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"Horse Girl" Archive Jul - Dec 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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December 30, 2011 – My quarter horse's big feet keep hitting each other when he walks. What should I do to stop this?

First, have him wear coronet boots on the front so that he doesn't injure himself. This will help prevent strike bruises and torn-off shoes. Then, speak to your farrier. The farrier may have a cure for this problem with corrective shoeing. It's not a guarantee, but it is worth a shot to check. Otherwise you may go through coronet boots aplenty.

December 29, 2011 – How can I slow down my fast horse and still keep him soft on the bit?

I'm wrestling with that right now with an ex-race horse in polo training. Essentially, it involves doing lots of circles, alternating with straight runs and then circles, and then straight runs again. The minute he takes off or pulls, put him into a large circle reducing the circle's radius as he fights, and then softening and enlarging the circle as he relaxes.

Vary the circles and the straights, working always to lay off the bit and have him respond to weight. As he moves his weight further and further back onto his back end, he'll get lighter and lighter and more and more responsive to the bit. Use the bit for signaling only, not to hold him back — let the tighter circles manage the speed for you. As soon as he figures out that the job is to play the game and not to run fast, he'll get interested in listening so that he can play.

Horses generally want to please us. It's up to us to be smart enough to find ways to communicate what we want and expect from them, and then to reward them consistently when they give it to us. Once they learn that and we're consistent about it, they want to please us even more.

December 28, 2011 – My 16 year old LOVES gates. If we are in the arena and someone opens the gate, it's like he forgets everything and runs right for it. He is very well mannered and listens great to me except for when someone opens up a gate. How can I prevent this from happening?

This is a variation on "barn sour" and you need to make him work when he doesn't pay attention to you. For him to make the connection as you train him, there needs to be a direct correlation between his non-attention and your demands for attention and service. In other words, you need to make him work as soon as you notice he's getting ready to go for the gate. Once he tunes in to what you want him to do, then pat him, let him trot on, canter on, or what have you for a moment and then let him relax. Repeat the foregoing if he again loses focus when someone opens a gate. He'll very soon figure this out if you're consistent.

December 27, 2011 – Hi! My horse has come in for winter and over the last two weeks his legs have been filled. There is no heat in either hind leg and he has no stones or abscesses in his feet. I'm not sure if it's not a problem further up his legs as when he walks out it looks like it takes a few minutes for them to move. He has become less steady and even fell. Any advice?

This is a common problem. Your horse was likely used to lots of walking and now he has lots of standing. The long standing times can cause circulation issues.

If he's an older horse, this may also accelerate as he ages. The only thing you can do is to gradually increase the time in the stall standing, interspersed with turn out whenever possible. Your horse will adjust, but it will take a little time. If he hasn't adjusted in the next week or so, call your vet.

December 23, 2011 – Is it okay to leave my horse's turnout sheet and shoulder guard on him over night while he is in the stall? Also, if I get him a waterproof neck cover, does that need to come off?

The crux of this revolves around your horse's hair to some extent. Is he clipped? If so, he may need a sheet or blanket to keep him warm in cold weather when not being ridden. But if not clipped, it's definitely a BAD idea to leave the turnout sheet and shoulder guard on all night if the barn is relatively sheltered. The same is true for the neck cover if you get one. If you do leave these on your horse, he's likely to get quite warm and bothered by them. If that happens, he'll be uncomfortable and may rub. If he does do that, you could have ripped rugs, some sore spots, or even an injury.

In addition, your horse will sweat. When he then goes outside, he'll lose heat quickly because he'll be wet in dry, cold air. Both the overheating and the subsequent chilling and possible hypothermia from a wet body being out in cold, dry air can be dangerous. At best, it will cause your horse constant discomfort and possible diminished health.

So, if any of these coverings are waterproof, they definitely need to come off when he's in his stall. Horses are very efficient in their warming ability, and if inside, will heat their stall quickly with just their body heat. With waterproof rugs on, horses will sweat, cook, and get very unhappy with the lack of air circulation. Needless to say, that would NOT be good for their health and disposition.

December 22, 2011 – My horse lays down near me when I go into her pasture. What does this mean?

Well, aren't you the privileged one! It means your horse considers you enough of a "wolf slayer" that she wouldn't mind having a nap while you're around so she can sleep with a peaceful mind. In other words, like an ever-vigilant, lead mare protecting the herd, you give your horse comfort that you're looking out for her safety.

Well done! Not many people earn this much trust from their horses.

December 22, 2011 – My horse lays down near me when I go into her pasture. What does this mean?

Well, aren't you the privileged one! It means your horse considers you enough of a "wolf slayer" that she wouldn't mind having a nap while you're around so she can sleep with a peaceful mind. In other words, like an ever-vigilant, lead mare protecting the herd, you give your horse comfort that you're looking out for her safety.

Well done! Not many people earn this much trust from their horses.

December 21, 2011 – Hi, I recently just got a new horse and stupidly fed him the food my other horse eats. Well little did I know he only eats oats. I just gave him one scoop, but I'm very worried about him. He is acting fine, and my mother said just to keep a close eye on him. What do I need to do?

I don't know all the particulars, but based on what little information your provided in your question, I don't think you need to worry about what happened this time. A horse's digestion system is usually not THAT finicky unless there's an allergy involved. Oats are a low-energy food, so about the most I suspect you did was give him a little more "oomph" if there was some corn or something similar in the strange feed.

Back to "business as usual" is what I would say.

December 20, 2011 – My horse fell in the pasture and ever since he has been eating a lot more than usual and sits down and can't get up.

CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY! This could be a founder situation which is very dangerous for your horse. Horses can't lie down for any length of time at all without injury.

December 19, 2011 – My two year old mare gets really jealous if I pet any of the other horses in the pasture. She is constantly by my side whenever I'm out there and if the others walk up to me, she takes off after them. I've corrected her behavior several times, and she is fairly polite after I do, but as soon as I go out there the next day we have to do the same thing all over again. I feel bad for the other horses and don't really want to get run over or catch a stray kick, so what can I do?

Awwwhh! How cute! She thinks of you as her baby. You'll just have to keep correcting her until she understands that you're the BOSS lady. Do this for your safety as well as for the other horses. It sounds as though you already know HOW to do this, so just keep it up.

December 16, 2011 – I have a gorgeous horse, 18 yrs old, who is a great school master. However, he has recently learnt he can get out of my hands, and has taken to be quite argumentative with his head. My instructor says he is trying to avoid the bit, and we are working on correction, and avoiding letting him get the better of me.

The bigger problem is that the last couple of times I have hacked out on him, he has been argumentative for most of the ride, culminating in him stopping by a main road and refusing to cross (literally home is the other side of the main road 2 min away). The first time he stopped, got stroppy with his head, bunny hopped, grunted in response to being kicked slightly harder than usual (after the usual aids of squeeze with legs, and small tap of stick) failed to work. He then followed through with striking out with his front legs, a bit more arguing with his head, one more grunt, and then eventually deemed to humour me, and calmly crossed the road.

Is he trying to tell me something, or is he just being a little cheeky and trying it on? Upon arriving back at the yard, he is very affectionate, nickers, puts his head down to nuzzle my back when I bend down to take off his brushing boots, licks my hand etc — so I am not convinced his performance is solely due to him being mad at me for something (he is also more than willing to be tacked up and ridden).

It's not such a problem, just more curious as to why he has decided to be a little more challenging when ridden out than previously?

If the signs are not general riding related (which can indicate pain issues), but instead is location oriented as you describe, then your horse is barn sour. So, your horse is being the way he is because he can be. In other words, you're allowing him to be so.

Signs of affection are great — but signs of obedience are better. Your horse is NOT being obedient. Therefore, your really have three options:

  1. You can rise to the occasion and learn how to be your horse's leader and manage him so he obeys;
  2. You can tolerate the way he is and take the risk that he may or may not obey you at any particular time, including when it could be a critical time for your safety; or
  3. If you don't feel like managing this problem nor tolerating it, you can find another horse to ride.

This is not unique to your situation. Horses generally attempt to execute their own desires with all riders. Some riders may just be lucky and have a horse that always obeys with no testing, but that's rare. The riders with horses that regularly obey are themselves periodically tested by those horses to determine if the rider is still worth to be the leader. Those riders show their horses that they are in charge. So, we need to take on the leadership position and its responsibilities, or we can let the horse be the leader, go along with him, and risk our safety from time to time because the horse won't always listen to us.

I know which option I'd select.

December 15, 2011 – When I try to mount my horse, she goes out of control. She backs up, shakes her head, and moves all around. Why is she doing this? What should I do?

If this is a new symptom and is something she hasn't done previously, then it's likely a pain related issue in her back or neck. Not having words, she's doing a pretty good job of telling you that what you're doing is painful to her.

Get a vet, a farrier, and a chiropractor to attempt to rule out all of the various things it could be. In the meantime, don't ride her. Instead, give her some pasture rest while you try to figure this out. It's obviously something, that's for sure. Those signs sound pretty emphatic.

December 14, 2011 – What does it mean when a horse runs, bucks, and his tail is straight out?

It means he's having a grand time and is expressing his athletic joy at being alive and moving at speed. If I had the gigantic, oxygen processing heart-lung capacity of a horse coupled with the ability to run thirty five miles an hour with my nose and eyes in the wind on my own, I guess I'd feel the same way. When I'm on a horse who's running at that speed for fun, I know for certain that if I had a tail, it'd be up in the wind as well!


December 13, 2011 – Can you stop a horse from taking off when other horses pass him?

He does that because he's obeying herd instincts rather than listening to you as his leader. You'll need to do some ground training and then work with him and a horse trainer so that he obeys you first. We've had some extensive posts on this topic in the past by the HorseGuy. You should review his posts in the archives to see his advice. Coincidentally, he's answering this very same question again today. I mean, we get this same question in multiple flavors a lot.

December 12, 2011 – My horse fell to his knees on a slow walk. Should I be concerned?

Well, like people, horses can trip anytime they are moving. I would be more concerned about the circumstances of the fall; if he just fell as opposed to tripping, then yes I would be concerned. He either had a seizure or fell asleep while walking. (Yes, horses can get so tired and sleep deprived that this happens.)

Keep an eye on your horse in the pasture and see if he does this on his own as well. And get a vet to help you with figuring out this one. If the problem is neurological, it could be dangerous for both you and your horse if such a fall occurred at speed or going over a jump. I'd get this problem diagnosed and resolved before taking any chances.

December 9, 2011 – Why does the outside of my foot sometimes hurt whilst I'm horse riding?

There can be several reasons, such as putting uneven weight on your foot while in the stirrup, or the fact that the stirrups concentrate the weight on the ball of your foot. With either situation, a change of stirrups can make a great improvement.

Endurance riders often use a stirrup that has much more surface area. This distributes your weight over a much larger portion of the sole of your foot. If that's not enough, some of those deeper stirrups can also come with a foam pad that additionally cushions the stresses on your foot.

December 8, 2011 – I have just purchased a 6 year old Quarter Horse mare who was used for barrels. She is well trained and has wonderful ground manners. When I saddle her, she pulls at the bit and the entire ride is a struggle. She will stop frequently and she returns to the post where she was saddled and refuses to leave. I have tried everything I know with no such luck.

My husband gets on her and she goes easily and does what is asked of her. I understand she does not trust me, what can I do to help our relationship? Should I go back to ground work or just continue to ride her out? My husband tells me to be more aggressive, I do not agree with this theory. I checked the tack for comfort and all is well. I even stretched her legs before I mounted. I am at my wits end!!

Unfortunately, this is a common tale. You're correct that this horse does not trust you — she also doesn't respect you. But the reason is the one you don't want to hear, that you're not a firm leader for her. Your husband, being a man, talks about leadership as aggression. And it may well be true that this horse demands to be told who is boss in an "aggressive" fashion or in a fashion he thinks of as aggressive. By the same token, many women may confuse assertiveness with aggression, or at least, as a woman lawyer, I have at times seen other women lawyers reprimanded for their "aggressive" style that on a man would be called "assertive"'. It's an unfortunate double standard that persists to this day; but that's another story.

HOWEVER, no matter what you call it, the point is that there is a language of assertive leadership that horses understand and can receive instruction with. It uses eye contact, body language, reactions, judgment, and indeed, conduct which may rank as "aggression".

Observe horses sorting out dominance issues in the field: are they not at times very aggressive? Getting a chunk of flesh bitten out or receiving a double barrel broadside kick ranks right up there as agressive in my book. Fortunately, most humans can learn and talk that language to horses and get there without the kicking and biting, but it all starts from having the nerve to give a command and expect that it be obeyed.

