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"Horse Girl" Archive Jul - Dec 2012

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

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December 31, 2012 – I am a complete moron when it comes to feeding horses. When I try to read bag labels, the list of ingredients overwhelms me. Do you have any basic descriptions of the kinds of grain there are out there and what effect they have on horses and some basic guidelines for feeding?

I sure do. And don't feel bad; I've seen even experienced horse people make mistakes on feeding, so it can be overwhelming. Here we go:

  • Oats – You don't see just basic oats much in today's world, but for a long time, they were the primary staple for horse feed. When sold whole, you could tell their quality pretty easily. Crushed oats are a way to disguise poor quality feed. Oats are good for building muscle and provide energy and bulk. But, whole grain oats, like whole grain oats for people, are harder to digest. Solution: crush your own oats or mix with bran.
  • Corn – Corn is fattening and heating, and too rich if fed all by itself. You'll often see it mixed in with "sweet feed" and as such, it helps give the feed (which is a mix of oats, corn, and molasses) its distinctive sweet flavor and calorie rich components. Feeding JUST sweet feed can be a problem, or feeding JUST corn can also be a problem unless the horse is under conditions of heavy work and cold. You'd want to pair the corn with a basic protein and bulk component, such as oats and hay, if you're feeding it regularly.
  • Bran – Bran is a laxative. It's mixed with, say oats, to help horses digest it. A bran mash is a good way to help a horse with a belly ache or impacted hay. You can buy commercially prepared bran mashes. Horses do seem to like these, and for a treat, do consider whipping one up. You don't need much more than hot water and a bucket.
  • Commercial pellets – A whole range of nutrition is available in pellet form. Generally, the more protein the feed has and the better quality, the more expensive. You can get a good, mid range protein (12%) and quality generic pellet in most feed stores. Ask for the generic 10 or 12 percent when you go in.

    Then, the requirements are usually about a pound for every hundred pounds of your horse's weight. So, a thousand pound horse will typically get ten pounds of grain per day. Break that up into two or three feedings. You can get it in quantities that are five pound scoops, so one per morning and one per night should see you through a typical day. Add free choice hay and water and you should have a happy horse.

Make adjustments by how the horse does on the regimen. If he loses weight, add gradually. If he's too fat, taper off. But leave the hay and water alone. Hay and water are an important aid to health and digestion, so don't mess with that ever.

December 27, 2012 – My horse charges me in the pasture. This started out as being playful but now I am afraid. What can I do?

Well, you're right to be afraid. This is a bad habit that you've allowed to develop and now it'll take some training from an expert to eradicate. I would solicit help from a horse trainer on this one. And don't be afraid to spend the money for a good one, with a settled reputation and their own farm for this purpose. This means, don't enlist the teenage daughter of a friend regardless of her horse experience. You could be liable for her injuries if you do.

I do have some recommendations I could offer, but don't want to share them for fear you'll try them yourself and get hurt. That's because, if you didn't see this coming, this is not one of your areas of expertise at this time. Get expert help on this fast because you're at serious risk of injury until you do. Until then, stay out of the pasture with him loose in it.

Until this is resolved, when you need to get him, make him come to the fence by using food in a pail, and keep the fence between him and you until you've caught him. Get him to come to the gate, open it just a crack, and let him stick his head close to the opening and you can put the rope around his neck and halter him. You can then reward him with the bucket you have with you. Make sure you don't give him food until he stands. If he tries anything aggressive or moves while you're haltering him, move behind the gate post, shut the gate quickly and go away for a while. Don't feed him or catch him until he's quiet and stands. Once he gets hungry enough, he'll stand to be caught and then you can remove him from the pasture.

And don't worry, if it's a while before he comes and stands quietly, he won't starve. He'll be plenty cooperative about standing once he gets hungry enough.

December 26, 2012 – Now that the cold weather has set in, do you have thoughts on bedding? This is a real issue for my barn. My barn owner is looking for good alternatives that are cheaper.

Well, lately I have seen quite a few alternatives being put to the test for sure:

Straw: not as available nowadays. If you do buy it, make sure it's not oat straw because horses will eat that and it isn't good for them. Otherwise, straw is ok as long as you're vigilant about removing the wet stuff. Good stall cleaning and a deep straw bed is about the top favorite for horses — they love it! Also, straw biodegrades into an excellent manure mulch, so you may be able to re-sell the black gold that can result.

Shavings: can be very expensive, although with the drought, which really drives up the price of straw, this is becoming more attractive. You have the same caveats as straw: you have to check the composition of the shavings because some wood shavings can be a poison to horses, usually the hardwoods. So be careful when buying. Pine shavings are preferred. Shavings don't turn into manure mulch as easily, so you may have difficulty disposing of the results.

Some weird bedding choices I've also seen:

Peat moss: SMELLY, hard to tell wet manure from dry, and expensive.

Newspaper: Really! Heavy, hard to dispose of when wet, and expensive.

Sand: Ick!!! Leads to skin and foot problems.

Leaves: Only if you live next to a forest and remove the wet stuff vigilantly.

Peanut shells: NO WAY!!! Horses will eat them — VERY BAD juju!

Shredded Sugar Cane: Expensive. Otherwise, a good deodorant and it does decompose well for mulch purposes.

If you come across any other whacky alternatives, let me know.

December 24, 2012 – Are stallions really king of their herds? Do they share control with any other horse?

Well, yes and no. A stallion in the wild will have a harem of mares. Surprisingly, some stallions are very idiosyncratic as to color, and in the wild, will have a bevy of bay mares only, for example. The stallion of the herd will usually NOT ALLOW any other stallion near HIS herd. But, the day to day decisions about where to go and how to get there are actually made by the lead mare of the herd.

Sometimes, though rarely, a stallion will allow a lesser or subordinate stallion (usually born of the herd) to hang about, sort of like a sidekick or buddy. This is rare though, as I said. And if that stallion ever mates or attempts to mate with one of the herd's mares, he'll usually be banished from the herd.

December 21, 2012 – Hi! I recently brought a section A colt and I brought him in from the field a few nights ago and noticed he was lame on his hind left leg. He as dragging it behind him and then pulling it up sharp and fast. The next morning, he did the same with both hind legs. He has no sign of anything in his hooves and doesn't seem tender to touch.

My mum thinks it could be his stiffles but I am not sure. I have been giving him box rest and walking him up and down the yard. He seems to be a bit better. What could it be??? Please help.

This sounds like stringhalt to me. Stringhalt is an obscure, neurological ailment. Call a vet because there is some remedy in medication, but there is no cure, per se.

Of course, I'm not a vet and I haven't seen the horse, so there's no way you can really go with my remote diagnoses — it might not be stringhalt, but then again, it might be. Either way, as in almost all cases of a mysterious health-related problem with a horse, your vet is your best bet in getting this issue identified and resolved accurately and quickly.

Good luck!

December 20, 2012 – My lawyer says I need a forums clause when I sell a horse. What is it?

You certainly do need one — all contracts have one. A forums clause allows one side to control where a legal suit can be filed in the future, if necessary. It also stipulates which state's laws will prevail if there is a problem after the contract has been entered into. As you can see, this will be a very important issue if there ever is a problem.

Forum clauses are often the subject of real negotiation when a contract is being considered between two parties. That's because, once signed, it's very difficult, if not impossible, to overcome the Forum Clause of the signed contract just by saying you didn't read it or didn't understand it. The courts will enforce such clauses no matter how far the side that has to travel gripes about it.

