoed horses is a judgment call you'll need to make. But hopefully, I've given you some suggestions on how to deal with it.

Another measure sometimes used is shoeing only the fronts. I don't like this one myself as it can lead to uneven wear on the feet. But it will help prevent kick injuries. Again, it's all a judgment call.

March 10, 2011 – Is it bad to leave my saddle in the cold temperatures of the barn's tack room?

No, but your saddle can dry out in the dry winter air if it gets little care, so make sure you saddle soap it and condition it once in a while. Most of us leave our saddles in the tack room of a barn or in our horse trailers and that usually means they're in outside temperatures.

I used to leave my saddle in the front hall, but as I got along in life, I noted that others don't feel about horses the way I do and didn't always appreciate my saddle at our home's entrance, so I moderated my behavior a bit. Not that I wanted to, you understand, but others have told me that it's part of the maturation process. (I'm still trying to determine whether or not I agree.)

March 9, 2011 – I recently got cow kicked by my horse who was just thrilled to be out of his pasture and go for a ride since he had been recovering from a skin infection and couldn't be ridden. He is a good natured horse and I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I should never have let him get in front of me. However, I got kicked in the kidney and had bleeding the first day, now just very sore. Do you have a better healing remedy than rest and Tylenol?

I'm not a doctor. However, if I'd gotten kicked in the kidney and had bleeding (you don't say what the bleeding is from), I think that going to a doctor would be the right thing to do. Injuries of almost all kinds are easier and simpler to deal with when receiving prompt attention. Not getting proper medical attention often produces complications that could have been avoided.

March 8, 2011 – What do I do when my gelding challenges my authority?

This is such a vague question, that I had to squelche my urge to say, "Don't let him!" in favor of the observation that, unless there are more specifics given, I can't possibly answer you. For example, he might not be challenging you; he might be frightened. Or, he might be challenging you in a way that is easily fixed. Or, he might be challenging you, but in such a way that I recommend you never go near him again without further ado — it's hard to say without any other information.

Write back with more details and we'll be happy to respond.

March 7, 2011 – Why does my horse start to eat hay the moment I walk into his stall? He wasn't eating before I got there.

It could be an elaborate plot to convince you that he doesn't want to work. Perhaps he observed that you leave him alone when he's eating. You might not think that horses are that observant, but they surely are.

March 4, 2011 – My barn owner is being nasty. How should I go about moving my horse to another barn?

This one is easy:

  1. Find another barn that appeals to you;
  2. Give notice to your current barn owner under the terms of your boarding contract; and
  3. Move your horse to the new barn.
Don't burn your bridges or develop a bad reputation — the horse world isn't that big, so local horse people usually know each other. Give proper notice, adhere to your prior agreements, and move without causing problems for the owner and other boarders. It'll usually make your future dealings so much easier.

March 3, 2011 – Can a horse compact snow if he doesn't have horseshoes on?

He can, but the process is not as easily started as it happens with shoes on. By "compacting snow", I'm referring to the process of starting a snow ball at the bottom of the hoof. If a horse is barefoot, the snow will usually just fall out when he picks up each foot. Only with shoes on, where there is space between the ground and the foot and the freezing action of the cold, metal shoe do snowballs have a much better chance of forming.

If you were asking about something else when you mentioned compacting snow, please resubmit your question with more information.

March 2, 2011 – Our horse came up lame on a Wednesday morning and the same day the barn owner notified us via text message that she never intended to have boarders at her barn even though her ad for boarding is the first add in the local magazine. The very next day my wife went to the barn and the owner physically assaulted our horse and my wife with a lead rope. The same day she agreed to keep the horse there while we looked for another barn due to the fact he was lame and we had no way to move him (we did not feel comfortable but had no choice). At 7pm she called and told us "you have thirty minutes to get here or I am leading your horse outside the gate of the barn and letting him go". We believe she intentionally harmed our horse as well as unlawfully kicking us out of the barn with no warning.

I read your reviews and think she should have given us a written notice. We did not sign a contract. What are our rights?

Because you don't have a written contract, the notice provisions aren't spelled out in any formal way. So, you have no legal right to expect written notice. That being said, you are entitled to some sort of reasonable notice. What you describe does not sound like a reasonable notice.