From your description, I think that you're not comfortable giving this direction, and not comfortable challenging her disobediences in all the varied ways you describe them. Your husband, on the other hand, IS comfortable challenging her and overcoming her resistance. Therefore, she understands it as normal herd leader behavior and complies.

So, with all this being said, you have one of two choices: you can learn this more "aggressive" style with a horse trainer, or, if you're truly not comfortable with this dominant mare, you can give over and not ride her or sell her and get a horse that is more compliant. As I get older myself, I'm getting to the point where it's just not worth the battle and my mounts are getting more and more quiet and docile by my choice. That's not to say I won't command obedience, because even on the quiet types, this testing goes on and must receive the proper response or things could get dangerous for me. But as I tire of the battle and want less hassle in my life, it does mean I won't pick a mount with those known issues. I still have to deal with these issues, but less of them and fewer times.

December 7, 2011 – I have a horse that will let me put the saddle on her, but won't let me get on her. She will let me get on her bareback, but not with the saddle. She'll start dancing when I put weight on the stirrups or grab the horn. I don't think it's because she doesn't trust me since I get on her bareback. Please help. Thank you.

Horses often resist the step up on the stirrup because it twists their spine. There's much new thought by veterinarians about this issue and the value of using a mounting block or some other assistance so we twist our horse's spines much less. You can learn more in one of our articles entitled: Mounting Pressures.

Even if you follow the above advice, there will still be times when you must mount from the ground using the stirrup. And mounting a moving horse can be very dangerous for you, both from the risk of a fall and that of being stepped on accidently by your horse.

To teach basic mounting manners, start be getting ready to mount your horse from the left side. If she dances, move her hind end around and around you until she voluntarily stops moving. Then praise her and let her stand for about 30 seconds.

Next, put your foot in the stirrup, but don't get on. If she dances, make her dance in a circle around you again until she stops moving. Praise her again and then get on quickly and without lurching on the stirrup. This is done by making sure your upper body goes quickly over so that you're not hanging with your full weight on the stirrup.

If you improve your mounting technique and teach her manners, then the issue should resolve itself over time. If you can't do this, then you're doomed to using a mounting block, stump, large rock, or some such all the time. That's actually better for her spine, but you're not guaranteed to always have something to stand on when mounting. So, you still should teach her mounting manners so you can safely mount her when there's nothing around to stand on and assist you.

December 6, 2011 – I have had my gelding, Merlin, for three or four years, and I had him trained just the way I like. His mouth was nice and soft and he didn't brace against the bit at all. But then my mom brought one of her friends over and she didn't know how to ride well, so mom stuck her on Merlin. This was a bad idea, because the evil lady jerked on the poor guy's mouth like no other, and when I got back on him, he braced and when we galloped there was a huge difference in how much effort it took to stop him. I feel bad that he feels like he has to brace like this, but I don't know how to fix it.

Ouch! Horses learn bad habits in a jiffy, don't they?

Ok, you'll just have to train him out of it and it may take a while. If you have gentle and responsive hands, as it sounds as though you do, he'll learn your way again over time. Just don't let the evil lady ride him anymore.

December 5, 2011 – Why does my horse always jump out of the trailer when unloading? I want her to quietly walk off.

Well you know, a horse has a giant blind spot from the middle of his forehead out about three or four feet, right? So, a horse will learn over time and remember that a trailer has a lip. Even a trailer with a ramp has an incline that the horse can spot. And when he walks on the incline or puts a hoof on it, it's not secure. Therefore, a prudent horse walking blindly will not trust to hope, and will instead take matters into his own hands and will vault the dangerous location. And, if it's a young horse with lots of vigor and fun in him, he'll do so even if you try to prevent it. He'll think to himself, well, I know they mean well, but after all, it is MY responsibility to guard MY wellbeing here in this small way, and so, nuts to you O great leader — I'm outta here!

Now, over time, and with lots of vigorous work and trailering in the company of a wise older horse who walks quietly down the ramp, your horse may learn to get off less excitedly as she gets more tired. My reaction would be to let her get off as she does as long as she isn't using the occasion to act up on either end of the process. If it's clear she's merely acting prudently and not defiantly, then it's just one of those horse things. If she IS acting up, then do get a horse trainer.

I have a polo mare in training with a trainer right now. He entertains me with stories of the babies in the stock trailer going to and from practice. Since the job is to stand tied quietly for hours on end, both in and out of the trailer, the learning process these young thoroughbreds go through is quite entertaining. Most of them are recently off the track, which means they're barely civilized and certainly not amenable to standing tied. The bottom line is that in about six weeks or so, most of them are standing tied like lambs, for hours, with their minds ready to receive the wisdom of the polo lesson, which is, to run and turn and play the game. They quite like the game, and so the lesson is the reward for being such lambs. Since there are six to seven of them who go at a time, they all watch each other and learn at once.

I've seen the learning process in action. Usually there is an anointed boss mare, and if one of the others starts acting up, the boss mare picks up her head in the trailer and gives the instigator a commanding stare. If the instigator is standing next to the boss mare, well, then there will be a spot of kicking. The row soon subsides and the lambs are quiet for a while until the next baby gets a bright idea about where he wants to be. It may be that I'm just easily entertained, but I find watching all this to be hysterically funny, most of all for the woebegone look the instigator gets after being drilled in proper behavior. I wish I had command of the same techniques for my teenage children!

Now, to close the story with an important point: the polo horses always jump off the trailer. Of course, they jump on, too, and so I guess it isn't really an issue as long as they jump when and where I tell them to.

December 2, 2011 – Does a rider kicking a horse hurt the horse?

Most horses cannot usually be injured by a rider kicking its sides. Horses are much bigger, stronger and tougher than humans and have evolved to ward off the bites of lions and wolves. That is why, unlike people, their soft intestines are well protected underneath kicking feet and tucked up under rib walls.

Now, that being said, keep in mind the following: just because a horse cannot usually injured by a kick doesn't mean that they don't feel the kick — they do! Whether they regard it or ignore it is another matter entirely.

Horses that disregard kicks are usually desensitized over time, so that's why you'll see school horses that will ignore kicks. Also, horses that are in the throes of athletic competition will be operating at such a high adrenalin level that they won't be able feel kicks. That's why you'll see spurs being used as an aid in many high level sports, not to hurt the horse, but so that the horse can feel the reminder.

HOWEVER, with spurs in the picture, the answer can change when misused. A large or sharp spur can and will injure a horse, draw blood, and inflict wounds. So, mind the spurs, use them appropriately if at all, and use kicking for a signal and not as a constant goad. Then you and the horse will achieve understanding and partnership.

Good luck!

December 1, 2011 – Could strangles effect the hind legs of my horse making her fall down while I'm riding her?

No. Strangles has a number of highly unpleasant symptoms involving the respiratory system and the lymph nodes of the horse. Left untreated, the disease will progress to internal bleeding and strangulation by throat swelling — ICK!

Your situation sounds more like EPM, which is a parasite left by raccoon poo in the feed and water. The parasite affects the nervous system of the horse, usually in the back end.

It's very important to catch EMP as quickly as possible because catching it early can be much more effective. So, call your vet IMMEDIATELY for the proper course of treatment.

Good luck!

November 30, 2011 – Whilst riding my horse, after a while, she just stops and strikes out with her front feet. How can I prevent this and why is she doing it?

This is a straight bit of attitude from your mare. She's telling you that she considers herself the boss of you. You need some expert help on this one, or you're going to get hurt. Contact a horse trainer as soon as you read this, and get help.

November 29, 2011 – I purchased 2 new horses together about 6 weeks ago and one of them has lost a considerable amount of weight since I brought them home. When they came home, I kept them in a round pen during the day and brought them into our barn at night. Since bringing them home, we have consistently been doing work on finishing the paddock and adding to the barn (attached to the paddock) with little breaks in between for the horses to settle in.

Do you think this could be the cause for loss of weight? The horse losing weight will also not leave the other alone, hence he is being bitten and bullied. They are now in a bigger paddock and still being separated at night. We are working on making a separation, but that means still more changes for them so they can't settle in.

Any advice you could give would be helpful. Thanks!

P.S. They have been vetted and are otherwise very healthy.

Yes, it sounds as though the constant commotion is wearing your horse down so that he can't eat properly. I would try to tempt him with sweet feed and corn syrup in his dry feed, and also offer free choice hay, the most luscious you can find. Also, if the horse companion he's with won't reassure him with a more blasť attitude and some leadership training, then try to find a friend for him that will. Older mares that have seen it all and are too old to run around much are good for this.

Horses like and need routine and your place doesn't appear to currently offer much of this. Absent routine, they need a strong leader who will put their mind at ease. Your horse has neither so it's not surprising that he's losing weight and is on edge.

November 28, 2011 – Have you seen horses regurgitate fluid from their mouths? I am working at a riding camp and today my horse would drool large amounts of fluid every 5 min, or so. It looks the same as when she has a large drink.

This horse might have a cleft palate. I had a polo horse that did this; he would get water up in his sinuses and then drain it out. YECH!!! Also, this could be dangerous if he had heavy breathing right after he ate. We would have to rinse him out with a hose right before games so that he didn't aspirate his grain and die.

Ask your barn manager or your vet to confirm. I bet that's what it is.

November 25, 2011 – Rain Rot Question Redux:

Finishing up on the prior post, a bigger concern about your specific Rain Rot question is that your barn didn't recognize this as an issue. First, Thoroughbreds are tougher to keep in condition and this is a well known breed characteristic. If your barn didn't know that already, and didn't add food as the weather got colder, and didn't take precautions on the rain rot, then it may be that this barn doesn't have the ability to properly care for your horse. You may have to scout around for a barn and a barn manager that will treat your horse with the tender loving care that your board payments should require. That means, adding food so he doesn't lose condition visibly no matter what the season.

The other thing you should keep in mind is that a veterinarian may have to evaluate your horse if he doesn't gain weight after a month with increased feeding and care. If he's eating and not gaining, there may be other issues at play here. In this case, don't wait too long to call in your vet because your horse's health could be at stake.

Good luck!

November 23, 2011 – My horse is thin and has rain rot. I board him at a stable and they tell me that this is just a seasonal thing and that he will get better over the winter. Is this true? I don't know enough about feeding a horse to say, except that the other horses in the barn are in good shape although he is the only Thoroughbred. Should I be concerned?

Well, yes you should be concerned. This is a complex question, so I'll break it into two issues, answer one part today so you can begin treatment, and then provide some more information in a following post.

First, rain rot does seem to be seasonal in nature. As soon as the fall rains begin, horses that spend a lot of time in muddy turnouts seem to fall prey to this malady. It has a fungal component, so doesn't respond to just betadine alone. It also seems to have an immune system component, such that horses with a compromised immune system get it worse and get rid of it with much more difficulty. With that being said, it doesn't surprise me that your horse was thin and got rain rot. That combination of issues is part and parcel of colder weather moving in: losing weight in the fall, the horse needing more groceries to stay warm, not getting enough, losing condition, and picking up a more severe case of rain rot.

To help your horse, do these things:

  1. Remove him from the muddy conditions, or at least limit the muddy turn out hours;
  2. Limit contact with other horses that have rain rot because it is highly contagious;
  3. Don't use brushes or blankets in common, and especially, DO NOT share saddle blankets, sheets, coolers, or warming blankets;
  4. Use teaberry oil or call your vet for medicine designed for rain rot. Apply that daily and work hard on lifting the scabs so that the fungus is exposed and eradicated. Your horse will hate this and it's painful and time consuming, but necessary; and
  5. Add more food to his diet, including hay and something with a higher fat content.

The foregoing is a good way to start. If the rain rot continues, you'll need to call your veterinarian for more help.

November 22, 2011 – My barn wants to trim off my horse's whiskers. Is this really necessary?

It IS NOT necessary at all. I've heard of some barns that exercise their "full board" responsibilities by trimming whiskers in an effort to keep a "neat" appearance around the barn. While I don't doubt that trimming whiskers can render a horse to appear neater and more groomed, it's a cruel trick to play on the poor beastie, who his whole life has relied on those whiskers to tell his mouth where the grain is and to sort sticks and other clutter from edible grass. This is because a horse's eyes are on the other end of his head entirely, don't you know.

Sigh! Myself, I'd rather sweep the barn aisle endlessly to exercise the neatness thing. Have you considered another barn?