So, don't sign any contract with a forum clause until you've read it and are willing to travel to that location for possible litigation. And if you don't like the clause in a contract you're considering signing, do negotiate this issue if you can. It DEFINIETELY IS that important.

December 19, 2012 – I am in Florida and I have a friend in Massachusetts who wants to do a horse business with me. Should I incorporate in Florida or in Massachusetts?

This is a good question, but to answer it requires that I list some questions for you to consider. These are some of the things you need to think about before going in to see a lawyer:

  1. First, are you going to sell horses? If so, you should be aware that Massachusetts and Florida are quite different in some respects regarding the sales of goods. There may be reasons why you may prefer one state over the other for some of these reasons. For example, though undisclosed dual agency is frowned on everywhere, Florida has more rigid rules around documenting such occasions and more serious penalties. And dual agency situations arise often with horses.

    Explanatory Note: Dual agency is when a third party represents both the buyer and the seller. It can take many different forms and is often illegal when not disclosed to both buyer and seller. So, if your riding instructor recommends a horse to you and is receiving a fee from the seller, he/she is being a dual agent. Obviously, you always must question the motives of the dual agent because you're never sure where his/her motives lie when they benefit from the completion of a transaction.

  2. Second, is the business the kind of thing where you both could contemplate incorporating separately and bill each other or pay each other for services? If so, this would eliminate many liability concerns related to cross state problems where one party doesn't know what the other party is doing all the time.
  3. Third, how much will each party contribute and what are the liabilities that each party has currently? For example, I would not suggest going into business with anyone that you don't know the answers to these questions.
Stay tuned for more suggestions along this line in the future. This can be a complicated area, and one in which it is not uncommon to fall into legal traps (keeping attorneys employed   :-)))

December 17, 2012 – My horse shivers. Do they get cold? I have never seen that before.

Yes, horses get cold and shiver. In those circumstances, you either need to bring the horse into a warm area immediately or put a good quality blanket on him. If your horse is to be out all the time, he needs to be covered with an all weather blanket when it's really cold, but especially when the weather is cold and wet. Also, weather that is warm enough for most horses could be too cold for your horse. You really need to look at his behavior, health, and how cold he gets as an individual.

Finally, you need to evaluate your horse's diet to make sure that he's getting enough calories to sustain himself. And definitely don't skimp on the hay and water. Horses keep themselves warm using the hay they digest and they need the water to digest the hay.

December 14, 2012 – How do I keep the water trough free of ice? This is a real problem.

In the northern areas, it sure can be. I've seen a number of fixes for this:

  1. First: insulated water troughs. They're not as common as insulated pails, but they do exist and cost nothing to run. If you can't find them, you always have the option of getting several insulated pails.
  2. Second: solar powered warmers. These are great because you don't need to run power out to the trough. They don't help in the deepest, darkest, snowiest of winter though because there just isn't enough sunlight.
  3. Third: you can, of course, sink an electric line out to the trough and hook in the warmer. I'm assuming you're talking about a paddock outside? Many, though not all barns, if inhabited, will keep warm enough to keep buckets ice-free enough to use except on the very coldest days. Horses throw off a lot of heat in the winter! Ok, so back to the list.
  4. Fourth: the electric warmers work well, but they depend on your electricity being on. If you have frequent power outages, this can be a problem. In that case, there are gas or propane fueled generators for back up. It's not an elegant solution, but it is an option if you can't get power there any other way. I've even seen mulch or manure fired generators, if you really want to be fancy.
All in all, this is a problem that once you've looked at and fixed all the angles, you should be ok. But getting there can be a matter of many hours and effort.

December 13, 2012 – What is the difference between a dressage saddle and a jumping saddle?

A dressage saddle allows the rider to sit very "deep" with longer extension of thighs downward against the horse. On the other hand, a jumping saddle allows the rider to perch on top of the withers and lean forward up out of the seat of the saddle in tune with the horse's motion over the jump. Both have padding under the knees and both have fairly high gullets. This is because warmbloods and thoroughbreds, the breeds most used for jumping or dressage, usually have higher withers.

There are some other differences between the saddles, but those are the main ones.

December 12, 2012 – Can horses become possessive of their owner? My mare is a 22 year old Quarter horse/draught cross and gets upset if people and other horses come near me in the arena.

Sure, horses can become possessive. Just as a mare can protect its baby, so can a mare figure that it's obviously deserving of protection or that its master needs some extra help. Just be careful with this because if other horses or people get hurt from your mare, you'll likely be liable.

Direct your horse's attention elsewhere when people and horses get near. She'll actually appreciate not having to be an über mom all the time.

December 11, 2012 – I see all these warmblood breeds. I also see Thoroughbreds cross bred with drafts. Which is better at dressage?

Well, this is a question that no doubt has impassioned adherents on both sides. So, I'll tell you what I see from my interested onlooker status.

Warmblood breeds have a fixed conformation type and the range of variation will be smaller, so you generally will know what you'll get out of a foal by looking at the sire and dam. You can even often predict, especially if either has a history as a sire or dam, how the baby will turn out.

With the TB draft crosses, it's a bit harder to tell which breed will dominate. Some look mostly draft; some look mostly TB; and some are TB in body and draft in both legs and head. Mostly, they have the longer legs, but heavier bone with a more gentle disposition, which is what is being aimed at, I think. But, if the TB athletic gear doesn't pass on to the foal (sloped shoulder, longer pasterns, well set up deep croup and hock architecture), then the horse won't be as springy on his legs, and thus will not be quite as dominant in dressage or jumping.

There is only one way to tell, and that's by watching the horse move and looking at his frame. This takes an educated eye, so talk to the trainers around you. Good luck and good hunting!

December 10, 2012 – I got a new horse recently. My trainer went to try her before purchase and she had no issues. After she settled into the barn we began to ride her, but a new issue arose. She started bucking about a foot off the ground and now has settled into kicking. She seemed to be afraid of the bit, so we changed it to a d-ring snaffle with copper rollers, which she likes, but still she kicks out, especially when I nudge her forward. I though it was my position, or my legs were noisy, inconsistent contact in the mouth, because I know she used to be a high ranking in dressage. but after fixing it all, she STILL KICKS! And we are only walking! She will just stop, pin her ears and kick.

It's frustrating because now it's coming out of nowhere and I'm beginning to worry about her. She is next to some very nasty horses. Could that be carrying over to riding? What is making her kick out? It's her only vice!

This is a good question, but without actually seeing the behavior, I cannot tell what's going on. Unfortunately, several issues might be at play here and it's a bit of a detective job to figure it out.

For example, it could be:

  1. Physical – you don't say whether the horse was vetted with a blood test before sale, so the horse could have been drugged previously during your trainer's trial;
  2. Adjustment issue – an editorial opinion by the horse on her current surroundings, the nasty horses you mention that are nearby, or something in your riding; or
  3. A training issue – see the drugging comment above because it's not unknown for unscrupulous sellers to mask behavior problems caused by physical or mental triggers with drugs during the trial phase.
So, it's hard to tell. Get your trainer to talk to you about her opinion of the cause. And get a blood test. If the sale is still recent, there may be residual markers in the blood if the horse was inappropriately drugged.