HOWEVER, because you appear to be dealing with a truly crazy woman, the real question is: how soon can you get your horse out of there for his own safety? Preserve your horse, act quickly, and sort out the legalities later when you know your horse is safe.

Good luck!

March 1, 2011 – How do I lunge my really fast horse?

Does your horse spin out of control on a lunge line? Normally, this is not a problem because, if a horse pulls too hard, he'll usually end up facing you with ears and head up. Then, you have to get him going again waving a lunge whip while standing at his shoulder.

Horses learn pretty fast to just keep going in a circle. You can moderate this and work on different rates of speed by using placement of your body and the whip while making the circle bigger or smaller. Get a trainer to work with you on this. It's really good stuff to learn and is beyond what I can tell you in this post.

February 28, 2011 – What should I do when my horse pivots to kick me?

Move back very quickly to avoid getting kicked and then don't get in that spot again with your horse. You MUST get a trainer to help you change the horse's attitude and your ability to react to it — this is serious stuff! If a horse kicks with malice, then you're in serious danger. A horse can kill you with a kick.

February 25, 2011 – My riding instructor is always yelling and it's getting to me. What should I do?

Tell her to knock it off. If you don't have the stomach to tell her to stop yelling, then move on to another instructor. Life is too short to get yelled at.

February 24, 2011 – My horse fell down while trotting in a circle. Is this normal?

No, it's not normal, but it's not unheard of either. If a horse has a weak hind end, he's in danger of falling because the power to get his front end around the turn comes from his back end — no back end and you'll get a fall.

Sometimes this can be lack of exercise, or it can stem from an actual injury or other malady. Get your horse evaluated by the vet to see which it is because you don't want to ride him if he has an injury and can't move his hind end properly. If it is just a lack of exercise, lunge him for a reasonable period each day in larger circles and also make sure you do so in both directions.

Of course, don't over-tax him, especially when starting up. If he's out of shape, you need to start gently and work up as his strength grows. Your vet should be able to recommend a reasonable exercise regimen and schedule.

February 23, 2011 – My horse pulled on a rope and broke a friend's finger. Will homeowner's insurance cover this?

Very unlikely. Most homeowner's insurance policies have an exclusion for horses or livestock injuries. Your policy might be different, but I have to tell you that in all my years of practice, I've only seen one case in which a homeowner's policy covered similar injuries. That's why I strongly urge all horse owners to buy a horse owner's liability policy from an equine insurance company. If your insurance agent doesn't know an equine insurance agent, then go to a local barn and ask around. You can find one if you try.

February 22, 2011 – My sister has a pony that absolutely LOVES to run, which is cool when she wants to gallop, but he thinks he needs to run all the time and intimidates her when he tries to blast off with her. I rode him for her and at first he tried to buck, but eventually I got him to go slow. Even then, he was prancing, which is far from comfortable. I love his energy and eagerness, but sometimes it is nice to just walk. I rode him on an all day cattle drive and we sorted cows, so I thought he would tire out, but had no such luck.

Can you help? By the way, this site has taught me so much! Thank you!

Thank you for the vote of confidence!

You said you worked him with cows. That gives me an idea that another friend of mine used to good effect with her horse that had much the same issues that your sister's horse does.

She could consider loaning him for several weeks to a cow outfit that works horses for living. Your sister would, of course, have to sign all kinds of mutual waivers so that she couldn't sue the outfit for this arrangement if problems occurred. And the cow outfit might charge her for the training, but essentially, she wants her horse to approach his work like work, and not like play time.

The only thing that convinces horses that this is a good idea is to actually work them to the point that they quit playing around and use their rest time to actually rest. Right now, he thinks it's all fun and games and is not motivated to stop. Hard, day long, consistent work will likely cure him of the jounces and bounces.

Trail riding outfits might also work. Again, your sister should expect to sign a bunch of mutual waivers. She should also insist contractually that only trail guides ride him and select this outfit carefully. She want's a place that knows how to treat horses properly while theyre working and does not abuse or overwork them.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

February 21, 2011 – I have a friend who is leaving stable w/her 2 horses. She has been boarding them for 6yrs. No boarding contract was ever signed. She had paying stable fees for their care. She can no longer afford to pay the boarding fee. She is 2mths in arrears. She wants to remove her horses with Sheriff escorts. Can she do this? Morally, it's wrong. Legally is it possible to remove property because of having no signed contract?