November 21, 2011 – As a follow up question, do I need horse owner's insurance if I already have a policy for my hobby on horses? My hobby use of horses is civil war re-enactment?

This is a question for your insurance agent, but it's my understanding that these hobby policies are riddled with exclusions that render them to be almost useless. For example, one policy I know of excludes any liability that occurs if the horse-caused injury occurs after the horse is saddled. Wouldn't a horse be saddled most of the time a he's being used? And isn't when he's being used the most RISKY time? So, that policy excludes coverage when you need it most — what good is a policy such as this?

If you have a general horse insurance policy that covers all horse related liability, you'll obviously be better protected — a policy that excludes liability when you're saddled up and riding the horse is an almost completely useless policy and a waste of premiums. This is Even more so if you have a very fun and somewhat risky hobby like civil war re-enactment.

November 18, 2011 – Do I really need liability insurance if I own a horse? Why doesn't my homeowner's insurance cover me?

Most homeowner's policies have an exclusion for livestock, which horses are. Now, that being said, I'm reliably informed that in California, some companies are making an effort to capture the equine market and ARE covering up to four backyard horses if they're not used commercially. The short answer is that you DO need liability protection if you own a horse. Horses are dangerous enough all on their own that even with the best of intentions and luck, people end up getting injured. If you have any assets, such as owning a home, then you do NOT want the injury your horse caused be the end of your financial future. And it could, unless you take proper measures and cover your liability with adequate insurance.

November 17, 2011 – How much jumping is safe for a horse?

That will depend on the age and health of the horse and its conformation. You'll need an experienced trainer to help you on this one. In general though, horses should not jump more than about 20 jumps at a stretch. Some horses cannot jump as frequently as others — it's somewhat individual.

You have to remember that the average horse in the wild would only jump several times each year in the normal course of its life. Therefore, when we start jumping a horse, we're jumping him far more frequently than would be required in nature. Plus, we're forcing him to jump with tack and us on top of him. The result is more strain on his legs to actually leave the ground and even more from the impact on landing. And the higher the jump, the more stresses caused by the lift-off and the landing on your horse's skeletal system, especially the legs and hooves.

So, you need to keep a good watch on how your horse's body is handling jumping and be on the lookout for strains. Also, don't overdue it.

November 16, 2011 – Why does my horse vomit a little when I put on her bridle and put the bit in her mouth?

Well first, horses can't vomit. They can spit (and some drool). If the spit or drool looks like hay, grain, or grass, they haven't finished eating and you're interrupting your horse's lunch. If you notice red in the liquid which could be blood, or the effluent is not food or related to immediately prior drinking or eating and you can't find or deduce a normal source for whatever is coming out of her mouth, don't wait too long to call your vet.

November 15, 2011 – Cantering excites my horse too much and he wants to run. How can I stop him from getting excited?

You can't. About the most that you can do, is ensure that his excitement doesn't prevent him from obeying orders (like turning and stopping). That will take training and lots of cantering, at least until it isn't so much of a thrill.

November 14, 2011 – What could it mean when my horse keeps falling down when running?

That your horse is having a health issue that needs examination by a veterinarian and that you need to stay off his back until you clear it up. This is DANGEROUS for BOTH you and your horse, so DO NOT ignore the Horse Girl on this. Horses definitely do not fall down on purpose and if you're on him when he does, he'll take you with him if he falls — that could be catastrophic for you.

November 10 - 13, 2011 – The Horse Girl and Horse Guy are at the Equine Affaire.

November 9, 2011 – How long should I keep my horse inside his stall every day?

How long? As little as possible. You're looking at this the wrong way. Instead, you should ask: how long can I keep my horse turned out as much as possible? The limits on that time are usually a function of available turnout space for the number of horses you have.

Turn out is very good for horses — they're not made to stay in stalls. They like to be outside, be with other horses, and spend their time grazing, playing and running, and socializing. That makes for healthy and happy horses.

Horses stalled too long are generally NOT happy, not as healthy, and develop problems, such as weaving and chewing wood. Keep your horse turned out as much as possible.

November 8, 2011 – Is it true that when a horse lays down his organs are in a strain?

Yes. They're like land whales. They can't eat, breath or digest properly while lying down. That being said, they will lie down for short periods to sleep deeply, but can't manage it for more than four or five hours at a stretch. The one thing every horse would like, and recognizes instantly when exposed to it, is a couch. The Enduro Nest is a horse sling that functions like a human's couch, and horses figure it out right away. ("Pass the popcorn," the horse says, "I'm in this thing for the long haul.")

The nest is designed to keep the pressure off of the horse's body, and so, they can lie down in it for long stretches. Absent the Nest, there is no current way that I know of to let a horse lie down for a long period of time.

November 7, 2011 – Is it ok to trailer a horse right after eating?

Sure. Trailering doesn't affect their digestion any more than it does yours when you eat and then go for a ride in your car.

November 4, 2011 – How do I know if my horse is suited to me?

That's a question of your experience vs. the horse's, and your temperament vs. the horse's.

If you're a newbie, get a well trained horse to start. Other than that, you just have to make observations and see if your horse is a happy type or an sore type, and whether your horse is happy with your agenda for him, or if he wants to impose his own. Frankly, I'll not own a horse with a radically different idea of how to spend his time than my own plans. Nor should you.

November 3, 2011 – Dear Horse Girl: we have a mare named "Sweet-Sweet, " the fattest horse you'll ever see, and did I mention that she is EVIL? Anyway, it's hard to find a girth that'll go round her. And my mother, her "rider, " refuses to cinch the girth up tight. This has resulted in mother riding UNDER Sweet-Sweet. Please help! What should we do??

Ah, the first thing I would do is remove mother from under Sweet Sweet — that is not a good riding position (the excellent view of ground flora notwithstanding). Second, you are correct: Paint Mares named Sweet Sweet are, in fact, the MOST EVIL of ALL CREATURES! This is especially if they have owners who are so far under their evil spell that they will not exercise even rudimentary self-preservation skills.

If this mare's rider will not learn how to girth up a horse properly, then I'm afraid the only recourse you have is to allow (neigh, encourage) the horse to get so fat that no girth on the farm will fit. Then, the owner will be safe from the dangers of inverted riding. I would even suggest going so far as to ensure the girth won't reach (e.g. using surreptitious girth switching or saddle sabotage tactics as necessary). This is all so that you can legitimately report that, "Gee whiz, Mom, Sweet Sweet may have to stay a lawn ornament for the foreseeable future!" Then, when you want to ride her, bring the long girth and take it back home with you when done.

The above suggested approach should work just fine. The owner can feed the horse to her heart's content, and then you can ride whenever you want. Just keep those feed bin lids nailed on tight, though, whatever you do.

Note to readers: This question and answer are a giant inside joke stemming back to the Horse Girl's distant past from her family, who all have very long memories...if only we had all implemented this suggestion back then...

November 2, 2011 – Can a very pregnant horse still rear up on her hindlegs?

Sure. A very pregnant horse can do anything a non-pregnant horse can do. Otherwise, they would have been lunch. All of the grazers have developed to bear their young lightly or their species would not have survived.

November 1, 2011 – My horse is petrified to leave her paddock. I've trained a lot of rescues, and untrained a lot of rescues, but my horse is a 6 year old PMU foal, Percheron. I'm a small woman, not strong enough to really muscle her anywhere like the small horses I've trained. She has a stall with an attached paddock that is separate from the main barn. It took her a while to learn to respect the halter (I first tried a regular halter then moved up to a rope halter when she wouldn't respond) then took even longer for her to learn to respect my personal space. All our training took place in her paddock so far.

Most of my training style relies on a round pen, which is down past our big barn. But as soon as I lead my horse out of her gate she starts breathing heavy and getting nervous. She is petrified of our big barn and she won't get near it.

When I'm leading her away from her paddock, I'm between her and the barn and she's calm enough until we run out of grass along the edge for her to calm herself with. Then she stops and won't move further. So we turn back, at this point. She's between me and the barn and is so afraid of the barn she side steps until she has me squished between the paddock and her, I can't physically move her off of me. It becomes a fight where she has to decide if she's more afraid of me or the barn. The hard part is that in the winter she's going to need to live in that big barn and I can't even get her to eat the grass on the side of the driveway where the barn is! And I can't get her to walk by it without getting trampled. We've tried having another horse in front of her, who she promptly ran over trying to get away. I'm at a complete loss of what to do!! Please help.

Two things come to mind on this. First, you need to learn more techniques for controlling the horse that don't rely on strength. If you learn these techniques, which are psychological in nature, you can get the horse to trust you and then follow you as a leader.

Now, here is the complicating factor: a PMU horse is usually insufficiently socialized in horse interactions because of the way they were raised. So, the techniques you may use on other horses may not fit with her. As you've already noticed, your mare has been mentally scarred from her prior life. What I don't know is what signals she'll respect and which ones she'll ignore. All of this strikes me as dangerous for you, so be very careful. You do mention being a trainer, but you'll be using unfamiliar techniques, so caution is especially called for here.

If this were my horse, I'd take her to horse training clinics and to new situations with the company of an older, staid, trained horse. Make this horse her buddy — do what it takes to create "buddy status" between the two — make the two inseparable.

When that's accomplished (usually a few days to a week), start leading them everywhere together. Eventually, push the boundaries of what she'll do with this buddy horse. End each trip or excursion on a high note; that is, end the interaction with a feeding for both of them once they go together where you lead them. Ending the interaction can be as simple as tying the two up next to each other with a feed bag for each of them in the trailer or in the stall. That is, don't feed them in a way that they could get into a fight over bucket ownership. If you do this properly, then over time, your mare will go where you want her to go as you lead first her buddy, and then her. In the process, she'll watch her buddy and pick up pointers on horse behavior.

If you can get a good boss mare to help you, that boss mare will even further enforce the rules of good behavior for you. That is, the boss mare will punish fidgets and misbehavior on her own hook. If the mare figures out what you're doing, she will get even more into the act. You should have a calm horse in a few months. It all starts from the buddy action between the two. So, get the buddy mare, turn them out together, feed them together, and work them together. Lead the PMU mare from the back of the buddy mare. Groom them together and tie them together.

If the horse you select as the buddy mare is too vile and mean, then reselect another who is more interested in being a buddy. You'll have to keep an eye on their interactions, especially at first, because if the buddy mare is too punitive, it could cause the PMU mare some injuries from bites and/or kicks. Hopefully, your mare selection will be amenable to being a buddy and also staid enough for you to work with.

Good luck! This technique works well with young race horses off off the track. If they can do it, your mare can too.

October 31, 2011 – Why do my horse's feet act like they hurt her after I ride her for about 4 hrs? I do ride her on gravel. She does not have shoes but the person I bought her from said that she does not need shoes. She does fine if I ride her for like 2 hours. But if I ride her for more than a couple hours she acts like her feet hurt. Is there anything I can give her to help her feet or is there something bothering her feet or does she just need shoes. Thank you for your help.

After four hours of pounding over gravel, your horse's feet do hurt. Four hours is a long time on bare feet. If you're going to continue, I would have shoes put on her. Another option is to use hoof boots.

One of the hardest things for horses is to spend most of their time on soft grass grazing, and then to take them riding for long hours over rough ground. If they spend much of their grazing time on hard ground, their frogs will toughen up and they may not need shoes. But every horse's feet are different and your best bet is to have your farrier or vet examine her feet and give you their recommendation.

October 28, 2011 – Will vegetable oil help a horse's back gut get working as it should?

No. The oil will help a horse gain weight, but it won't otherwise improve nor have any other beneficial effect on colon health. It sounds as if you're looking for a probiotic. A probiotic is a product containing beneficial bacteria that helps the digestive system of a horse function properly. The best way to select the right one for your horse and whatever condition he has is to ask your vet.

October 27, 2011 – Why do lots of horses stick their tail up when running? Does it keep their behind cooler?

It has nothing to do with back-end cooling. Horses stick their tails up because they're having fun and can't yell "YIPPEE", so this is a way of conveying their excitement to other horses. Their tails up serve as a visual cue to the other horses that fun is to be had, and they're having it! That being said, there are some breed variations.

For example, Arabians do this every time they run. Conversely, Quarter Horses don't do so because their tails are set lower on their rumps. But most other horses do this when they're playing and showing off.

It's fun to watch, isn't it? Of course, it's not so much fun when you're trying to catch them in the paddock and they're having fun at your expense.