December 7, 2012 – I don't know anything about dressage. I mean, I have seen pictures but it isn't shown on TV all that much and I just don't see the fascination with it. Why do people do this? I would rather watch paint dry.

Well, I don't share your opinion. While it's true that much of the nuances of what makes a good dressage performance good will often escape most casual onlookers at a competition, those who are engaged in the sport find it quite exciting, difficult, enjoyable for the horses, and it requires upper level athletic talent for both human and horse. It's quite exciting if you try to picture yourself attempting to get YOUR horse to do these difficult and intricate movements willingly and with panache.

In point of fact, the history of dressage is also quite exciting (at least to some of us). Believe it or not, the movements were designed for the battlefield. The Lippizan horses, with their "airs above the ground" show movements were actually designed for the rider to throw off foot soldiers about to attack the rider. For example, the capriole, a movement where the horse launches himself into the air and then kicks back while in the air actually targets soldiers behind the horse. The corbette, where the horse rears up and then springs forward on his hind legs again and again almost like a kangaroo, allows the rider to attack soldiers in front. Dressage, which is the foundation of these airs above the ground, allows the horse and rider to gain the strength, flexibility, and mindset to execute advanced movements at will, that is, the joint will of the horse and rider.

To me, the foregoing sounds exciting and quite difficult. And dressage is an Olympic sport, after all.

December 6, 2012

This is the third and final of three parts of the Stableman Lien Enforcement Series begun Tuesday (Dec. 4, 2012):

From here, the process will depend on your state law. Each state has its own process for resolving the lien into money for the stableman, and usually this involves the sale of the horse. You'll not be able to just sell the horse without adhering to this process. If you do get tired of feeding the hay burner, DO NOT succumb to the urge to just sell the critter on the theory that the horse has been abandoned. This is because, absent your following the "right of sale" process in your state, YOU WILL NOT have a legal basis for arguing abandonment.

"Abandonment of property" laws really were not designed for the horse situation, so DO NOT rely on any legal advice from a non-equine attorney to the contrary. BUT, do find out what the "right of sale" laws are in YOUR state before moving forward. Once you follow those to the T, you can sell the horse, apply the proceeds to the debt, and then proceed to collect the debt via the normal claims processes of your state.

Following the sale process can involve a separate court action, notice through the sheriff, or any of a few different ways, but they all end in the same way: the horse is sold, either at public auction or by private treaty. If you can't find a buyer, you cannot just assume that you can take the horse itself without documenting the attempts you made to sell the horse. If you don't sufficiently document your efforts, then you may not be able to go back and get money from the boarder on TOP of the horse as part of a breach of contract (failure to pay board money) action.

This is because the lien right, which is resolved by the sale of the horse, is a separate process from suing the boarder on their failure to follow the boarding contract. It's a way to rescue the stableman from the unfairness of keeping a horse upon the promise to pay board, where the stableman has no right to starve the animal upon failure to pay. Once the horse's title has passed via the sale, THEN the issue of the value of the horse will come up in relation to the damages the stableman is owed. So, keep good records! Otherwise, you may find yourself saddled with an unsalable horse and the argument that you took the horse in full satisfaction of the debt owed — NOT a good position if you really, really want to be paid.

As you can see, this is a technical-legal process and does benefit from expert advice. Good luck and good collecting!

December 5, 2012

This is the second of three parts of the Stableman Lien Enforcement Series begun yesterday (Dec. 4, 2012):

Be careful in the decisions you make while enforcing this lien. The lien will be defeated if you allow the horse to leave the property. Therefore, be prepared for some extraordinary repossession attempt activity on the part of the boarder. This will include (and I've seen this) dramatic late night horse thievery including bolt cutting, fence snipping, and strategic horse trailer positioning as well as camera destruction. Be prepared, practically speaking, for this possibility.

The first way to be prepared is to notify the boarder via a notice of trespass, that neither they nor any agent on their behalf have the right to go onto your property until the board money is paid. This is a formal notification process for which most police stations or sheriff's departments already have a form. You need to go there, fill out, and file said form with them.

Again, you'll have to prove that the boarder got this notice. If proving notice is an issue, I usually recommend hiring a sheriff to provide "in hand" delivery service on the boarder of both the demand for payment (the certified letter mentioned above) as well as the notice for trespass. Be prepared that many sheriff's departments will not serve such notices if the person requesting the service is a private individual. However, they will if a lawyer makes the requests, but often won't accept the request from a layperson. I really don't know why that is.

So, again, the quickest way to manage this whole process is through an equine attorney in your area. Don't underestimate the value of that resource.

December 4, 2012 – I have a boarder who is late on the board by about three months. I am fed up! Can you outline the steps to get my money from the owner?

Sure. I'm making this the first part of a multi-installment series on the topic because it's a common question.

First, your claim for board is what we lawyers call a "stableman's lien", or, in some states, an "agister lien". That gives you the right to hold onto the horse against the owner's claim of ownership, no matter what. You don't have to file anything in court, and if the police come to your doorstep with owner in tow, you can tell them to leave. Now, not all police know this, and before you start enforcement proceedings, I would find an equine attorney to be able to call. This way, if push comes to shove, you'll be able to have the lawyer educate the police as to the situation of the lien and your right to hold the horse until the boarder's debt has been paid to you.

Second, and this is part of the enforcement process, notify your boarder — in writing — of the amount they owe as of a certain date. Also, include a per diem charge (a "by the day" fee), for every day thereafter so you can prove that you've given proper notice. Therefore, you should send this demand letter via certified mail in order to automatically get a signature that the boarder has received it.

These two steps should be executed first and foremost as you begin enforcement proceedings against the boarder.

December 3, 2012 – I read on the queryhorse forums this weekend that this poor horse is about to be euthanized. Are there any laws about this? This seems to be wrong that someone can just kill a horse for no reason.

Well, I am not sure you read the forum question all the way through. In that situation, two veterinarians recommended euthanasia due to a broken leg. That is not "no reason".

But even assuming the owner had called the veterinarian to euthanize the horse for "no reason", there is no law against that. Whether we agree or not, in the eyes of the law, horses are chattel property. That means an owner can make that decision legally speaking.

Now, an owner may NOT torture an animal or be cruel to an animal. There are many criminal and civil anti-cruelty laws on the books. However, those laws have to do with the deliberate infliction of pain or suffering, which is not what presumably occurs during a medically supervised euthanasia. We were saddened to learn that the horse had to be put down — we, too, love horses! The writer was trying to explore every option before making a very tough decision. But there are medical reasons animals sometimes need to be euthanized to avoid unnecessary pain and a poor long-term prognosis.

If that's not what you wanted to know, please write back with more specificity and we'll try to answer.

November 30, 2012 – I bought a very expensive horse from a seller recommended by my trainer. I paid the trainer a commission and found out later that my trainer also got a finder's fee paid by the seller. This seems to me to be wrong. What can I do? I like the horse and don't want to give him up, but I suspect my price may have gotten raised by the seller in anticipation of the finder's fee. At least, I can't rule out that that happened.

This is a classic "dual agency" situation that allows you to sue your trainer for breach of fiduciary duty to you. The dual agency situation, if not disclosed in advance and agreed to by the buyer, is against the common law in nearly all states. You should consult an equine attorney practicing in your state to discuss your remedies and a possible course of action. Make sure it's an equine attorney because the non-equine attorney is rarely knowledgeable about the nuances of horse law and you never know when that knowledge can make a difference — it often does.