The stable has a lien on the horse. Even if there was no written contract, she had a verbal contract to pay board in return for the stable's taking care of the horse.

She may well convince a sheriff to get involved, but if she does, she's also opening up the sheriff to civil liability for trespass to chattel. Sheriffs don't always realize this, so she may well be successful, but I wouldn't recommend it. The services to which she agreed have already been performed by the barn. So legally, your friend's only recourse is to pay the board for the last two months and for whatever she owes for this month at the agreed upon monthly price, and then move her horses to a cheaper barn or to her own property.

February 18, 2011 – My horse is an ex-race horse. Whenever he is put in a stall he paces back and forth. He wears a path in the stall floor. What can I do about this?

Unfortunately, not much except keeping him turned out so he has something to do with himself all day. Some horses who are confined for long periods of time (e.g. racehorses) cannot bear the confinement and get into a habit called weaving. Essentially, this problem is caused by stress, often the anxiety by having limited space, being alone away from other horses and companionship, etc. The habit is not a good one and is self reinforcing because the horse releases endorphins while behaving this way as a coping mechanism. The endorphins have an addictive effect because they make the horse feel better and less anxious, so he keeps performing the same action to release more and feel better.

Tying him up won't work because he'll weave in place. Get him outside with some buddies in a paddock with a run-in shed. You should see the behavior diminish.

February 17, 2011 – Is there any way to make my horses less violent toward one another? The thought of catching a kick in the gut by a hoof that was aimed at another horse doesn't appeal to me.

You're certainly smart in wanting to avoid getting a horse kick, whether it was accidental or intentional. For us humans, such kicks can cause serious injury or be deadly.

But I'm afraid your options to reduce combat between your horses are quite limited. Separation is the only sure remedy for the combatants. Keep in mind that horses have to settle these pecking order issues as a survival strategy. So you really have no say in the matter other than the option to keep them separated.

February 16, 2011 – According to the vet, my horse broke his rear inside splint bone. What is this? How serious is it? Do I have to euthanize my horse?

First of all, this is a veterinarian question, and I'm not a vet. However, I can answer the main thrust of your question, the plea for reassurance for this fairly common injury.

The splint bone is a remnant of the horse's evolutionary past representing the vestigial toes of the horse that shrank as the main toe turned into a single hoof. Horses can break the splint bone due to concussion or blunt force from a kick or a blow. It can heal and present no problems, or it can heal in such a way that it invades and tears the tendons that run over the top of it. There's really no way to know how it will end up.

In similar injuries, I've heard vets recommend stall rest from three to six months followed by an evaluation for a possible operation to remove the bone. I'm in the middle of such a recovery process right now with one of my polo horses, so I'll let you know how it ends up. So far, so good; despite a compound fracture, the horse is healing well and is sound up to this point. So, this injury is not a death sentence.

Good luck and good healing!

February 15, 2011 – Why do you have to put your heels down when you ride? This seems to me to be unnecessary.

It may not be necessary if you're already balanced on the horse. However, most people cannot balance well if their toes are lower than their heels because this inevitably causes them to also put their heads forward. Your head and your shoulders are the heaviest parts of your body, and if you become overbalanced and lean forward, then you're more likely to fall off. So, put those heels down, mister!

February 14, 2011 – When I ride my horse out and we get to a grassy patch or a cornfield, she throws her head down and however much I kick or give her taps with the whip or try and pull her head up, she doesn't care; she just continues to eat. I can't get her head up unless I get off and lead her and then she still tries to put her head down. What can I do to stop her from putting her head down and eating whenever I hack out?

Ah; this horse has your number, doesn't she? In order to convince her that you're the boss, you're going to have to be a whole lot more proactive and directive.

To begin with, you have to watch her like a hawk. When she starts the grab for grass, some leaves, or what have you, use your crop and belt her one on the rump. At the same time, kick her on the sides, yank her head up, and move her into a trot. Work her for a while, then walk her. When she tries to eat again, do the same thing. Vary the work; sometimes turn her three times in a row, or back her up, or move her sideways, or anything that will enforce that you're the boss of the ride.