October 26, 2011 – Hi, I own an 18mth old Avelignese. We are slowly training her. She can lead fairly well. I put her out to pasture (she's tied to a stake because we haven't got any fenced off fields at the moment) where she stays quite willing until it's time to go in for the night. I have a friend (who's quite savvy with horses) who has been helping me out training her. When he lunges her, she obeys without any problems - goes around the way he wants, changes direction, etc. The problem I have is that when I try to lunge her she just walks (sometimes it seems she does some sort of charge, but it isn't) in towards me. I can't get her to go around if she's not tied up to the stake and I have to run around with her. I gather she knows that I'm not really her boss. What should I be doing instead?

What you're dealing with here is a basic lack of respect for you. You need to learn how to gain her respect. Have you seen the documentary "Buck" yet? This was the model for Robert Redford's character in the movie, the Horse Whisperer.

In the documentary, Buck shows how to get a horse to behave using a lunge whip that has a flag tied to the end, and a longer lunge rope or lead rope. I suggest you see the documentary and see if you can spot the method. If not, then get your trainer to show you and explain how to get your horse moving and how to change directions.

It's not enough to say that you "can't" do this. If you really can't, then you need to sell the horse. This basic lack of respect will change over time and not in a good direction for you. This can be a dangerous situation, so you really need to learn how to manage her, and then use those techniques consistently. Nor can I write a post that details what you should do because the response will change depending on what she does, and I can't anticipate that either.

What I can say is that the foundation of it all is observation, action, and consistency. Pay attention and never overlook signs of rebellion or disrespect. You never want to be harsh or unfair to a horse, but you must always be consistent and insist on respect and the following of your commands. Most of the time, horses would rather do as we ask. But humans are often inconsistent and that confuses any animal — consistency is key.

Good luck!

October 25, 2011 – My horse moves his head side to side while he is running. How can I stop him from doing that?

Does he do this in response to your pulling him slower? If so, he's trying to evade the bit. You need to work with a trainer and learn techniques of stopping your horse that don't rely on pulling power by you and instead use your legs and seat to transmit the "stop" message.

Also, you need to evaluate the bit to see if it properly fits your horse. The sides of the bit should not pinch the horse's cheeks (too small), nor should the bit protrude out from the side of the horse's face (too large). And if your horse hasn't had his teeth floated in a year or more, you need to get this done to eliminate the sharp tooth protrusions that can cause him pain.

If the action isn't in response to rein action, then it may just be his way of going. You can eliminate really drastic side to side swings using rein action, but I really haven't ever seen this happen. I bet it's more of a teeth or bit issue as discussed above.

October 24, 2011 – My horse is a 17 hand draft. She is an absolute sweetheart. The only problems I have is she anticipates too much what pace I want. Example: In teaching her to trot nicely, we would trot the length of the indoor arena. We did this for a good hour, and now she thinks that ANY time we are going the long way of the arena, she should trot. I spent about three hours with her one day, just walking the long way, and eventually she broke the habit... But then I trotted ONCE a few days later, and she fell into the habit again.

Another example: I didn't have a ton of time to go on a long ride, so to exercise her I brought her to the outdoor arena and galloped around it with her. She really enjoys running and was a very happy horse when we got done. However, the next time we got out there, even after groundwork, the moment I mounted she took off full speed, and I spent that whole session just walking her around the arena. Now every time we are out there, she wants to run, and when I urge her to a trot she will trot for a few seconds before breaking into a lope or gallop.

I have tried correcting this by walking when she wants to run, running when she walks, etc, and I just don't know what I am doing wrong. What do you recommend to do?

This horse is not really engaged in your agenda, she is engaged in getting you to enact HER agenda. And she's pretty smart and successful about doing it, too.

Ok. So you have a smart young, active, and engaged horse. It's a lot of work, isn't it? This kind of horse takes a lot out of a rider who may just want more of an easy ride. I think that you have to recognize up front that this horse needs a fun job, and if you're not willing to provide that at least some of the time you ride her, you're going to have a battle.

Next, a horse this big will win many of her battles. So, think of her as a project. Each and every time you go out, you're training her for a goal. Some of that goal had better be directed at something specific, not just obedience. Take up a horse sport of some kind. Any kind. Barrel racing, pole bending, indoor broom polo, whatever. Do THAT SPORT for some of your ride. Then, train her for your goal. Work and play in an alternating fashion. That is, sometimes take her on long trail rides. Trailer her places and work while you're there.

Now, some of this is difficult alone. So see if you can engage a friend who can ride when your ride so that your horse will have something to think about other than just you while you're on the ride. Frequent changes of pace and direction with an emphasis on obedience for a goal should do the trick. It will take time, but you should have a sweet horse at the end.

If you don't have the time for this, then I suggest you consider sending her to a cow outfit to use as a cow horse for a season. There are ranches that will take your horse for this purpose if you pay them, even draft horses. When you get your horse back, there should be a complete change of attitude. Then you'll have a horse that will go along with your agenda. Right now, she's just not finding that your agenda is big enough for her.

October 21, 2011 – Hi there, my 14 year old daughter has just got her first horse. He is a 20 year old appaloosa. She has had him for about 6 weeks now. We have just recently moved him to a new paddock which has an adjoining paddock with another horse. My daughter went to see her horse today to groom and feed him and also lead him around his new paddock. The other horse in the adjoining paddock started running up and down the fence line and also kicked the gate, this made my daughters horse take off also running up and down the fence line with the other horse. This scared my daughter. What can we do? Thanks.

Horses naturally play with other horses — this is a good thing, especially when they're both in separate paddocks so that they can't injure each other unintentionally. The running and playing will especially occur in response to a new neighbor. Once the other horse and your daughter's horse get to know one another, this will happen less often.

I suggest you ask your daughter not try to groom or lead her horse in the paddock at all while there are horse neighbors present. Instead, have her remove her horse and take him into the barn or somewhere out of sight when she wants to groom, inspect, or otherwise give him attention. Then, he'll pay attention to her and not to the neighboring horse.

October 20, 2011 – What is the law for how much land you need to own one horse. I am also on waterfront, with about 1.45 acres...looking and would love to know if this is reasonable or not.

This is a matter of local regulation, so I would check with your town. Whether what you currently have in acreage is enough land to keep him from eating all the grass down to the roots and creating muddy flats will depend on the location. In some areas, it would be enough. But, in other more arid areas, you'd need a lot more land to keep grazing fresh.

From a practical standpoint, you'll just have to watch and see. The foregoing is not from the legal standpoint, however. For that, you need to check into for your location regulations of the town and state in which you live.

October 19, 2011 – I got my first horse about a month ago, and when I ride her, she will not go where I want her to go. She will stop and try to go back to the house. I have tried to turn her in circles, but it doesn't work. I don't want her to buck on me. She is an old camp horse, approximately 20 years old. Any suggestions?

This old dog has a lot of tricks as an old camp horse. I would enlist the help of a trainer because it's very doubtful you'll be able to manage this safely. The level of experience between what you know and what she knows is too great. You're dealing with a master here, and you're an apprentice — please don't take offense at that, I mean none. Go get yourself another master, and then learn from him/her at the same time. That training will be very valuable for you because your camp horse will require consistent leadership that you'll learn from the trainer. You'll also likely be dealing in the future with other problems that your smart horse still hasn't used on you yet from her capacious "bag of tricks".

October 18, 2011 – How can I stop my pony from nipping or biting? I've had him three weeks now and the person I bought him from said he's just pulling faces. But he has bit me and when tacking him up he swings his back end towards me swishing his tail, his ears are back and he's trying to kick me.

I recently watched the movie "Buck" and this movie showed Buck Brannahan's method of handling this (he was the inspiration for The Horse Whisperer movie) and also showed what can happen if you don't correct bad manners. I won't be a spoiler and spill the lessons of the movie, but you should watch it yourself. If this is a problem that you can't resolve yourself, then hire someone to do it and to train you how to maintain your leadership position. Otherwise, you should sell the horse with full disclosure of the problem. Whatever you do, don't ignore this behavior and do nothing. If you do, you'll be in real danger as your horse escalates his disrespectful behavior in response to your pushover attitude.

I don't have this problem myself because, when I'm near a horse, I watch him closely and if he starts to behave disrespectfully, then I immediately tell him firmly "STOP THAT!" and stare at him for a short time. If he continues on, I move him and make him work. If he still continues on, I'll smack him on the shoulder with the cup of my hand so that it sounds loud but doesn't hurt, and then I move him around and around and make him move away from me until he indicates in horse signs that he's ready to stop these actions and behave.

I've never had a horse go beyond the move and work stage. Almost all horses hate to move and work more than they have too, and from the attitude I project, they know they're dealing with a boss mare who WILL NOT stand for this kind of nonsense. This actually makes them feel safe and comforted because they're with SOMEONE who knows what she's doing; I usually have only little issues with them after that.

Of course, it'll never be a case of NO ISSUES because horses like to constantly test to see if I still have my nerve and am still the boss mare. But after that first big convincer, it doesn't take a lot to maintain my "BOSS" status.

October 17, 2011 – My horse respects my barn owner but not me. Why is this? She's only known the owner for a month since I started boarding her there and I'm mad about this.

Well, you've answered your own question by asking it. Your horse doesn't respect you because you don't understand how to act consistently enough so that she does respect you. Your barn owner likely is very consistent.

Also, I suspect your barn owner feeds her. It is of value to the horse that her keeper be obeyed so that she gets her food sooner — horses know this. However, this is not the be-all and end-all of the subject; many horses learn to respect humans irrespective of the food issue.

If I were you, I'd talk to your barn owner about this and see if he/she has any techniques that you can observe him/her using. And then, be consistent. That takes attention, observation, and understanding.

Good luck and don't be mad. This is a human issue, not a horse issue, and things will get easier for you as you learn more and become consistent.

October 14, 2011 – Am I liable if a stranger gets kicked by my horse while riding at my barn? It's not their barn and shouldn't they stay away from my horse unless I give them permission?

So much will depend on the circumstances of how the kick occurred that I really can't respond to this. The short answer is that it depends on several factors, namely:

  1. The liability waiver, if any, that the person signed to come onto the property;
  2. The postings hung around the property;
  3. The manner in which this person was invited onto the property;
  4. The temperament and past history of the horse itself; and
  5. The specific laws of your state.

Obviously, you can see how this can be a complicated issue. You need to contact an equine attorney from your state as soon as possible.

Good luck!

October 13, 2011 – What might be causing my horse to just fall down in his pasture? Is something wrong with him?

Several causes could be: A seizure, a heart attack, or he tripped. Since your horse is still with us, I'm betting it's a seizure or he tripped. I would watch him carefully for a while to see if you can figure out which it is.

If your horse trips a lot, have his feet checked by your farrier. He could need a trim or have some other problem. If he comes out clean, then have your vet check his vision. Sometimes, horses can suffer blindness and their owners will not even know, because the horse involved will use his buddies as his walker and stay close to them. They'll also use their hearing and sense of smell to locate food and passersby. Horses can be pretty adaptive and it'll likely take some close observation or expertise to identify the problem.

October 12, 2011 – What could cause my horse to be three hundred pounds overweight? Is something wrong with him?

It's likely that you're over feeding him. It could also be an ailment that causes fluid buildup, but that's quite rare. You should review your feeding regimen and also call your vet. He/she should be able to give you both a diagnosis of the problem and advise you as to how to resolve your horse's weight problem.

As with humans, an overweight horse is not as healthy and may not live as long as he/she could have.

October 11, 2011 – Is it ok to ride my horse if he has sore feet after removing his shoes?

It depends. You don't want to ride him on rocks, and certainly not if he's in pain. It's normal for his feet to be tender for a number of days after shoe removal. Give him some time to recover first. If he's not in pain and you're only planning to ride him on soft grass or on sand in an arena, that should be ok. But even here, don't overdo it and limit your riding to 30 minutes or so for the first week.

Your horse's frogs will toughen quickly enough. But it's cruel to move too fast, ignore his tenderfootedness and pain, and make it worse.

October 10, 2011 – Is it ok if I hug my horse? Do horses like it or hate it? Will it make them disobedient?

I think it depends on the horse. Some like it, undeniably. Some like it only sometimes. Some hate it always. You will just have to have this conversation with your horse.

And no, hugging will not make your horse disobedient. But, you do need to continue being consistent with whatever rules you've established for your horse. In other words, just as with children, hugging your horse and loving them doesn't mean they don't have to obey. They still have to follow the rules and you need to be consistent in mandating them. And they can tell the difference.

October 7, 2011 – Why does my horse always watch me? He's always doing that?