November 29, 2012 – I would like to buy a warmblood horse for dressage purposes. But all the prospects I have seen are very, very, very expensive. How can I break into this discipline in a cost effective way?

Well, it is true that trained dressage horses are worth a lot of money. This is because each move and technique that a horse learns and masters represents many hours of training time and effort. These are specialty horses in an advanced athletic discipline, so you should expect to pay the higher rates.

However, your question implies that you're looking for a prospect, not a trained horse. It's possible to find prospects at around $5000 or so, but the risk there is that the horse may not be solid in health or temperament. Also, a prospect will know little or nothing, and if your skill level in this sport is at a beginner level, then you two may not be a good match because neither one of you will be able to help the other progress very quickly in the sport.

If I were you, I'd look into a half-lease situation so that you pay a monthly fee to ride an experienced horse and in the process, learn enough to get to a level where your experience would support a true prospect in training in the future. This will happen more or less quickly depending on your effort and interest in the process, and the quality of your trainer.

Good luck!

November 28, 2012 – I have heard that there is something called the international jousting federation. Is this a real thing? Doesn't that hurt the horses?

Yes! There is, in fact, an International Jousting League. Conducted with all of the pageantry you might expect, these modern day knights in shining armor joust under not quite historically accurate conditions. That's because today's version has a catcher at the end that prevents the actual spearing of the horse and/or rider with the lance. To replace such an invasive action and still know when a competitor has been skewered (so to speak), there is a shield affixed to the breastplate that's designed to fall off when dinged by the opponent.

In addition, the fence in the middle of the jousting field prevents the horses from running into each other. So on balance, your concerns scan be allayed as the horses are kept safe and do quite well in this modern medieval masterpiece of monumentally moving historic museum (I'm running out of alliterative devices here, so I will conclude).

Note that there are some sixty women who are internationally recognized jousters. And recently (believe it or not), the Horse Girl herself has been approached as a prime candidate for such honor/recreation (Torment?, Suffering?, Foolhardiness — pick one!) I must admit to being excited at the thought of participating. And if I should ultimately decide to embark on such an august (and gear-heavy) quest, I promise to report it here.

November 27, 2012 – What is haylage? I heard of it and don't know what it is.

I had to look this one up myself. Haylage is like silage or hay that has substantially greater water content than regular hay, in fact, up to fifty percent more. This helps horses that are on long trips, such as on a plane flight where open water is hard to maintain. Haylage nets allow horses to eat hay without getting blocked up due to insufficient water for digestion.

You learn something new every day.

November 26, 2012 – I have read some of your posts and I see that you talk about being the horse's "alpha". I have also read some books by other horsemen that talk about how being "alpha" and being "in charge" can really limit your interaction with the horse. Who is right on this?

What a great question!

Well, I have read the same things and this is more recent thinking. And by the way, I happen to agree with the sentiments of many of the kinds of horsemen you describe. But context is all, and in my experience, many riders engage in horse activity with limited awareness of horse communication and behaviors. So, in a sense, their ability to communicate is already limited by their own unawareness of what they're dealing with in horses.

When you think the foregoing through, you realize that urging a rider to give up the alpha role is dangerous to the rider. That is, a horse can understand a rider that tells it what to do. The horse is less able to figure out what the heck the human means when the human has no plan other than to be friends, and to hang out, in a context where someone needs to run the show of getting that herd of two from here to there. In that instance, the horse will take charge and THAT can lead to some really interesting and dangerous situations.

Now, if the rider is "tuned in" to the horse's mind set and can read horse, and the horse knows that the rider can read horse, and trusts the rider to do the right thing, well then, there is the possibility of a real two way communication. This communication can include discussion of any plan with both sides having the ability to essentially speak up and voice an opinion. Leadership CAN be about setting an example in such an instance, rather than dictating terms. But few horsemen are at that level. Else, master horsemen would have no one to give clinics to or to write books for or to produce videos for. It's a lifelong learning curve, in my observation, of which I myself am still in the beginning stages.

Those having the opportunity to actually train and learn under the auspices of such insightful horsemen that you've described can bring their horse communications skills to a higher level. But that degree of learning is unlikely to occur just by reading someone's responses on a Website or in a book. Observation and guidance by the horseman is almost assuredly necessary. So, we give advice that readers should be the alpha because anything less for a mass audience would lead to mayhem for the reader.

We appreciate the chance to explain this larger point — thanks for giving us that opportunity!

November 21, 2012 – My barn where I board has a problem. It just gets too messy and full of junk. I am afraid for the safety of my horse. The owner leaves stuff laying around. Not necessarily in the pathways, but certainly just beside the pathways. I am talking fence remains, old machinery, tires, real junk. When I complain about it, the owner tells me this is part of running a farm. What can I do? I know he is right but still that seems to me be dangerous.

Well, I agree with you that your situation IS dangerous for your horse. And I DON'T feel it's a necessary part of running a farm; it's just the way he's currently running his farm. Such a state of affairs is dangerous not only for your horse, but also for you if you were to fall on such things and hurt yourself, always a possibility with horses. This issue alarms me on your behalf because no self-respecting insurance agent would allow coverage for liability to be bound on a farm with these glaring "death traps" lying around the farm.

If there is no liability insurance and you did hurt yourself, your ability to recover recompense for your injuries will be limited. This is a bad thing! I would move to another boarding establishment immediately that doesn't pose such a clear and present danger to you and your horse.

The Horse Guy has an article that might help you find a better barn entitled: Finding the "RIGHT" Barn For You.

November 20, 2012 – I ride a little horse for my weekly riding lessons, and she's a real big sweetheart. But during the week, she's ridden by little kids and she's become really desensitized, and I feel reluctant to use the crop to get her going, because she really dislikes the crop. What can I do?

Well, this is a tough one. It's hard to answer because the remedy is not only case specific to the horse, but also case specific to your skills as a rider. The fact that you're asking the question is good, and it's also good that you recognize that just hitting the horse is not a good long-term solution.

I'm reminded of a passage that the clinician and well-known trainer, Mark Rashid, relates in his book, "Horses Never Lie". When Mark was a young boy, he was trying to figure out how to motivate the mare he was riding. He learned that if he just got on and wanted to ride around the ring with no goal, that the mare resisted such purposeless activity. The minute he got on the horse with a goal in mind, evidenced to the mare by Mark looking at where he was going and moving with purpose towards that goal, she suddenly got a lot more cooperative.

Now, some of this same thing can be achieved by good use of legs, body posture and core strength. But you'll need an instructor to help you with these things because the fact that you're asking the question means that you don't already know the above. That's ok because knowing what we don't currently know is how we seek out the help we need to learn that next thing that we do want to know. Plus, it's valuable to have someone knowledgeable observe your technique and offer suggestions.

Good luck and keep at it! This is an important interspecies moment in learning how to communicate with the horse, and just remember, the mare already knows all that she needs to know about how humans work.

November 14, 2012 – November 16, 2012

Due to a death in her family, the Horse Girl will resume posting responses to reader's questions next week.

November 13, 2012 – Can you tell me what is broom polo? I heard it mentioned but don't know what it is.

It is what it sounds like: polo with brooms and using a beach ball. It's sort of a free for all and much less organized than regular polo. On the other hand, this can be tons of fun and a seriously good time!