Now, don't tell me that you can't get her head off the ground. I bet you haven't tried hard enough — try harder! You don't want to give up on this. This is a common vice amplified by a rider's failure of nerve into something that can really prevent using her as a trail horse — for you, that is. Any rider with sufficient nerve can correct this because horses learn fairly fast that it's easier to be professional about the riding thing and avoid snacking if work is consistently associated with these unapproved snacks.

February 11, 2011 – My horse has got raised bumps on his back that he is sore about and it's causing the hair to fall out in patches. What is this?

I bet it's rain rot, which is caused by horses standing around in wet conditions. It's a combination fungus and bacteria that is really a bugger to get rid of. I've found success by using some regular human shampoos, such as Selsen blue, and by changing the horse's stabling to someplace dry. Also, don't use blankets and brushes on this horse and then on other horses because the malady is transferable from horse to horse.

You can lick this problem, but it's a real pain. Good luck!

February 10, 2011 – I am the mother of a young girl who has been taking lessons at a local barn. My daughter was very upset to learn that two of the lesson ponies at the barn were euthanized over the weekend. We did not get any notice that this was going to happen. She is devastated. I know the horses had been having some foot problems, but I did not think that the problem was severe enough to put them down. The owners won't talk to us about it. Is there anything I can do about this situation?

I'm very sorry that your daughter is so upset. Naturally, if she formed a bond with these two ponies, the news must have been devastating. It's probably not good public relations to have managed the events as the farm did. Nevertheless (I'm going to put my legal hat on for a moment), under the law, horses are chattel property. If the owners determined that they needed to euthanize the horses, then they had every legal right to do so. So, you have no legal recourse against the barn in this situation. However, practically speaking, you certainly can choose to not participate in lessons at this barn any more — THAT is your choice.

I would close by looking at the facts. You've already explained that you don't really know what happened, that the horses had some foot problems, and that the farm owners won't discuss the topic to provide answers. So, we really don't know what happened and why the decision to euthanize the horses was made.

Foot problems can mask severe, crippling, progressive conditions that would reasonably require a horse to be euthanized to save it from pain and the owner from unnecessary expense. As the saying goes: no foot, no horse. For all we know, the barn's vet may have recommended putting the horses down to save them from undue suffering. Without all the facts, it's best to suspend judgment.

February 9, 2011 – I was at an equine show the other day and a barn owner told me that she was going to seize a horse and sell it for the owed board fees without notifying the owner. This sent chills up my spine. Can barn owners do this?

The short answer is: no. All states require some sort of notification to the horse owner before the horse can be seized. Some states are more lax than others as to what sort of notification procedures are required, but most states do require a barn owner to go to court or to otherwise follow a court procedure before seizing and selling a horse.

Now to your question: Can a barn owner "seize" a horse and prevent you from removing him for not paying the board bill? Yes, absolutely. This is called a "stable lien" and it attaches to the body of the horse itself. Calling the police under such circumstances to accuse the barn owner of theft will not be effective — the barn owner has the right to do this. In fact, many boarding contracts specifically provide for this remedy when boarding fees are not paid on time.

So, my advice is that horse owners need to pay their boarding bills! If a horse owner has a dispute with a barn owner, he/she should definitely contact an equine attorney in their state to straighten it out. It'll save them time, money, hassle, and emotional distress in the long run.

February 8, 2011 – I hired a carpenter to do some repairs at my stable. I thought we had a verbal contract as to the scope of work, which involved fixing some stalls. He came here for about two weeks, and at the end of the time, I got a whacking big bill for all sorts of stuff I did not authorize. Now he is threatening to put a lien on my house. Can he do this?

Yes, he can put the lien on your house. Of course, whether or not that lien will survive the court hearing that you'll need to attend to fight the lien is another matter. Essentially, he's claiming that he provided work and that you owe him the fair value of the work, which is true as far as it goes. This cause of action is called "quantum meruit" which is fancy Latin meaning: "as much as he has deserved".