He watches you for several reasons. First, to him, you're a predator and he could be lunch. He knows this because your eyes are on the front of your head and his are on each side of his head as are most prey. Your eyes help you focus on him with depth perception for the attack leap onto the neck area that is the first step in your preparation of him for the lunch phase of the relationship — trust me! He knows this.

Now, the fact that you have convinced him that you may not be hungry at THIS MOMENT does not relieve him of the worry that you may change your mind at any time. So, he continues to watch you carefully. He may someday conclude that, based on all your previous behavior, that you have no intention of eating him and that he can trust you and not watch you constantly. Until then, he watches, and sees all.

Second, he watches you because you're likely very entertaining and horses are naturally curious. You do things the point of which he cannot fathom, and it will often confer on him some benefit, such as food. At other times, your activity will be less appealing, such as when you put him to work. He likes the mental stimulation of figuring out which it is. You are "horse TV" to him, in other words.

October 6, 2011 – Is it illegal to trailer horses with their saddles on them? I want to be ready to ride when we get to the hunter pace.

I don't know how it is in your state, but it's not illegal in the state of Rhode Island where I often ride. Of course, that doesn't mean it's safe for the horses.

The Horse Guy has mentioned it to me since I've done it sometimes with my polo horses. He's of the mind that it's dangerous to travel any distance with tack on in the trailer because a horse could get something like a stirrup or other tack caught on the trailer and panic (you know how horses can be when restrained and frightened). That panic and subsequent lashing about could get the horse seriously hurt, or could injure another horse.

I know the Horse Guy is right about this, so in my own defense, I've only done it for short hops when I'm only trailering for a few minutes to a nearby location. Of course, if there were a problem, well, I guess I was warned. And now, you are also.

October 5, 2011 – Can you ride your horse with a wet cinch?

You can, but you risk fungus and girth galls. Clean your cinch as well as you can and then let it thoroughly dry. You can use it again once it has.

While the cinch will get wet through your horse's perspiration when riding in warm weather, that wetness is usually mainly on the surface and it should dry quickly after the ride, Even if the cinch gets very wet from rain or crossing some water, its drying before your next ride generally doesn't allow dangerous fungus and bacteria to thrive. Starting with a wet cinch is not a good idea.

October 4, 2011 – Should I back my horse out or turn him around when unloading him from my stock trailer?

It depends on where the horse is in relationship to other horses on the trailer, and whether or not there's a ramp. If no ramp, I would never back a horse out of a stock trailer because they could misstep, fall off, and hurt themselves. Even with a ramp, I wouldn't back a horse up unless he was the first horse off of a very crowded trailer.

Horses, like people, like and need to see where they're going. If your horse did fall and get hurt, it would likely be much harder to load them again after because they would be fearful of getting hurt again.

October 3, 2011 – I sold my horse as "sold as seen". Now, the new owner wants to take legal action because the horse has developed behavioral problems. Can she take legal action against me?

Anyone can sue anyone for anything — that's why lawyers make a living. I guess the better question would be, is there a chance she can succeed on this suit? I cannot really speak to that because it will involve an analysis of the related laws of your state as compared to the facts of your case.

For example, in Massachusetts, merchants of horses, that is, persons who sell horses, cannot disclaim certain warranties that would otherwise go with the sale of the type of good that a horse is. Does your state have such a law? Are you a merchant? Even if your disclaimer is valid, would it be valid under the circumstances of your particular sale? I just don't know.

You need to contact an equine attorney in your jurisdiction IMMEDIATELY as time is of the essence in your response.

September 30, 2011 – What does it mean when my horse rears up on his hind legs? He's always doing this with other horses, and sometimes even with me when I go to get him.

This is a display of dominance. Your horse is bigger than you or the other horses when he does this, and he wants to underline that point — this is not a good thing.

I would count this horse as dangerous, to the point of serious consideration of getting rid of him with appropriate disclosers. The next step in his behavior will be for him to strike out with forelegs or to stomp on you, which is not something you want to experience.

To see what this series of moves looks like, review some Youtube videos of stallions fighting. Horses can box and believe me, you don't want to get into a ring with them. They're the heavyweights in this division.

September 29, 2011 – If another horse kicks me at the barn, can I sue the horse's owner or the barn owner?

Maybe, it depends on several factors. If this is more than just an academic question, you'll need to contact an equine attorney in your state about this. The reason is because the details will interact with the state liability laws in such a way that I cannot possibly answer this question in a post.

Best of luck!

September 28, 2011 – How far ahead should you be from the horse behind when trail riding or riding in a ring? Is it different in one place or the other?

Yes, it is different. In a ring, you want to have at least three to five horse lengths between you and the next horse — even more is ok because you're usually just sharing the ring and not really riding together. On the trail you can be somewhat closer, but you don't want to be any further ahead than about five horse lengths. More is too much because it may prompt the horse behind you to run to catch up and the rider may not be ready for that.

Similarly, try not to get closer than one horse length to the horse and rider you're following when trail riding. If you get too close, some horses will kick out. Such an attack could injure your horse or you, as well as the quick turn to kick could risk causing his rider to fall and get injured.

September 27, 2011 – My horse is always snatching leaves and grass when I ride, sometimes even at the canter. Why does she do this? How can I stop her? She doesn't listen to me when I tell her to stop.

I don't think you're telling her to stop in a way that enforces your wishes. I'm sure she heard you say "NO!", but since you weren't convincing in your presentation, she chose to ignore you. This has more to do with who's the boss. Are you the boss of her? It doesn't sound like it.

Make the snatching issue a priority next time you're out riding. Be ready and pop the bit as she goes for the snatch. If your bit is too soft, switch to a Pelham with a curb so that she believes you the next time you say no. If you consistently meet every attempt at a snatch with an immediate consequence and some additional work, she'll get the picture fairly quickly. You just have to be consistent and attentive, react quickly so she makes the connection, and mean what you say.

September 26, 2011 – Is it ok to ride my horse at the walk while he has a shin splint forming?

NO!!! STAY OFF OF HIM! He's heavy enough so that the concussion of his foot hitting the ground is causing the splint, and therefore pain for him. You won't help him if you add your weight to him as well. If you ignore this advice, then you'll be adding to his pain, the time it will take to recover, and possible serious complications.

September 23, 2011 – Can tickly whiskers cause my horse to snatch at the bit?

No. Whiskers don't tickle against anything while the horse is in motion. Whiskers are used for many reasons, but the most important ones have to do with protecting the horse. You've likely noticed how horses are grazing all day. Well, their whiskers help them sort grass, stay away from sharp objects, alert them to something moving near their face, etc.

The whiskers are fine, flexible hairs that move with the air and alert a horse to motion around their heads. That motion can be another horse, an insect, or anything else moving nearby. As you can see, their whiskers are completely unrelated to the bit.

A horse snatches at a bit as a preemptive strike against poor hand control or bad dental problems that are causing him pain with the bit. Have a riding instructor review your rein technique and a vet look at your horse's teeth. It could be a combination of both.

September 22, 2011 – What does it mean when a horses ears stick straight up, his eyes get big and he stares?

It means that he's surprised, thinking about moving into scared, and almost at, "I'm OUTTA HERE!!!" Though, I bet you knew that already. You may have the grace period of a snort and a double take before the decision is made, but then again, maybe not. Try to be ready for anything. You can also utter soothing noises and pat him. You can also try re-directing his attention to something else. This doesn't always work, but it does many times.

Antoher thought is for both of you to get a good trainer and teach your horse how to "spook in place". For such a trained horse, he'll still spook, but will stay where he is rather than jump into a panic just because of a sudden sound or movement in the distance. Of course, if there's a bear or some other scary predator quickly coming near, not much will stop, nor should stop your horse or you in such a circumstance. Those are the times I hope I'm mounted and on a fast horse with lots of space in front of us!

September 21, 2011 – I want to tie my horse in the field to stop him from jumping fences. What is the best way to do this?

You mean, hobble him? I WOULD NOT recommend leashing a horse like a dog. Horses are too big, too powerful, and too apt to spook and seriously injure themselves with a leash on a run, or worse, tethered to some object like a post or building.

Hobbles were used in the Southwest and are still commercially available. BUT, I don't recommend them because they still represent a risk of injury to your horse. As you know, horses panic and if they can't use their feet, they may seriously injure themselves trying to get away anyway.

A better question here is, are you having problems with this horse jumping out of your field? If so, what are the fences like? This sounds like a poor fence problem rather than an athletic horse problem. Therefore, I would put your horse someplace where there are well-maintained and high-enough fences so poor fencing isn't the issue.

September 20, 2011 – How can I sale my horse barn without liability. Buyer wants to lease purchase until they sale their other property. No money to put down.

I'm sorry, but this question is far beyond the scope of this column to answer in a post. Suffice it to say that you need to contact an equine attorney for this issue. You likely can protect yourself contractually, but it will require an airtight contract specifically targeting your particular situation and circumstances. That will need substantive legal advice.

Good luck!

September 19, 2011 – My horse gets upset when other horses pass us on the trail. Why is this such a big deal for her? What should I do? I'm afraid she's going to bite a passing horse or rider. She's tried to do that lots of times as they go by.

She sounds like a dominant horse determined to discipline the rabble. There's not much you can do other than remind her that, as far as you're concerned, SHE's THE RABBLE and has a pressing job right now, that reoccurs, coincidentally, whenever other horses are around. If you're convincing in your presentation of this job and the penalties that will adhere if she doesn't snap to attention, you'll find the problem will go away of its own accord as she begins to understand that work ensues with her attempts to fool around on the job. This will require that you be consistent and "on message" with her at all times, however.

This is the kind of straight line computation that takes teenagers years to learn. Fortunately, horses are smarter than that and she should get the picture within a few weeks if you're consistent and attentive to the principles involved.

Good luck!

September 16, 2011 – My horse is always very passive. But yesterday, she turned and kicked a man as he tried to pat her rump. Why would she do this?

She may have been confused, or she may not have liked that particular man — it's hard to tell. Much would depend on the signals she gave before the kick, or the lack thereof. In any event, now that she has kicked a person, you'll have to be very careful with her. Some states have a law similar to a "one bite rule" for dogs, so you're now officially on notice that your horse has the beginnings of a dangerous propensity to kick. That means warning others when they or their horse is near your horse. It also means putting a red ribbon on her tail which will indicate to other riders that your horse may kick and that they should keep their distance.

September 15, 2011 – Whilst riding my horse, after a while, she just stops and strikes out with her front feet. How can I prevent this and why is she doing it?

Your horse is impatient. She does this to indicate to you that she's losing her patience. Some horses have an agenda that's bigger than their rider's plan for them, and this is a sign that she's testing your resolve in your imposition of your agenda on her. If you don't give her some work that takes her mind off her own plans immediately, she'll continue to pursue her own desires at your expense. Only by convincing her that work ensues when she utters an editorial opinion such as this, can you stop this behavior.

Also, it's worthwhile examining whether she's right. ARE you boring the pants off her? If so, then vary it up a bit. Trail rides, contests, field trips to fun places, competition with other horses, this all works to get horses interested in your plans.

Good luck!

September 14, 2011 – Why does my pony sometimes canter around her paddock kicking her back legs out?

Well, she's having a great time and doesn't have hands to clap or vocal chords with which to yell. Ergo, a bit of kinetic display is in order. This is common to all horses. Some of the most heartwarming video currently shown on Youtube is of a pony for which a prosthesis was recently made. The pony's first action upon getting its legs under it was to run around the paddock doing just what you describe. Clearly, a long held desire by this horse.

So, do you have a problem with this? Unless you're in the paddock with her, I would just enjoy the show!

September 13, 2011 – I've got a noisy saddle. It seems I'm the only one who does. All my friends complain about it when we ride together. I've tried oiling the heck out of it and it still squeaks. Please help! I'm afraid they won't let me ride with them any more if I can't fix this problem.

It may be not fixable by oiling. Sometimes, the leather built around a tree that's made of flexible and inflexible parts will respond to the movement of the horse by squeaking. The tree is the hard part that fits over the withers of the horse and prevents the horse from getting wither galled, and also is the part that the stirrups are hung from. The pushing and pulling on the frame of the tree is exactly like the squeaking and groaning you hear with from wooden ships at sea. If it really bothers you, get another saddle. I would hit the consignment shops to find one, but make sure it fits your horse before keeping it.

My notions of fit are different than most and focus on polo saddles. Polo saddles are designed to fit most horses, and in a way that does not cause problems. So, I would say you should enlist the help of a trainer in your area that knows well the saddles of your discipline to examine the fit issue.