November 12, 2012 – I have been using forms I pulled off of the internet to use with the boarders in my barn. While I want to use a lawyer, I am scared about prices for this. How much can I expect to pay to have my board agreement and liability waiver tuned up with my local lawyer.

Well, lawyer fees are charged by the hours of service rendered. A local equine lawyer will know your state laws and how they affect horse transactions and likely already have forms available to base your barn's practices on. As a result, it can be much less expensive going that route than hiring a non-equine attorney who knows contract law, but not equine law. This is because, in order to make sure that you're covered properly, good lawyers will do the legal research necessary to assure themselves that your contracts are in step with current law, including those related to horses. In addition, creating horse-related legal forms take time. So, while a regular attorney would have to do all this, an equine lawyer should have both already on tap.

As for lawyer fees, they vary. But in the New England area, $200 to $300 per hour is common. Those fees are often less in rural areas and more in suburban areas. Usually, I can offer a board agreement and liability waiver "tuned for a boarding business" for less than $300 in Massachusetts if it's a garden variety barn with no unusual specialty issues. This is a small price to pay for peace of mind that your liability is protected.

November 7, 2012 – Have you ever heard of a horse saving its owner from certain death?

Well, I won't say it's common, but yes, I have heard of such a thing happening, and recently. I just read about an incident publicized in Scotland where a woman who owned some cows attempted to help a mama cow and her calf. For whatever reason, perhaps because the mama was concerned for the calf, she attacked the helpful human and wasn't letting up.

The cow head butted, stomped on, and kneeled on the poor woman — the whole nine yards. Fortunately, the woman was saved by her horse who was in the same pasture. The horse ran over and kicked the daylights out of the mama cow and then ran the her off. The woman managed to drag herself under the electric fence twenty feet away to get out of the pasture and survived the incident.

I bet the horse got lots of hugs and an extra ration of grain that night! (She might even have a corner stall with windows on both walls.)

November 6, 2012 – I saw a horse statute in New York City that had a special forces guy on horseback. Did that really happen?

Yes, it did! During Operation "Enduring Freedom" in Afghanistan, which began in October 2001 after the attack of 911, American Green Berets rode local Afghanistan horses into battle. The moment was captured for posterity in the statute you saw. That statute is called, "America's Response Monument", and as you know, it's located in the West Street lobby of One World Financial Center opposite Ground Zero.

The local horses, called "Lokai" in Afghanistan, are represented by a spirited stallion in Afghani tack. The statue is dedicated to the United States Special Forces, and in my opinion, is all that an equestrian statue should be.

November 5, 2012 – I need to teach my horse that I'm in charge! He bucks. I figured out from watching my trainer ride that he wont buck if he knows the person is in charge. What are some ways I can teach him that I AM in charge, not him?

When changing a horse's mind about who's the boss, I always start on the ground in a round pen. If I were you, I'd watch the videos of some of the well-respected clinicians (e.g. Clinton Anderson, Mark Rashid, John Lyons, Buck Brannaman, Pat Parelli, etc.), to learn how to read horse behavior clues. You may want to adopt some of their techniques, such as using a lunge whip with a bag tied on the end to get your horse to accept your directions.

This is essentially a people training issue, not one of horse training. You need to recognize how to give your horse signals that he can clearly understand and will respond to. These trainers know how to "talk horse", and it's something that is valuable to all horse owners and riders.

Start reading, watching, and listening so that you can learn the language yourself.

October 30 - November 2, 2012

No postings were able to be made because we had no electric power and no Internet access due to Hurricane Sandy.

October 29, 2012 – I signed a lease for a horse that required that I pay for health costs excluding issues related to a previous operation on the horse's front tendons. Well, the horse has come down lame and the owner wants me to pay for some very expensive treatments. I believe that it is the same thing. How can I fight this?

Do you have a veterinarian that ties the current problem to the previous ones? If you don't, then you don't have a leg to stand on (sorry for the pun). But absent wording issues (which you should run by an equine attorney), the veterinary diagnosis is the first question that must be answered.

So, do some digging and get a veterinary opinion as to whether or not the current problem is related to past problems. You NEED the veterinarian's medical conclusions to determine your legal obligations or lack thereof. Once you have the veterinary report (in writing, of course), take that opinion and your contract to the equine attorney to determine whether or not you're "on the hook" for these medical costs.

Good luck!

October 26, 2012 – I think my farrier lamed my horse. He denies it but the horse was lame immediately afterwards. What can I do?

Well, the answer to that depends on what actually is the cause of the lameness. Sorry, but this likely requires a veterinary visit to determine. At the very least, once you get an answer. You'll also have to decide whether you want to continue using this farrier. Usually, a farrier would have an alternative explanation that doesn't involve a flat-out denial.

Horse lameness is never fun. And a good farrier is essential to preserving soundness. Unfortunately, without knowing more, you're flying blind. Get the vet there to take a look as soon as possible — you don't want your horse to go permanently lame regardless of the cause and he might need some form of immediate treatment.

Good luck on this!

October 25, 2012 – My horse has a weepy eye. Should I be concerned?

YES!!! Get a vet there to look at it as soon as possible, especially if there's any color to the discharge. It could be nothing more than an allergy, but it could also be extremely serious. There are many bad things that can happen to a horse's vision because they're outside in the weather fairly often and they don't have hands or thumbs with which to rub dirt or other objects out of their eyes if something blows in. That is just one of several possible causes of your horse's weepy eye, but you won't know for sure until your vet has made a thorough examination.

CALL your vet!

October 24, 2012 – My horse had to be put down because the vet operated on him with "exploratory" surgery. They did not tell me that one of the risks of surgery was that when he got out of the surgery, that he could fall down and break his leg. If I had known I never would have allowed the surgery. What can I do?

I'm very sorry to hear about the loss of your horse. If you're concerned that the veterinarian committed malpractice in failing to warn you, or in the way the surgery was conducted, including after-care, then you need to ask for a consultation with an equine attorney. The legal case against a veterinarian can be brought, but it does take expert knowledge and good counsel to win the case. I can't speak to your particular situation without the facts and without being licensed in your state, but I bet there are equine attorneys there to which you can go.

Good luck with this.

October 23, 2012 – My horse keeps his back end pointed at the door. He never wants to turn around when he is in the stall. This bugs me because I have to open the door facing his hind legs and I worry that I am going to get kicked. Is there anything I can do?

Well, first of all, let me ask some related questions so you can better understand your horse:

  • What is your horse's general attitude? Is he generally unhappy?
  • Does he have ill feelings towards people?
  • Does he lay his ears back when he sees you?
A bad attitude of a horse towards people generally means that you/they could, in fact, be at risk and you have to take some quick measures in such circumstances. A "yes" response to the last two questions is particularly worrisome. If you have to take quick measures, then carry a short buggy whip with a plastic bag tied to the end whenever you enter your horse's stall. Direct that towards his back end so he has to turn around to face you. Once he does, put the whip away and give him a treat.

If your horse is just anti-social, but is otherwise friendly, coming in with a treat will brighten his day and he'll learn to value your interaction with him. Hopefully, he should also start to look forward to seeing you. Once he does that, he'll turn around on his own when he hears you arrive.

However, if your horse actually doesn't like or he distrusts people in general, you've got a bigger problem and will need to enlist the help of a trainer. That's especially so if your horse ever tries to nip you, worse yet if he tries to kick. A horse that doesn't trust and doesn't like people will often take action to keep them away and that can be very dangerous for the people. Dealing with such a horse requires the help of an expert. Even then, there are no guarantees that the horse can be made more civil, but it sometimes can be done and you should give it a try.