In order to do this, he'll have to file an action in court, you'll be notified, and then there will be a hearing. Even if there is no hearing, if you ask for one upon being notified of the suit, then you can get a hearing if you petition the court for one. At that hearing, you'll argue to the judge what you just wrote to me, which is, that you both had a deal, and the deal did not include the extra work he did. You relied on his expertise and on his assessment as to how much the job would cost in retaining his services, that he didn't tell you he was going beyond the price you agreed to, and that he never came back to you and sought your approval for the extra work. In other words, you relied on his statements to your detriment. This defense is called "promissory estoppel".

My strong recommendation here is that you hire an attorney now to fight this. Only an attorney will be able to ensure that these matters are properly handled. Otherwise, you may save yourself a few bucks now at the expense of clouding the title to your home in the future. That means that, if you ever do want to sell your house, you won't be able to do so without paying this whacking great bill.

You may still have to pay this bill in the end if the court finds for the carpenter, but at least you'll have fought to assure you've been treated fairly. The reason you may not win this case and still have to pay in the end is because you didn't get the contract in writing. It's really hard for anyone else (in this case, the judge) to say what you both agreed to — they weren't there. Judges hate this! Sometimes judges hate this enough to punish the homeowner who was so silly as to engage a workman without getting the scope of work and a price in writing so as to form a contract. Regardless, I would still fight it though because the burden will be upon the carpenter to show the scope of the work agreed to — it's the only way you have a chance of winning.

This law stuff is tricky. Much will depend on the minute details, which, of course I don't know. So, CONTACT AN ATTORNEY!

February 7, 2011 – I work in a barn, and I had been trading work for board. Things were good, but now my barn owner is taking advantage of the situation and making me work much longer hours than we agreed to. What can I do? I have a job other than the barn and I just can't do this.

I hear variations of this theme a lot. Here's the deal: Your time is worth something — so is the board. If you all had previously been happy trading one for the other, that doesn't mean that both the time and labor, and the board, are valueless. In order to address the situation, you need to give your notice according to the boarding contract, and at the same time, tell her what your labor is worth — do this in writing.

Now, there are other important considerations: don't be greedy. If it's minimum wage in your area, then so be it. Ask around: find out what others get paid for the same services. Then, tell her that if she makes you work more than forty hours a week, that you'll be demanding overtime pay according to your state laws. Nearly all states have fair wage laws that require overtime to be paid. At the end of the month, do the accounting.

If you worked more than the value of the board, then she owes you. If the board was worth more than the labor, then you owe her. Settle up, and move to another barn. Life is too short to have to deal with this.

If she won't play nice, then contact the Attorney General's office in your state and also an employment attorney. If it really gets to the point that you can't take it, do your last month as a paying boarder, quit her employment, and THEN move (as a sadder and wiser, yet less stressed person.)

February 4, 2011 – Why does my horse want to bite me for no reason?

Well, I assure you, there's a reason, just not one that you've recognized. Horses are not insane in the sense that they act without volition or meaning. To your horse, you needed biting at that moment. So, look at some reasons why this might be.

Your horse could be trying to discipline you, which would be a very bad thing and something you need to stop immediately. YOU are the leader, and YOU discipline her, not the other way around. Or, you could be scaring her and she needs to get the scary thing away (biting works well for this). Or, she could be hungry and you might be in the way.

Which do you think it is?

February 3, 2011 – I am really worried that my horse is not adequately blanketed during this cold weather. What kind of blanket should I get?

If your horse is outside twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, then you want to get a good all weather blanket that's heavy enough to do some good on the warmth end, and water proof on the outside so as to help him shed the weather. There are a number of good brands out there with suggestive names, such as Weatherbeeta, and so forth, that are a good buy for not too much money, around a hundred dollars or so.

Fit is important so that your horse is comfortable, but not irritated. Essentially, the blanket should be lengthy enough so that his shoulders and chest are not rubbed and his tail is covered. But, it should not be so large that it drapes down below his knees, which could tangle and cause him to trip and fall.

February 1, 2011 – What do I need to know to care for my horse on my own property?

Wow! You're asking a question that requires much too much to put in a post. There are a number of good books on this topic, but the quest will start with the housing for the horse (e.g. the stable — do you have one?), the liability angle (talk to an insurance company and a good equine lawyer), and the horse-keeper angle (talk to a local boarding stable about where they get their hay and grain.). You also need to be able to recognize illnesses and other maladies in horses. In other words, you'll need to do some due diligence and learn from the experts in your area.