September 12, 2011 – My horse is more attached to me than to his pasture mates. Is this normal?

No, but it may be that he has bullies for pasture mates and he finds you safer and more peaceful to be with. It's not all that uncommon from what I've seen. The Horse Guy tells me that his horse will often ignore his pasture mates when he arrives. That can have lots to do with many aspects, such as whether or not it's more fun to be with him than just grazing in the pasture, or whether the Horse Guy might be bringing a treat with him.

Different horses have different needs. But a big one is to feel safe. If your horse feels safer when with you, he'll likely want to spend more time with you.

September 9, 2011 – When a stallion covers a mare, will he leave her alone?

What does this question mean? Are you asking if he'll be less interested after the date and he's had what he wants? While this might pertain to some gentlemen I know, the short answer is "no" for a stallion. If a mare is in heat, she'll drive the stallion to distraction as long as she is in heat. Horses can smell the presence of hormones that indicate the mare is receptive, so he'll "make hay while the sun shines", so to speak.

September 8, 2011 – Hello! I'm interested in learning about what the requirements are for being a trail guide. I've grown up with horses and actually own a Quarter Horse, so I have plenty of experience. I will complete my associates degree in December. I have yet to choose a 4yr university or major and am not sure if there is a specific degree that would make me more qualified to be working on the trails.

Is there any information or direction you could point me in? I've been searching the internet and using whatever resources I can, but I haven't found much at all.

The answer to your question depends on your particular state's regulations on the issue. For example, in Massachusetts, persons who teach horseback riding need to be licensed. But it's unclear whether trail guides fall under this same requirement since trail riding does not typically involve much, if any, instruction. Also, Massachusetts regulations seem to distinguish trail guides from instructors. Your state will have its own view, and that's what will affect you personally.

As a starting point, I recommend that you call up your state's Department of Agriculture (or equivalent) and ask them your question. Be patient, you may have to do some digging to find them or the appropriate agency, but they're a reasonable place to start. Also, call and ask your question of trail ride outfits in your area to see what they have to say. Though, I would not take their word on it as gospel, since they may not be adequately informed. Still, they may have a bit more understanding about the topic and might be able to recommend some other sources to contact.

Good luck!

September 7, 2011 – What causes a racehorse to flip pallatt? Is there any remedy?

I am not sure what this question is referring to. "Flip pallatt" is not something I've ever heard of. Taking a wild stab in the dark, are you asking about the habit of some race horses to put their tongues over the bit? In such cases, the trainers actually tie the tongues down — it doesn't hurt the horse and prevents mishap during the race. I'm not sure what causes a horse to do this in the first place other than nervous excitement.

If you're question is asking about something else, please provide more information and we'll be happy to respond.

September 6, 2011 – A horse trainer used by one of my friends is trying to seize her horse with a lawsuit. What kind of trainer wants to seize a horse in this economy???

One who believes he/she can sell the horse for money. You should advise your friend to contact an equine attorney immediately, if she hasn't done so already. Also, have her resist the tendency to hire just any attorney, it's important that it be one familiar with the vagaries of equine law or your friend could lose the case and her horse.

August 26, 2011 – I'm having a problem with my Arabian Gelding. When we have finished a training session and I have put all the tools away, I usually head back to the fence and give him a treat for good work. I guess now he expects the treat, so on more than one occasion, if I reach my hand out without a treat, he pins his ears, tries to bite and sometimes, if I act alpha, turns around and kicks the fence.

Any suggestions — I am going to stop rewarding him. Just for your information, when he does this, he does not get the treat.

Good! I agree with you! In this situation, treating is rewarding his wicked behavior, and you definitely DON'T WANT to reinforce it.

For this horse, you might have to resort to more time intensive and thought demanding vehicles of reward than food treats. I've always felt that Arabians are much too smart for most people, so you'll have to adjust your method of achieving horse incentive. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Take him out on a walk around the grounds as a reward. This worked well for John Henry, a winning racehorse gelding retired and kept at the Kentucky Horse park who was also an evil cuss and otherwise unapproachable. Yet, he could divine when he was being approached for veterinary reasons (no cooperation) or grooming reasons (no cooperation), or happy fun time reasons (trotted right over, nary a bite or kick in evidence.)
  2. Give your horse a toy to play with for a while. Try something like a big horse ball that your horse can roll around the paddock — that might be just the thing. He might try to kick you when you remove it, though, so just be wary;
  3. You could provide him play time with an equine friend; or
  4. Give him a cool bath if it's hot.
Hmmm. I've now run out of quick, easy ideas, but you get the point. You'll have to think about what motivates your particular horse and then use that reward. Just keep in mind that he's likely just as smart as your average five year old, so he can very easily see through all shallow and paltry tricks. To work, the reward will have to be truly motivating to him. Just because something might work for another horse doesn't mean it will for your horse — be observant and notice what he likes.

Good luck, and make sure to continue standing on this principal: NO TREATS for misbehavior!

August 25, 2011 – How liable is a horse stable if a person gets injured?

That depends on a lot of factors. One is the state in which the injury occurred. Some are more defendant friendly than others. Another factor is whether or not there have been any waivers of liability signed. Of course, there are always the facts of the specific case.

Unfortunately, only an experienced equine attorney is able to answer this question, especially if your inquiry is based upon an actual set of events. If this is the case, call such an attorney immediately.

August 24, 2011 – I want to sell my horse farm where I board horses. I have two parties interested, but I don't know how to set the price. How do I determine what it's worth?

You should talk to a real estate agent in your area that specializes in horse property. He/she will have to look at comparable horse properties that have been recently sold and evaluate the similarities and differences enough to come up with a fair price. Real estate of any kind has a market value set by the prevailing conditions, and only those experienced with those conditions can give you a good read. The price will depend on size of the property and its structures, their age, condition, and everything else that potential buyers feel is important. It'll also depend on the interest, cost of living, and general income levels of the people in your area.

August 23, 2011 – When I go to get my horse from her pasture, she ignores me. I call her and she looks at me and then resumes eating. Why does she do this? When I start walking toward her with her halter, she runs away. If I don't carry her halter, she stays where she is. What should I do?

Face up to the fact that your horse is pretty smart. You also need to face up to the fact that your horse doesn't think you're much fun to be with. If you were, she might come over to you. She at least wouldn't run away because she'd know from past experience that when you arrive, she does fun things. But currently, she knows that when you're carrying that halter, all you have that's fun is bupkes. Nada! NOTHING!!! All she's going to do is some boring work. Of course, you could take food with you and bribe her. But a smart horse might even figure out the food with halter means a quick treat and work that's not worth it. You should really consider what you can do that would be fun for your horse.

I've written many times about how my polo ponies love to get on my trailer because it means going to play polo and having fun. And then, they're happy to get back on the trailer to go to the barn because it means dinner. The Horse Guy's horse will sometimes whinny and trot over to him when he arrives — he never runs away when a halter is being carried. In all these cases, the horses know the approaching owner means it's time to play. There may be some work, but it won't be all work and boring.

Mix it up with your horse. Do your normal routine sometimes and do other stuff, like visit just to groom, give a treat, and return your horse to his paddock. Another time, get a big ball and teach your horse how to play with it and play catch with you in the arena. Sometimes, put the halter on and walk your horse out to a good-eating pasture or field and just stay with him while he grazes for 30 minutes or so. Do this with some regularity and your horse will start to associate you with fun times and not all the same old work.

I mean, think about it. If a person only came over to get you when they wanted you to clean their house and iron their clothes, would you be happy to see that person coming with a halter and a leash to take away your freedom?

August 22, 2011 – Is an eviction notice from a boarding facility legal? My friend got one and I think she should just ignore it. She wants legal advice first.

I definitely WOULD NOT ignore it. Advise your friend to contact an equine attorney that's licensed to practice in her state immediately. IT IS a legal notice, and if it's ignored, your friend's rights will be compromised. Don't let her put herself at a disadvantage by doing nothing.

August 19, 2011 – Why does my horse get short-winded when I make her work?

Likely, it's because she's out of shape. Walk and then trot on consecutive days for increasing time periods until she gets her wind up. But it's very important to start slow and work your way up — don't overdue it, especially at the beginning. If you have any doubt about how much to work her, check with a trainer or riding friends that have sufficient experience and training to advise you.

If your horse is seriously winded and remains so even as you try to get her into condition, she could have a pulmonary problem. Horses do get COPD, and if your horse has it, she may need steroids or other medicine to improve her lung capacity. But whether or not it could be that malady or some other, you'll need to call a vet if your efforts to bring your horse into condition don't work.

August 18, 2011 – I have a standerdbred gelding, aprox. 6 yo. I have been ridding him for a year, he used to be a pacer. He is doing GREAT so far, but now, he acts like he doesn't want to be ridden. Also, he won't leave the property to go on trails. We have gone about 3 times, but, he KINDA rears and spins around, like he is scared. I also don't know if making him go for a ride will make him not like me? What's wrong with him? Is he sick? Is he sick of me? I really don't want ANYthing to happen to Him.

You entirely mistake the reasons for his actions. Your horse is telling you that he doesn't want to go all right, but it has nothing to do with fear. He's telling you that he's the boss of him, and you're not. He's the alpha, and you're not.

This is a quintessential barn sour horse! You'll need to get expert help on this one. You can get yourself hurt if you try to go head to head with this horse, so hire an expert. Don't try this at home, in other words.

August 17, 2011 – My horse just laid on the ground and appeared to have a seizure. Her eyes were closed and her mouth slack, her back leg was twitching. After about 30 or 45 seconds of trying to get her up, she just came to and got up. Any idea what would cause this? Could it be a result of the heat?

This looks like a seizure to me too, though it could also be caused by some other neurological cause. Horses get seizures for the same reasons people do, and I think it unlikely that this is heat related. I'm not a veterinarian though, and I think that's who need to call.

Explain everything that you saw, and whether this has happened more than once. Your vet will want to come out and examine your horse for evidence of a head injury, stroke, and any other symptoms that could indicate a neurological problem of some kind.

August 16, 2011 – My horse always has some grass hanging out of his mouth. Is there something wrong with his mouth?

Possibly. Has the horse had his teeth done within the last year or so? Horses whose teeth get badly out of whack lose the ability to chew properly and you'll sometimes see what you describe. Please get his teeth evaluated by your vet.

Also, he could just be a "greedy Gus" and enjoy keeping snacks around. Having no pockets, this is the best he can do.

August 15, 2011 – Could a horse kill someone if it came at them?

ABSOLUTELY!!! Horses are so dangerous that there's actually a statute in all but four states that says if you're participating in horse related activities and get injured, then you can't sue except with limited exceptions. This is because it's usually a matter of when, and not if, a horse will injure you. For more details on this, please see the article I wrote on a realistic appraisal of the risk involving horses entitled: The Risk of Riding Horses.

Now, your question had to do with severity of injury. Horses can absolutely kill you if they take a notion to do that. They are both smart enough to have that as a goal, and the power and mass to carry out a plan to achieve that end. Unfortunately, some stallions are kept for breeding potential under circumstances where manners are not required. These stations will get more and more dangerous until they cannot be handled at all. Even a horse not minded to commit homicide can kill you accidentally because they're so much bigger and stronger than we are. The sheer power and strength of a horse is difficult to convey adequately to those unfamiliar with the animal. If horses get frightened, they can accidentally run you down without any intent to hurt you. It's just unbelievable how fast they can turn or accelerate from what seemed like a peaceful setting just a moment before.

So, all this is not to say that you should avoid horses altogether, nor to be frightened to the point that you can't manage to be near them, but just to be very careful ALWAYS, and enlist those more experienced than yourself to help you when needed. DO NOT woolgather near a horse, because you can be sure he isn't doing so around you.

August 12, 2011 – My horse snatches the bit. What should I do?

First of all, get his teeth attended to. Some horses will snatch at the bit as a pre-emptive strike against the pain of the bit action. You'll need to have the sharp overgrown edges filed down so that he doesn't suffer pain in his mouth because of overgrown teeth.

Then, evaluate the bit for fit: ensure that it's not too tight on the corners of his mouth, and is otherwise smooth and round. If it's a leveraged bit, such as a curb, think about switching to a gag bit or a smaller curb shank such as a kimberwick. Also check the curb strap or drop noseband for fit and comfort.

Once you've assured yourself that the bit isn't causing the horse any misery, then evaluate how you ride. Ask yourself this question: do you constantly clutch his mouth? He may be snatching to get some breathing room.