In all things horses, always remember that it's VERY IMPORTANT for you to be consistent. That is something all horses want.

October 22, 2012 – My mare is very, very, very bossy. She is very sweet to me, but around other horses, she tries to boss them immediately. I can't ride in company because she is so bossy. What can I do about this?

Well, I sympathize, but here, the way out of this behavior lies in you. When you're riding, you need to pay extreme attention to her, and keep her attention fixed upon you. You need to tell her in unmistakable terms that it's your job to be the boss in this herd, and if she engages in bossing on your watch, she is going to have trouble. Now, the ways to do this vary. One approach is to pop the rein the minute her ears go back at another horse when you're riding, then make her immediately work by trotting off in a tight circle — go around three or four times. If you're very consistent with this every time she puts her ears back or shows her teeth at another horse when being ridden, the events will likely go something like this:

The first time you do this, her ears will skim forward in extreme surprise and she'll stare at you and possibly resist the work. Keep after her. Don't let her back off the work.

The second time you do this. she'll not be so surprised, but she may become sullen and even direct ears back at you — it doesn't matter. As long as she listened to you and stopped her aggression toward the horse(s), add extreme praise and even treats at the end of the work cycle. You can also get a leg up on the issue by making her work before she gets close enough to other horses to attempt being bossy. If she's a good girl and pays attention to you and does her work sweetly and without complaint, then reward her by praise, getting off, and giving her a rest.

Horses are much smarter than most of us give credit for. Your horse will figure out and learn proper behavior fairly quickly if you're consistent. She'll also enjoy your interactions with her much more if she can rely on you to be the real leader of your herd of two. This is because, with you as leader, she can relax, enjoy the moment, and not worry about having to assume leadership, secure in the knowledge that the bigger boss has the con (so to speak).

October 19, 2012 – My horse does not like to go faster than a walk. What can I do to make him go faster?

Well, does he run around in the field ok? Or does he only walk there, too? If he has something going on with his feet, such as founder, you'll often notice a reluctance to move as one of the first signs of a problem.

Call your veterinarian if your horse has a general reluctance to move on. Conversely, if he's gamboling like a colt in the field, but resisting your efforts to move when being ridden, well, then that is likely a training issue. In such cases, I'd contact a horse trainer to have him/her work with you to see what's specifically going on as you deal with your horse's interactions. You may be doing something wrong unwittingly and you'll need an expert eye on the ground observing your riding to help diagnose the problem!

October 18, 2012 – I went on a horseback ride and had to waive all risks related to the riding, INCLUDING the negligence of the barn. This does not seem right to me. Can they do this?

The short answer is, it depends on your state laws. For example, in Connecticut, a recent case disallowed the barn's liability waiver and they were still held liable for injuries. But in Massachusetts, the next state north, the barn certainly could exclude themselves from liability if the waiver was sufficiently well drawn and you signed it and later got hurt. You would have no recourse for your injuries even if due to the barn's negligence.

So unfortunately, there is no national standard on this issue and you would need to contact an equine attorney in your state to get this question answered accurately for the situation you describe.

October 17, 2012 – Hay is getting so expensive. Is there anything I can do to bring the bill down?

I deal with this issue all of the time. Moving a horse to a pasture that actually has grass in it will cut down on some of the hay bills. But this is a short term solution because winter is coming soon, and even in warm weather, horses eat grass quickly.

Your best bet is to buy hay in bulk from a dealer for the winter and then locate grassland over the summer with frequent changes of pasture. One farmer I know uses temporary electric fencing to fence off a section of a larger pasture at a time. The horses are rotated through the sections so that, by the time the rotation brings a section around again, it has recovered with more grass. Of course, this somewhat depends on the rain available and the quality of the pasture at hand, but it can work if the pasture is sufficiently rich.

Hay in larger, round bales or in tractor trailer loads can be cheaper, but each have their own limitations. For example, round bales tend to get wasted more quickly and are not all that easy to keep/use:

  1. Dry matter loss – Such loss can be as little as several percent or as much as 35 - 40% depending upon local conditions and the amount of microbial respiration;
  2. Horse Action – Horses are not the neatest eaters and some hay drops on the ground and gets trample and mixed with waste products as part of pulling hay. That loss is therefore greater with a big, round bale that takes longer to consume;
  3. Round bales are hard to move and require a large enough tractor with bale spear or bale hugger. Even then, they can be unwieldy and certain safety precautions are needed to move it safely (keeping the load low, staying on fairly level ground, avoiding high spots and holes, etc.);
  4. The fact that round bales are so much bigger and take longer to eat means that there's more chance for mold to grow and the bale to get somewhat "icky" for reasons from additional bacteriological action to getting rained on, mixed with mud , etc.; and
  5. The big bales are hard to store, many horse farms don't have sufficient inside space, pulling tarps on/off is a real pain, etc.
While small bales are much easier to deal with and generally have much less waste, it's not all easy street. When buying in sufficient quantities to cut the price per bale, there are other requirements/costs:
  1. You need to have sufficient enclosed space to be able to properly store all these bales out of the weather. When used for bales, you can't use that space for some other purpose;
  2. If you don't have sufficient space, you can rent a container, but then you need to include the container rental fee as part of the cost of buying the bales in bulk;
  3. You need to have sufficient people (and the desire) to unload a trailer-load of bales (500 - 650 bales) when taking delivery — a lot of work!
I fear that there is no ideal solution. No matter how you look at it, horses are expensive to keep.

October 16, 2012 – My horse is very picky about his grain. What can I do?

Well, a horse will not eat what a horse will not eat. I believe there is a saying out there somewhere, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink". That said, truly picky horses are rare. Most horses are voracious eaters, a lot like dogs are.

You can try different types of grain to see what really makes him happy. Changing grain too quickly has severe risks, so you'll need guidance on how to introduce different types of grain. If you just switch grains midstream, you're risking colic. There is a way to gradually shift over. As long as the horse is eating something, however little, you can manage the switch. You should consult with a vet to see if there are any suggestions on this if you still have a problem getting him to eat enough to keep adequate weight.

Also, you MUST offer him free choice hay — good quality hay. Don't let your horse get too skinny, or worse, waste away. I would also spring for an evaluation from your vet. Have the vet check his teeth to rule out abcess or some other internal mouth cause. Other possibilities include high stress from his environment (frequent loud noises, being kept from food by another horse or horses, etc.), a recently lost or moved buddy, a tyrannical stable mate, or new surroundings, among other causes. As you can see, this will take time and some detective work on your part.

Good luck!

October 15, 2012 – I have to ship my horse from New England down to South Carolina. How expensive is it?

Well, it depends. If you go with one of the big shippers, that run can cost anywhere from $900 to $1800 — one way! Even if you have a friend ship your horse, it won't cost much less than $500 to $600 in time, tolls, and gas.

As you might imagine, the horse shipping industry has been hard hit by gas prices like everyone else. I would opt for one of the big shippers if you have the money, just for the comfort of your horse in one of those big vans.

October 12, 2012 – My horse is off his feed. Is this related to a change in weather?

It certainly could be. Though, I have no veterinary qualifications, so, the most I can do is tell you anecdotally that I see many horses react when the weather changes, such as from summer to autumn. Some of these reactions are good, some not so good. Feeding issues do arise at these seasonal changes, though I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps a veterinarian reader out there would be willing to share some of his/her expertise on this issue.