To start you off, we have an article on this topic that lists many of the things you need to consider when taking on this big responsibility. It's entitled: Can You Care For Your Own Horse?.

January 31, 2011 – My horse is often rolling in the mud this winter. Does that help him keep warm?

No, but it sure scratches that itch. Horses have such mass that they can keep warm even with wet mud on their bodies. However, they can't scratch themselves and that is what a bored horse will do for amusement or to satisfy an itch. Can you blame them?

January 28, 2011 – What is the cost comparison between boarding your horse or keeping him on your own property?

Surprisingly, many people who have done both say that boarding the horse is usually the most economical. In a previous post, I put out a list of factors to take into account. One of the problems is that horses are so expensive to keep that you need economies of scale to keep it manageable. And that means you can often make out better when you purchase supplies in larger quantities the more horses you have. For those with only one or two horses, it often results that a boarding stable can manage better to keep enough scale to keep it affordable.

The individual costs will vary according to your specific location, so I really can't give you a breakdown of say, hay, grain, insurance and property taxes, muck management, employee help, water management, and other horse care items. But you can do that yourself by finding out what the average cost is for a boarded horse in your area. Then you can figure out what percentage of that is, say, the cost of food.

Generally, you'll usually find that most boarding stables just about break even with fixed costs plus food. And that's with the good deals they get with dealers because they buy frequently and in quantity — that can make the difference between making it financially or not. As an individual horse owner, you'll likely pay full freight.

In my experience, unless you own a piece of land already paid for with a stable already built and in good shape, and you have a friend who owns a feed store, it usually won't be worth it.

January 27, 2011 – Why do some horses snuggle a human?

Because they're affectionate beasts and like to cuddle with their loved ones. You see it in the pasture all the time. Some horses are downright friendly and will include people in their affectionate circle. Then again, others are curmudgeons and you can see them mentally shaking their fists at annoying people or horses implying, "Hey! You! Get off my lawn!" or the horse equivalent. No black socks with sandals though, you have to make do with looking at their facial expressions and body language.

January 26, 2011 – Every time I walk into my pony's pasture, he runs and snorts. Is he talking to me?

He sure is. He's saying, "get away from me, I have no intention of working today". It's a common pony sentiment. Horses have a pretty good timeline understanding of life. Their thinking is sort of, "'if this happens, then that will likely follow — I remember very well — I don't want that to happen, therefore, I'll take immediate steps now to prevent it". Oh, and also, "I'll instruct that annoying human over there about my intentions because I believe that he may not be the boss of me."

Your horse sounds as if he needs an attitude adjustment. You can do that with some roundpen work and treats for good behavior — BUT ONLY for good behavior.

January 25, 2011 – My horse paws the ground while he eats. Why does he do this?

Because he's so enjoying the taste of grain that he has to show his enjoyment physically. Horses are very expressive creatures, really, if you know what to look for. They show you when they're happy, they show you when they feel threatened, and they show you when they feel uninterested in what you want them to do.

January 24, 2011 – Why does my horse hang his head below his withers all the time?

Because it's more comfortable for him that way. Some horses are built such that the straight neck line is most comfortable. It just means that he has a head, neck, and shoulder structure that puts his head straight forward.

However, if you're instead saying that he cannot pick his head up at all, then call a vet. In this case, there may be a nerve or a muscle issue going on, or even arthritis in his poll vertebra that will pain him if he flexes upward. You can also get a chiropractor to evaluate him if you're concerned.

Most of the time, horses are fine even though they may behave somewhat differently. But, when in doubt, contact a veterinarian to take a closer and more educated look into the situation.

January 21, 2011 – Will ice melt hurt a horse's hooves?

A horse standing around in water all day long will, in fact, suffer from a long term exposure to wet conditions. The problems can show up as a thrush infection, cracks, abscesses, or other hoof related ailments. But, the occasional or short term exposure is not a problem, such as when walking through a wet area.