If you ride on a semi loose rein, and he's snatching the bit and thus intentionally causing himself pain, you may be able to head him off by paying very close attention to his actions. Just as he's about to go for the snatch, pop the reins with a firm pull. Ideally, just as his head dips, he'll meet the pull back. Then circle him and give him some work to think about. If you are consistent with this correction, he'll learn that the snatch just isn't worth it and the problem will abate.

Most bit snatchers aren't born, they're made by some of the following causes:

  • By the riders who hold on too tight;
  • By bits that don't fit the horse; and
  • By bad teeth causing the horse pain.

What's a poor horse to do under those circumstances? You'd snatch too!

August 11, 2011 – My horse's front leg twitches when he eats. Why does it do that?

It sounds as though he's enjoying the food so much that he's shaking and twitching with delight. I've also seen horses stomp repeatedly when eating. Now, I've been told by some that these actions are sometimes vestigial remnants of evolutionary behavior. That is, the horses pawed their feed to get rid of varmints and snakes before eating — this makes sense to me. But it doesn't account for the grunts of delight and happy faces of the horses who are doing the power eating while stomping. I vote for the happy horse reason.

August 10, 2011 – I recently bought my first horse. I have had her now for about a month. My problem is while leading her, she becomes stubborn and does not want to move. (This just started, is she testing me?)

My second problem is that when riding her, she will try to turn her head into her left side, or stop and stamp her feet and back up. Is it possible her saddle (English) is not fitted properly or the girth is too tight or could it be medical? She was mainly ridden western, but I was told she has ridden English. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Without looking at her while she does this, I can't say. I can offer some tips on the specific strategies to deal with the behavior, though:

When she stops while you're leading her, immediately turn her in a circle. Keep a lunge whip with you while you lead and hasten her progress if she slows by using the whip. You don't need to hit her with it, just her seeing the whip move behind her will make her move. You may have to circle her a few times before she starts moving alertly. Then, when she is moving, head out again in your preferred direction.

If her problem is medical, she'll display stiffness and an unwillingness to move no matter what the direction, or in bending towards one direction only (because it either hurts or there's some other physical limitation that she's feeling). Conversely, if she's testing you, then she'll display great athleticism in all directions except the one you want her to go in. I think you should be able to tell the difference.

The same advice goes for when you're riding her: When she balks, circle her. You can even circle in the direction she prefers, as long as you make sure she works hard for the privilege — that's why you should circle her two or three times. Then straighten her out again and go in the direction of your choice. If she still balks, circle her a few times again. Eventually, she'll get the idea that hard work is involved when she tries to dictate the direction, and that her life is easier when she listens to you.

I would also have your vet check her teeth to make sure that she has no teeth issues interfering with the bit action. Again, you should be able to tell if she has a medical issue just by the way she moves in each context. I don't think this a girth issue, or at least, if it is, that is something easily checked and fixed. It shouldn't have any effect on her forward movement.

Good luck and do enlist an experienced trainer if these tips don't seem to work for you.

August 9, 2011 – Our barn owner kicked our trainer out with no notice. Can She do that?

That would depend on the agreement between the trainer and the barn owner. In such cases, there will either usually be a lease agreement for the premises which will describe the terms having to do with the right of the trainer to use the real estate, or an employment agreement concerning the responsibilities that each owes the other. In situations such as you describe, I recommend both parties contact legal assistance to find out what options they have.

August 8, 2011 – How can I get my pony to run with me on his lead?

I would start by seeing if you can lunge him in a circle. Most horses will run around you with you in the middle, especially if you use a lunge whip with a plastic bag tied to the end to encourage him.

After a while, you can start moving side to side while he runs around you. He'll have to run further in the direction you're running. Gradually shorten the lead until you and he are running in the same direction at the same time.

Voila! You've now got him running with you.

August 5, 2011 – Sometimes, my horse stretches like a cat. She can get almost all the way down to the ground. Is she trying to tell me something? I hope there isn't a problem.

I too have seen horses do this. However, I've always taken it as a sign of superior flexibility for an animal that otherwise has a rigid spine and quite inflexibly long legs. In the cases I'm thinking of, the horse involved was a polo horse and chose to do this maneuver right before chuckers while getting ready for the match. It was almost as if she were an elite athlete getting ready for a contest.

Hey Wait! SHE IS an elite athlete getting ready for the contest! Do you think she knew that? I bet so!

August 4, 2011 – My horses have been spitting up water when they are just standing at leisure. It started with one of my pregnant minis that I thought maybe she had drank a lot and the baby was pressing on her stomach or kicked it or something, but then I noticed the others doing it. The water just runs out and they start smacking AND swallowing it, and sometimes have bubbles on their mouth. Now all 6 minis and 2 big horses have been doing it. They seem perfectly normal acting and not sick at all, but it is the weirdest thing. I am wondering if a plant in the pasture could be causing it or something. Also, wondering if I should be worried or not. Do you have any insight on this or seen this happen before? Thanks for any help you can give me.

Well, it could be that the water tastes funny. Have you recently scrubbed out the trough? This should be done every few days; just let them drink it down, dump out the dregs, scrub the trough with a brush, and then fill it back up. Otherwise the trough fills up with algae and all sorts of unpleasant icky stuff.

Some horses are maniacal about clean water. Otherwise, they could all be playing. Horses are big imitators and if one does it, they could all be trying it out for size.

The only thing that concerns me is the bubbles — you stated that the horses sometimes have bubbles on their mouths. That implies something in the water. You may want to get your vet to check things out just to be sure. If there is something bad in the water, you don't want your horses to keep on drinking it.

As a first step, I would definitely clean all water troughs and pails immediately using a gentle soap and then rinse them thoroughly to make sure no soap is left behind. Then, refill them with clean water and watch how the horses behave. If there is something in the water, they may also not be drinking as much as they should, and that is bad at all times and can be even worse right now during the middle of a hot summer.

Good luck!

August 3, 2011 – I keep falling forward when riding. It scares me and I can't figure out why it happens. Can you help?

Are you taking lessons? If so, you should ask this question of your instructor who can observe you and show you what happens when you do what you do. What it definitely sounds as if you're doing is leaning forward in a fetal-like position because you're scared. Because your head is heavy, this causes you to involuntarily fall further forward than you'd like. Heads are heavy, so more of you is ahead of your center of gravity than behind it.

To prevent this, you'll need to sit up straight and use your core muscles to keep straight, and to resist the urge to contract into a tight ball. You'll also have to make sure you're keeping your heels down in the stirrups. If you can keep your back straight, your heels down, and your head level, you'll find it a lot easier to stay balanced.

This will take a lot of strength, though, so be prepared to work at it.

August 2, 2011 – Does chicken poop hurt horses?

It can. It has bacteria that, in concentrations, can injure horses through severe sickness. That being said, keeping chickens in a barn won't typically hurt the horses as long as you make sure the chickens don't roost in a horse's stall and you keep the bedding clean. Of course, it's still better if there's a little separation between your horses and chickens so the horses are not regularly walking through concentrations of chicken waste that can get packed into their hooves.

August 1, 2011 – My horse gets really upset if one of my friends trots past us. He makes faces, flattens his ears, and will even sometimes try to bite the passing horse. What should I do? He's an ex racehorse.

Yep! This horse got programmed to run at the track and still likes it. About the only thing you can do is to take his mind off it with another project. So, when riding with others, request that they let you know if they intend to pass you — this is normal consideration and should always be done to keep you safer. Of course, still expect that some people won't do this, others will when they remember (but won't always remember), and sometimes a horse will just take off without the rider maintaining adequate control, so you need to stay aware of what is happening around you and your horse.

When someone is about to trot past, get your horse interested in listening to you on a different issue that has nothing to do with what the other horse is doing. For example, polo is an excellent way to re-train race horses for a new life that does not have anything to do with racing. The horses still run, but the object is only occasionally to beat the other horse in a horse race. Most of the time, you're after the ball, protecting the ball, or supporting a teammate. Once the horse figures all that out, he'll still run, but he'll run with a listening heart, so to speak, for the signal to turn about and run the other way as the game takes its twists and turns.

July 29, 2011 – My horse moves away from me when I try to groom her especially with the curry comb. She's not very old so I expect her to have some problems, but this really annoys me because as soon as I groom her a bit she moves off to the side. Should I get a softer curry comb?

Also, my horse doesn't enjoy baths. She tries to kick a lot and she moves around and sometimes she rears. She likes the water, but when you try to scrub her she won't stand still. I got kicked last time.

Your horse is telling you in the most unmistakable way possible that she finds your techniques too rough for her tender skin. This is not a battle you can win. And why should you win on this when the rewards for a tender touch and a slow hand are so much more rewarding for her and for you?

Be observant and use the lightest touch and gentlest brushes possible to get the job done. Even a stiff curry comb, if used with discretion, will be just fine for a tender skinned horse if you're very light and careful. Apparently, based on your descriptions, you're a little too harsh. So, lighten up on the brushes and use more observation until she tells you that she likes it. You'll be able to tell that with no trouble. Your horse will stand still, will extend her upper lip and let it wobble, will get misty eyed, and will lean into the brush. She'll actually like it.

Now, because she's a young horse, there's likely another thing going on here, too: she's being disobedient. You'll have to figure out if the moving away is disrespect or pain. If pain, then correcting her makes no difference and it's up to you to work on not causing that pain.

If she's being disrespectful, then tell her to stand up using a big voice and move her back into position. If she stands even for a moment, then tell her what a good horse she is and then leave — you're done for this session and want your horse to learn the benefits of listening to you. Gradually extend the time for grooming, always making sure she stands still and end the session on a good note. Also, tie an older horse near her and let her watch you groom him for a while. Horses are big observers of behavior and if the older horse stands and enjoys it, she will too after a while.

The foregoing explains how I take "hot off the track" Thoroughbreds and tie them up to a horse trailer for all kinds of grooming with crowds and lots of commotion going on around them. The new horses watch the older horses stand patiently, and after a while, they do too.

July 28, 2011 – What does it mean when my horse leaps and kicks up his hind legs?

Well, if you're watching from the pasture fence and he does this, it's an expression of muscular joy and happiness. If he does it during feeding time and in the general direction of another horse, he's telling that horse to back off or he's going to get a hoof kick into his body. If you're on his back and he does this, it means he wants you on the ground and not on his back. In this case, you'll need to have a "heart-to-heart" talk with your horse and explain who's the boss...presuming of course, that you actually ARE THE BOSS.

It would be good if you are.

July 27, 2011 – My horse has been standing in a muddy paddock for the last few weeks and now is starting to walk weird. Is it related? What can it be?

Well, this is so non-specific a question and complaint that I guess I really have no idea. A muddy paddock itself will not automatically cause problems if the horse has somewhere to stand that isn't muddy. However, being forced to stand in mud for weeks on end with no dry land in which to stand can create a condition ripe for hoof and foot problems in a horse, including lost shoes, thrush, abscesses, pulled muscles and tendons, and general hoof rot. Put yourself in his place: wouldn't your feet be non-functional after a few weeks of non-stop slop?

I would get him out of those conditions and call a farrier to evaluate his legs and hooves as soon as possible. You can't mess with foot problems; remember the old saying: "no hoof, no horse". Get those hooves looked at as soon as possible.

July 26, 2011 – Why does my horse's stomach make funny sounds when we're riding?

Those sounds occur because the action of exercise stimulates the horse's digestive system as the muscles act on the horse's belly. And that further creates bowel movements and related sounds. Activity will also increase the evacuation rate as well. That's why a colicking horse should be walked and walked and walked — it helps move things along. It also helps people too, so if you ever find yourself in a "solid state", so to speak, you now know what to do!

July 25, 2011 – When my horse and I ride past grazing horses, why does mine always get excited?

Well, horses usually have a rather small and unvaried acquaintance. And they are the most social creatures on the planet. So, if they see a new potential buddy or buddies, you can't blame them for getting excited. New friends are always to be desired, especially by a herd animal.

July 22, 2011 – Why does my horse always grunt when he sees me?

Well, he's talking to you in his own way and is likely expecting something from you. He may want to be let out of his stall or paddock depending on where you both are when he grunts. Or if he likes to be ridden, he may be encouraging you to take him out for a fun ride. Of course, he may want you to give him a treat or feed him and anticipates greedily that you'll do so. His grunting is his association of you with something he wants.

WELL DONE! You've successfully taught him that YOU are the provider of good things!

July 21, 2011 – I have a mare that I got 9 months ago. She was under weight when I got her, but is lately biting my other mare and even rolled her. She won't let anyone ride her though she did when we got her.