October 11, 2012 – I would like to give away my Dutch Warmblood. I had some health issues and I just can't do him justice. How do I give him away safely?

Well, I would notify all of the barn owners that you know of your dilemma. Commercial barn owners are usually tied in to trainers who may know of clients looking for new horse prospects. If you approach your goal this way, then YOU don't have to do the heavy lifting of matching a suitable owner to the level of your horse's experience. This also saves you from potential future lawsuits alleging that you inappropriately matched horse to rider because that match will now be accomplished by the barn owner/trainer instead.

As always, be up front about the horse's issues and health. When transferring ownership, use a written bill of sale that disclaims all warranties. Then you should be good to go.

October 10, 2012 – What does it mean when a horse you know and have had for awhile throws you, then rolls you?

I am sorry about that. I take this to mean that your horse threw you off, and then rolled? Unfortunately, it likely means that he's very happy to have you off his back.

If you've improperly cinched him, he may have had a bit of skin caught in the girth, which is painful and would pinch him something fierce. If so, you might see behavior like what you describe. Of course, he might just be feeling like he needs to be obnoxious, too — it's hard to tell from here.

It would be helpful to you to enlist the help of someone more experienced with horses who can actually observe your horse's interaction with you. That might be your barn owner, an experienced fellow rider, or a horse trainer. Seeing the actual behavior firsthand is crucial to being able to identify what your horse is doing and why.

October 9, 2012 – I would like to take an animal law class. How is that different from equine law?

Great question! Well, as best I understand it, animal law concerns things like animal cruelty petitions, veterinary malpractice, trusts and estate practice for taking care of companion animals after their owner's death, and similar specialty efforts. The difference between that and equine law is substantial.

Horses have been such a large part of human society for so long that a common law of cases has developed over the centuries that concern horse specific issues. In addition, this has caused the creation of statutes and regulations across states, the nation, and even internationally. This means that, even in other countries, issues concerning horses and horse ownership arise that are common to the situation. As a result, the legal cases tend to reflect that basic premise.

I hope this helps!

October 8, 2012 – I have a horse that started life while a baby as a black foal. But now he is getting lighter and lighter. Could he actually turn white?

Absolutely! In fact, Lippizaner horses have that same breed characteristic. They start as dark and end up pure white as older horses. It's quite a thing to see over time.

If you search for "Lippizan babies" (without the quotation marks), you'll see some images of black and dark Lippizaner foals and some lighter colored older brethren with white, Lippizaner adults.

October 5, 2012 – How many horses are there in a herd?

When your horse is alone, he's not part of a herd. When he's with one or more horses, then he is. In fact, to your horse's way of thinking, when you're with him, you're both part of the same herd. Whether you or he is the leader depends on the relationship you've fostered with him.

October 4, 2012 – How do I deal with my horse when she doesn't want to do something?

Find out why that is — she might be right. Remember when Black Beauty didn't want to cross the bridge, and then saved his master from drowning in the flood? Horses are very alert and sometimes refuse to do something so as to stay safe.

However, if your horse is just yanking your chain because she can, well, reward such an attitude with work and then with praise and rest when she's obedient. She'll figure it out fairly quickly. But, make sure you're consistent with both work and praise as appropriate. People often cause their own problems with horses by being inconsistent with their behavior, and thus, confusing the horse.

October 3, 2012 – How many people get hurt in the world each year by not saddling their horse right?

I don't know the answer to your question — no one does. That's because there's just no way to tell. Unless people go to their doctor or to a hospital for such an injury, it's essentially not reported, and therefore, there are no statistics on those unreported injuries. Fortunately, most horse related injuries are minor and deaths are rare.

The National Safety Council Website reports that the chance of dying by riding an animal is 1 in 30,476. Compare that to their report that your chances of dying in a motor vehicle accident during your lifetime which is one in 272 — much more dangerous! If you want to learn more about riding risks, see our article entitled: The Risk of Riding Horses.

The foregoing notwithstanding, there definitely is still an increased risk of getting hurt if you don't saddle a horse correctly. So taking care to do it right is a good thing.

October 2, 2012 – I own a small boarding barn with 7 boarders that I bought last year. One of them is a royal pain and instigates problems between the other boarders and between them and me. He finds something wrong with everything and everyone. As far as I know, the previous owner never had them sign anything other than a liability waiver. There is no written agreement. Can I ask this guy to leave?

You bet. Without an agreement, he is a tenant "at will". That means, if you no longer will that he stays, he must leave. You may want to have a chat with him first to see if you can iron out the problems. If it doesn't fix the problem, you always have the authority to make him leave. But trying the cooperative approach to problem solving first tends to avoid other kinds of unexpected fallout that can sometimes occur with some of the boarders with which he may be friends. Of course, because he's an instigater, they may welcome your eviction of him.

If all else fails, or you've already made up your mind, give him reasonable notice in writing and tell him to pack his (horse) bags. If he won't leave after notice in writing, you have more options, such as bringing a criminal trespass charge. So he is likely to leave because you can legally force it.

October 1, 2012 – What does it mean when someone says that the rider is out in front of the horse?

It means this: if you were to draw a line down the middle of the rider from the top of their head down to their toes looking at them from the side (in profile), that more of the rider is ahead of the horse's center of gravity rather than centered on top of the horse's center of gravity as the rider should be. That means the horse has the not fun feeling of running to catch up with a falling weight. If you do this over a jump, well, you might just find out what it feels like to beat the horse to the ground — not fun.

So, heels down, eyes up, sink in the saddle, and get back over the horse!

September 28, 2012 – How high is too high to start out a horse over jumps?

Well, this is a horse training question. I would start a horse out over poles on the ground, gradually moving up to caveletti, (slightly raised) to several caveletti in a row. This will teach the horse how to space out the gait of trot and canter according to the fence involved. Them, move to single fences slightly higher, and back and forth among higher and lower fences and caveletti until the horse is completely comfortable with launching himself into the air with a rider on his back.

I WOULD NOT go higher than about 12 - 18 inches until the horse seems completely at ease in all situations. Because the horse matures with his judgment, you can start adding caveletti on either side of a single pole so as to spread out the jump, and then add two fences in a row spaced for an in and out, and so forth. This is very exacting work for a horse, so please get help. You want to have fun, but also stay safe for the horse and you. Teaching a horse to jump is one of those things that can definitely benefit from a little expert advice.

I WOULD NOT in any one session jump for a period longer than about 30 minutes. I would also always end on a high note so the horse seems to enjoy himself. And immediately stop if the horse seems sore in any way. Jumping will place strain on your horse's joints and back, and not every horse can manage this. Never push a horse too far or you can do damage and make him permanently lame.

Be observant and get help whenever you have a concern. While horses are naturally able to jump, their bodies were never designed for constant jumping like what we put them through in both training and competing. Be very careful, vigilant, and don't overdo it.

September 27, 2012 – What is the difference between Per diem and Pro-rated? I saw this on a boarding contract and I don't understand the difference.

Well, a per diem rate is sort of like a menu item that is a la carte. It means, "by the day". This is usually a higher rate than the pro-rated portion of a monthly board charge, which is instead the number of days in the month divided into the monthly board rate.