HOWEVER, if your horse's turnout area is marshy, then there must be a dry spot somewhere for him to stand — you cannot leave him with no dry place to stand. And you can't leave him with only one place to stand all day; he needs to be able to move around. If he cannot, this would be an unacceptable horse care issue. So if it pertains to your situation, resolve it immediately — no need to wait for the SPCA to intervene by you not rectifying a bad situation.

January 20, 2011 – My horse scares me when he whinnies. What should I do?

Um....the question here should really be, why are you afraid? Horses will call to each other — it usually has little to do with you. Other than re-directing his attention to you if you're in the midst of doing something with him, it's a non event for a person.... or it should be.

If if the whinny is too loud, go somewhere else. If it interferes with your ride, pull the reins and direct his attention to your activity. MAN UP!, in other words.

January 19, 2011 – Why does my horse kick his food bucket?

There could be several reasons depending on the situation. Here are several:

  • If he kicks his bucket while he's eating, it's likely because he's in such ecstasy at the sensation and taste of eating grain that his joy must find physical expression;
  • If he kicks it while waiting for aforesaid grain, it's because he's impatient to begin eating and is letting you know that he doesn't appreciate being kept waiting; or
  • If he kicks it when it's not around feeding time, he's likely playing.

As with most things in life, context is everything here.

January 18, 2011 – Why does my horse sit on his butt sometimes?

I don't know. I've never seen this. It strikes me as something medical though, because aside from during a sliding stop, horses are more comfortable on all four legs. Check it out with a vet on this.

January 17, 2011 – I could use some help with finding winter activities for my horse. Any suggestions?

I get this question a lot. Have you ever considered indoor polo? Riders love it and horses do also once they figure out what's going on. To get started, locate a league or consult an indoor polo professional in your area.

One more idea, professional polo can be beyond many rider's skill level, so there are also amateur leagues that knock the ball around on weekends and are a lot of fun. These games can be easily played by most riders. If you don't have something like that in your area, consider starting something up yourself — there are many variations. For example, you can also do beachball or broom polo if you don't want the hassle of the USPA rules and so forth.

January 14, 2011 – I was wondering what kind of bit my horse needs. He is a 13 year old OTTB (off the track Thoroughbred) and the first time I got a bit in his mouth ever was yesterday. I have had him for almost a year and he would always refuse it. I would like some sort of sweet iron snaffle bit and I'm leaning towards a D-ring, but right now I have a sweet iron snaffle gag bit. I'm only 13 so I can't really take much trouble from him and I can't pull back real hard.

When you say he would refuse the bit, do you mean that you were unable to bridle him? Since he is an OTTB, he surely wore a bit on the track. So if he is refusing, that means that you let him refuse or he put up such resistance that you couldn't manage it. In other words, I don't think the problem here is the bit. Though good bitting is important, I see a larger issue here that at 13 years old, and I mean the human 13 year old, you may not yet have enough experience to deal with this horse's issues.

Please contact a horse trainer and work with someone older, larger, and with more training than you currently have, before putting yourself in harm's way with this horse. This is the voice of experience talking and I'm primarily concerned with your safety.

January 13, 2011 – Every time I use a bit in my horse's mouth it cracks his gums. What should I do?

What do you mean it "cracks" his gums? This is not a dry mouth situation I take it; instead is it a bleeding gums situation? If so, then the bit is causing his mouth to bleed, which is obviously not a good thing.

Change bits to something that does not have this side effect. I don't know what your discipline is, but a snaffle bit is a good all around, smooth and comfortable bit for most horse activities. Consult a trainer for more bit discussions.

January 12, 2011 – The leader of my herd has died. What do I do for the other horses?

We're sorry for your loss for your herd's leader. Fortunately, there isn't much for you to do for this. The horses will sort themselves out with a new leader immediately; likely they've already done so. Horses will be sad for a few days at the loss of a companion, but in a herd situation, this issue is lessened because they still have the rest of the herd for company and protection.

January 11, 2011 – How do I make my horse like me better? When she sees me coming into the pasture, she sometimes ignores me, or other times she will look up, then walk away.

Well, although I can offer advice that will adjust her friendliness towards you to be closer to the "more friendly" end of the dial, nothing will ensure this reaction every time. Horses are living beings, too. What you can do is the following: First, the basis should be that every contact she has with you is also fun for her. Treats, going out to graze, brushing during fly season, you get the drift.