I had her teeth done in June 2010 and she has been wormed. She has put on a lot of pounds since and she now runs when she sees a saddle and even bit me two days ago and left a bruise. Before, anyone could put a saddle on her and she would stand still.

I placed her by herself. She doesn't even like her belly to be touched. Could she be with foal? I live in Boone County WV and don't have the money to take her to a vet and have no way to haul her either.

Your story is common and is the often untold side effect of rescuing horses. You mentioned that she was quiet enough to handle and also was underweight and was nutritionally compromised (starved). Now that she's stronger and feeling better, she feels well enough to struggle against the oppressor, which in this case means you.

Resolving this problem will require some horse training exercise which you, personally, should not undertake. Instead, you need to get expert help from a horse trainer. I understand that you may not have enough money on hand to hire a horse trainer outright. However, that is what's needed and you risk getting seriously hurt or worse if you take this on by yourself.

Try to figure out a way to barter, trade, or make incremental payments to get an expert to look at the mare and her behavior. What you first need is an assessment made of whether or not she is worth further investment. If she is minded to be homicidal, then she's not worth spending money on and taking chances. You don't have the expertise to make that judgment alone or you wouldn't have had to ask, so get expert help for your own safety.

July 20, 2011 – My horse keeps laying down while I'm leading her. She even laid down in front of the paddock door. While she lays down, she farts and poops and I don't know what this means. Can you help?

I am afraid I don't know what this means. Some horses will lie down in advance of work when they figure out they can literally "lie down on the job". At other times, they may have colic and roll or pass feces as part of the struggle to survive their belly's inability to vomit up what ails them. I've not yet met a horse that can lie down and poop at will.

Make sure your horse doesn't have colic. Call your vet if you have to. I would err on the side of caution on this one.

July 19, 2011 – My Quarter horse mare, Glory, is the best horse, but there are a few flaws about her. She throws her head (I also use a tiedown but it doesn't help at all) and she is always wanting to gallop or canter every time I run her. Please help me!

Horses throw their head usually when their overgrown teeth meet the bit, causing a literal pain in the mouth. Get the horse seen by an equine dentist. Then, it may take a while before she realizes that the bit doesn't hurt when you use it.

You'll need to ride with a very light hand, and try to get her to do things using seat and leg aids rather than hauling on her mouth. Sometimes, if it's an ingrained habit, it may never leave. But if the horse answers to leg aids, then it won't matter at all.

This past weekend, I rode a polo horse for which this was true. He had an ingrained habit of reaching for the sky every time he felt the bit. If the rider has a forward seat, this can be very dangerous because the horse's head snaps up and back at every rein. In the case of this horse, this is pure habit as the horse has his teeth well attended.

However, for me, this habit impeded matters not at all, because he answered fully to leg and seat aids, so it was actually one of the best rides of the day for me. I just sat back and made sure that my upper body was not hanging out over his neck and we got along swimmingly. He was well balanced and liked to play polo, so it was more in the nature of a tic or reflex that we both just ignored.

Now, as to the running thing, you'll need riding and training help for this one. Your horse needs to answer to leg and seat aids while having something to think about while she runs or you'll have a problem. Get expert help for her and for you. Unfortunately, I can't mediate this one via the Horsegirl posting method; you need hands on advice.

July 18, 2011 – A horse I know of was injured with a bowed tendon yesterday. This post will explain what I've done in the past to address this injury. I would also definitely call my vet and get his take on dealing with this injury on my particular horse.

A "bowed" tendon refers to that tendon that runs down the back of a horse's leg, that when strained, becomes inflamed. Also, rather than making a nice straight line from knee to fetlock as the tendon should, this injury actually causes it to "bow" outward in a semi circle. This is actually a fairly serious injury because it reflects a tendon that separates from the bone and also frays a bit. If your horse bows a tendon, you'll know almost immediately because he'll limp and favor that leg. And when you dismount to investigate, you'll notice the aforementioned bow. You should start on the following course of action:

Hose the tendon with cold water for fifteen minutes or so, followed by wrapping the leg in this manner: Slather Furasen (which is a yellow antiseptic goo) all over the leg. Then, saran wrap the leg with the clear plastic followed by a covering with a white square wrap and a top bandage of the whole leg using a leg wrap, but not too loosely or tightly. The horse MUST BE put on stall rest with bute. Repeat the complete washing and bandaging procedure every seven or eight hours or so two to three times a day. Administer bute ONLY once a day unless advised otherwise by your veterinarian. Use a level scoop of bute in the feed if you're using the powdered variety.

Once the acute phase of the injury is over and the horse can walk a bit, you may be tempted to put him back into work — DO NOT DO THIS! A bowed tendon will need at least four to six months of pasture rest. Then, once the tendon is completely cold and as tight to the bone as possible, you can think about starting on light work. BUT, keep an eye on it, and if it becomes inflamed with the work, stop and send him back out on pasture rest immediately.

It will take a while before the injury heals enough to use the horse, and afterwards, you'll ALWAYS have keep an eye on it for the rest of his life. If the original resting and recovery period are attended to with fidelity, your horse should return to work and be useful afterwards, but that tendon will always need watching.

July 15, 2011 – I have seen horses in my horse's paddock just back up against each other and start kicking away. This looks very dangerous and I am afraid my horse will get hurt. Why do they do this?

Horses obey a strict pecking order among themselves. The leader of this pecking order does not enjoy this position by reason of birth or inheritance, but instead must fight for it every day of his life. The reason for this is because the rest of the herd relies on that horse to protect them and lead them to safety when needed. Only a strong horse can do this, so their recurring testing ensures that the current leader is still worthy. If he isn't, another leader rises to the top.

What you saw was a kicking war between two fairly dominant horses trying to establish which is the most dominant. All horses do this whether mares, geldings or stallions. In fact, the older (to a point) and more seasoned a horse gets, the more likely he is to win one of these kick wars. It's just like a boxing match.

You're right to be concerned about danger to your horse because, whether your horse is one of the combatants or just a bystander, he runs the risk of getting kicked and seriously injured. In order to prevent this, talk to your stable manager. Horses who already have an established order with no one among the herd who is itching to rise up are fairly safe to be turned out together. Your stable manager should know who these horses are. If they don't, then that's a sign your manager doesn't know what's going on in their own barn — this would be a bad thing. You can and should insist that your horse be turned out only with the known wimps or with horses that have already had these issues resolved and who get along with each other and your horse. Segregate serious bullies only.

July 14, 2011 – Some riding friends always say to keep our horses in separate paddocks because they'll get hurt in a herd. What kind of accidents can happen to horses in a herd?

Herd dominance battles are the biggest cause of injury due to biting and kicking. However, I don't feel that alone results in sufficient reason to keep horses separated from their buddies. You just have to watch the horse interaction and see who's picking the fights and who's winning the fights. From that you'll be able to identify the serious bullies.

DON'T put serious bullies in with other serious bullies because they'll tear each other apart till one or both are seriously hurt. Mild bullies can be with wimps and wimps can be with wimps. Segregate serious bullies only.

July 13, 2011 – Why does my horse have bumps around his mouth?

These are USUALLY the hair follicles from his whiskers. If there are any other bumps, or they look new or irritated or infected, call your vet to investigate.

July 12, 2011 – I have a Quarter Horse that is great in all aspects except 1. When you gallop, he gallops at an angle which makes it very uncomfortable. How can I correct this problem?

What does this mean? Does your horse's hind end not track his front end so that he looks like he is running forward and sideways at the same time? Or does he have a hind end lower than his front end which makes it feel as though you're always riding up a hill? Or is it vice versa? A downhill ride all the way?

Regardless of which it is,, I don't think there's much you can do about it. Each horse has its own characteristic way of moving, much as we all do.

July 11, 2011 – I began riding a 21 yr old Arab about 6 months ago that had not been ridden at all in 2 years, and only occasionally for some time before that. His ground & trail manners have improved 100% and I'm really enjoying him now. My problem is he stumbles a lot. A problem I thought was probably due to lazing around the pasture for so long and one that would go away as he was ridden and toned up. I try to ride about 2 hours - 3 times a week - that's 2 hours of actual riding time. The stumbling has decreased, but it still is a problem.

Others have noted that while I'm riding him (and this could be at a walk, trot or canter), he's not picking his feet up enough. I trail ride him (all speeds, all terrain) and his stumbling doesn't seem to be related to gait or ground conditions. Last week we were cantering on a straight, no obvious obstacle, level path and he went down to his knees, and as he began to roll to one side, I was able to push off the ground with my left foot and he righted himself and continued on (no injury).

Someone told me there were some weights that could be put on his feet when he's in the pasture that would help him learn to pick up his feet better. Do you know anything about these weights, and if so, is it something I should try or what suggestions do you have? Although he's 21, he's full of life and always ready to go, if anything, slowing him down is more of a challenge, trust me, during this process we have circled and circled. I really want to conquer this problem because even though I feel relaxed, I know in the back of my mind I'm ready for a stumble at anytime.

Sometimes horses will stumble because their weight is too far on their forehand. This can be corrected by picking their heads up and helping them to balance with more weight in back. At other times, they'll stumble because of bad feet or lack of regular trimming.

Sometimes horses will stumble because of a characteristic motion as they move, such as Tennessee Walkers sometimes do with their running walk. Sometimes a horse will stumble because of a nerve damage issue.

Without looking at your horse, I can't tell. But these suggestions will give you some avenues for exploration. A good examination by your farrier would be a good place to start. You need to rule out foot, trim, and shoeing problems as the cause. Your farrier may also recommend a veterinarian examination if he/she finds a problem. If nothing seems to work, you should consider a vet exam to investigate and rule out a neurological problem.

Good luck!

July 8, 2011 – My horse kicked me. Should I kick him back? I heard that somewhere.

I heard it too, but I must say that this strikes me as the height of insanity. Have you ever seen horses go at it with a kick war? The two combatants back up to each other and flail away with their hind ends. Since even horses can't take a direct hit without breaking bones and denting hide, one or the other always runs away after several rounds of kicking. The victor pursues, kicking and flailing away.

My best new horse, an instigator if ever there was one, picked a brawl with not one, but both, herd boss mares in the same two week period. She lost both encounters. The second kick war caused big gouge wounds in her hind end all up and down her legs and buttocks. It also wounded her elbow.

I DO NOT advocate that you get involved in a kick war with any horse. And make no mistake, if you kick a horse from the ground, they will understand it as a kick, and if sufficiently bold, may feel provoked enough to retaliate. Need I mention that you are very, very, very likely to lose? And that it would be very bad for you? DON'T do this.

July 7, 2011 – Will putting lime on the ground in my horse's paddock hurt my horse?

Yes, the lime can burn his feet. If you're going to lime a paddock, do it right before a rain so the water can dissolve the lime into the ground. Once there, it won't cause your horse any problems and will raise the pH of the ground as you intend. Make sure the amount of rain you get is adequate to truly dissolve the lime and not just some sprinkles or a short, light rain.

July 6, 2011 – My horse is deathly afraid of fencing wire, or any type of wire for that matter. He got caught in some of it once and ended up flipping over backwards with me on him. So I really would like to help him get over this fear.

I read somewhere that you have to desensitize them to it, but how do I do that when he is so scared to even go near it? It is getting kind of ridiculous that when I'm chasing cattle and a cow brushes against the wire, the horse freezes. Thank you!

This is something to which you'll have to desensitize your horse. We have written extensively on this topic, so you should look at other posts related to horse phobias (afraid of crossing water, spray bottles, being washed or rinsed, etc.) Essentially, you start small and work your way up. If your horse is very frightened as it seems he is, you should enlist some expert help in this (a trainer), because both you and your horse will be at risk during the process you're about to attempt.

You may also want to read a similar post on November 4th in our July – December 2010 Archive related to another horse afraid of wire. Good luck!

July 5, 2011 – Is there a horse repellent I can put down in my horse's paddock where I don't want him to poop?

There are tales of such products, but I've not seen them anywhere, nor have I ever seen a horse under such control. If you find one of these products and try it, please let us know how it worked (or not). Then I'll have learned something new and will share it with our readers.

July 1, 2011 – What do I do when I want to ride my horse and he doesn't want me to ride him?

Your ride him anyway, presuming that is what you want to do. You need to remember that YOU'RE THE BOSS, and NOT your horse. If he gives you trouble, you need to engage a trainer to get past this problem. If he objects in a dangerous way, then sell him with appropriate disclosures — life is too short to ride contrary horses that present a risk to your safety.

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