Second, you need to perform round pen training confirming that you're the leader of her herd. Consult an expert on natural horsemanship who can teach you the cues on how to do this. This helps ensure that, if she does try to give you a chase, that you know how to administer horse discipline for this sign of disobedience. Horses don't want to be in control, they want to feel that you're truly in control and will keep them safe. Other than that, they want to graze all day and avoid work where possible.

The foregoing will improve the chances that a horse gets excited and welcomes you when you arrive.

January 10, 2011 – What does it mean when my horse tries to bite my leg during a ride?

It means she's trying to tell you that, in her opinion, you're a butt head. You'll have to correct her immediately whenever she does this, because although horses are allowed to have opinions, they're not allowed to express them physically against their riders. Correct her by watching her closely, and when she starts the grab, smack her on the snout, physically straighten her out, and work her until her mind is on something else. Do this as often as you need to do so. You cannot allow your horse to abuse you, ever! It's far too dangerous and can escalate into even more bullying of you by your horse.

January 7, 2011 – I could use some help in how to decide when to call my vet for a problem and when I can avoid it and save my money. Any suggestions?

If you know what to do with a problem, and if you feel comfortable that you have the tools to manage the issue, then go right ahead and manage it. If you don't know what to do and the problem warrants medical attention in your opinion, then failing to call the vet will have consequences, up to and including the death of your horse as well as criminal prosecution for cruelty for an unattended problem.

So, although it's a judgment call on your part, the outer edges of this decision will be self enforcing. That is, either the horse will be fine, or the horse will not be fine, and you may be criminally charged. Though I can't tell you what to do, I can tell you that it's not wise to be penny wise and pound foolish where your horse's health and well being is concerned. You won't save yourself in the end, of either money or time. When there's a health concern and you don't know how to handle a situation, call your vet.

January 6, 2011 – Why does my thoroughbred shake when I try to mount her?

She's likely either afraid you'll do something bad to her, or she wants to go so badly that she's shaking with repressed energy. If the former, have you (or someone before you) lost your temper and yelled or frightened her while mounting, perhaps because she moves around or starts walking before you're ready and have told her to do so? If fear, it's usually because of something we humans have done before that has frightened her.

Training animals should never use fear — it's unnecessary and causes more problems than it resolves. When an animal doesn't understand, we need to think of other ways to train, or need to break down the trask into smaller steps. Even a horse with a resistant attitude does not warrant being frightened, rather, you make them do extra work when they resist and they quickly learn that there's less work when they cooperate.

If it's excitement, then there's no problem with that, other than to make sure that she doesn't move anymore than the shaking so that you're not at risk of falling and other horses are not at risk of spooking because of your horse's shaking. Which reason is the actual cause of her shaking is something you should be able to tell by watching her as you mount.

If in doubt, get one of your more experienced riding friends or a riding instructor or horse trainer to watch her as you mount. They should be able to quickly determine the cause or have an idea of several ways to test their suspicions.

January 5, 2011 – I sometimes feel as if my horse wants to hurt me. Does she?

Without knowing why you're saying this, I can't answer the question. But I can say without question that a horse's maligning intentions are signaled unmistakably by the horse laying back her ears and trying to attack you with mouth open and feet swinging. You won't have to guess about her feelings in that case — you'll definitely know.

January 4, 2011 – What does minor rounding of the ankle in a horse mean?

It means swelling from a slight sprain, especially if there is heat associated with it. Otherwise, it's just a feature of the horse.

January 3, 2011 – I'm extremely passionate about horses. I've loved them my whole life, and I'm starting to think about college and different careers I could pursue in the horse world. Are there many options I could make a good living out of?

Well, this is the $64,000 dollar question for us horse lovers, isn't it?

It is possible, but not easy, to make a good living out of horses. Horses are very expensive to keep, so they usually generate only low profit margins in most businesses that derive from the horse's own output. However, there are many more options if you can remove the horse from the horse business. Then, you start generating income from the people that keep horses and it gets a lot easier.

Nearly all businesses secondary to the sale, leasing, riding, and breeding of horses can generate enough money to live rather well. That includes horse products, horse education, horse law, well, you get my drift.

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