So, a per diem rate will be higher because it must include costs that cover a longer period of time, such as insurance, taxes, mortgage payments etc., and compensate for the fact that people boarding per diem are only there and paying for one or several few days usually. With someone boarding a horse for a longer period of time or for monthly boarders, the barn owner is better able to plan and amortize costs over more days. In fact, with monthly boarders, the barn owner is assured those boarders will be there for at least the whole month and can therefore give them a lower cost per day. If they start and stop boarding at something other than the beginning or end of the month, the boarding price for those two months will usually be pro-rated. Essentially, you can think of the lower price for a longer boarding period as a quantity discount.

So, don't confuse one with the other, they are definitely different.

September 26, 2012 – I don't want to sign the board contract that my barn is offering me. I don't like the provisions in it, which seem illegal. Can you really be required to forfeit property? Can the barn keep my money if I leave early? These things don't seem right. What can I do?

The short answer is, maybe they can, and maybe they can't. If the contract is really one sided and you have no other options BUT to keep your horse there, you might have some remedy if it came to a test in court. But I doubt that you have no options at all. There ARE other stables out there. Do the right thing and vote with your feet — go to another barn. This place does not sound like it's worth the aggravation.

Another thing you can do is have THIS contract reviewed by an equine attorney to see if there are any changes you might suggest to the barn owner. DO USE an equine attorney though, because a regular attorney will likely not know the equine law behind the contract nor the meaning of the words IN the contract. This is because some aspects of equine law can be very different than standard commercial law.

September 25, 2012 – Do I have to put a blanket on my horse at night when my horse is in the barn at night in the fall?

If the horse is clipped, blanket him from about 55 degrees and below. If he has his winter coat and has free access to hay and water, you shouldn't need to blanket at all in the barn at night. In fact, many horses live outdoors full time in the middle and northern U.S. with nothing more than a run-in for protection. The run-in provides protection from the rain and wind on the coldest days and nights. Without wind and rain, most horses with winter coats can easily handle 20 degrees and even colder. Their large bodies generate quite a bit of heat and you'll notice that a barn is often slightly warmer inside on a winter morning when you come to feed the horses and turn them out.

Having free-choice hay available is a way for a horse to warm themselves further if they need it. But they also need drinking water to process the hay. The hay will have little moisture of its own because it has been dried before baling. Horses aren't called "hay burners" for nothing, you know.

September 24, 2012 – Do I have to pay sales tax when I sell a horse?

Good question! The answer depends on the laws of your particular state. It also depends on whether you're using the horse commercially or not. Contact your accountant. If your accountant doesn't know, then you need to consult an equine accountant. They are out there, you just have to look a little. This is something worth exploring for your own sake.

September 21, 2012 – My barn is requiring that I agree that my horse has to vacate the premises on 24 hours written notice with a refund of any board money unused. Is this legal?

Sure. This is the so-called "ejector button", useful to barn owners everywhere. You can talk to your barn owner about it and see if he/she is willing to change the terms, but usually, if that is the deal offered, your choice is to either take it, or leave it.

Most take it.

September 20, 2012 – Hi! I want to preface my question with a related update on my mare whom I wrote to you about a while back; a young, untrained and exuberant (i.e. a major and potentially dangerous handful!) I've been working with her and I've gotten a good solid no-nonsense trainer who is helping me and I'm feeling really good about it. Thank you for your wisdom and encouragement! Now on to my question, or maybe it is an observation/gut feeling.

I really think that my horses are tuned with watching me work with one of my other horses while they are in the near vicinity and I wonder what you have to say about that. I think that if my young and impressionable mare watches me work with my gelding, who is at the top of the pecking order in their herd of three, and my gelding submits to me, respects me, backs up, steps aside and gives me proper space, etc., then she takes that to mean that since I am alpha with him and he is alpha to her, then I am elevated somewhat in her sight. Am I right to think that? I know that she still will try me and that I need to be very clear with her on her own level, one on one, but it would seem that since horses are very much watchful of all things around them, that there is some, perhaps small sense of respect that may be gained from that. Just wondering your thoughts. Thanks!

What a great question! And you have picked up on a major point of horse training, which is that horses learn a lot by observation of their peers. They start as foals, watching their mothers.

For example, a mare high in the pecking order is favored as a broodmare for raising babies because the babies pick up domination techniques from watching their mothers boss the herd. Now, this process is slower than, say with children (or maybe not, if you have teenagers on hand) But not to digress, the point is, if you demonstrate something with an older horse and then turn to your newbie, you'll have a greater chance of success. In point of fact, that is how polo horses are trained: in a big group of older and younger horses.

Trailer training is especially successful using this technique because the older horses load and stand with no fuss and get annoyed if the younger horses slow up the process of loading by their antics. I've actually seen direct retribution to a young horse for its misbehavior by an older horse fed up with the nonsense. As this can get dangerous in the confines of a stock trailer, the hardest thing about polo horse transport is making sure that the right horses are standing next to each other in line. You don't want the boss mare teaching a lesson WHILE the trailer is moving! Still, a good boss mare can quell a line of antsy horses just by raising her head and staring hard!

You have the right idea. Carry on!

September 19, 2012 – I am buying a senior horse (20 years old). She is overall healthy other than a little arthritis in the back leg that can be treated. I want to make sure I keep the rest of her healthy, particularly her back. I am buying a western saddle (always had an English) and I noticed they have all sorts of pads that seem to make it more comfortable for the horse. Is there one type in particular you would recommend?

A western saddle with the sheepskin underlying it is a good base for the regular western blanket as long as the saddle properly fits the horse. If you're concerned about the fit, you can get thicker padded saddle blankets and then observe how it works. If you still see saddle marks on your horse's back after a ride, that is, one area of the back showing signs of more wear than other parts, or if there is uneven sweating under the saddle (dry spots indicate pressure points), and especially if the horse is sore in some parts, the saddle is not fitting properly and the pad is not enough to help in better distributing the rider's weight. In this case you should enlist the help of a saddle expert.

Many new saddles can be like new shoes, they will settle in better after a time. But this only happens if the saddle is close to a proper fit in the first place. Be observant, because if the fit is bad with a saddle using a rigid tree, it may never fit and distribute your weight properly and risks permanently hurting the horse's back. That can be true even with a saddle that appears to fit properly. Keep a keen eye on your horse's back after each ride and closely observe.

Finally, keep in mind that saddle fit can change all by itself even if the saddle did fit properly in the past. That's because a saddle can breakdown, horses change size and shape as they gain and lose weight, and even when maintaining fairly constant weight, the horse's back and skeleton can change over time due to changes in condition and normal aging.

Good observation is worth a lot and is key to keeping your horse in good health and not in pain or risking injury.

September 18, 2012 – My horse won't take the bit at all. I always fight with her and she ends up winning. I've tried the metal chain you put on the top of her nose and I've tried even putting food in my hands. Do you have any ideas for me?

Well, it's clear you are overmatched, and right now all you're doing is teaching her further successful techniques of resistance to your intents. You really want to get some expert help right now with a trainer who has a better success rate than you have. You see, you need to teach your horse that YOUR desires will end the dispute — NOT her desires. Unfortunately, so far, you haven't be able to do that.

There's no shame in getting expert help when you need it. DO IT RIGHT NOW! You'll be glad you did.

September 17, 2012 – My neighbor has a horse that I absolutely love! He is a quarter horse but has a biting problem. Also tonight he just started running laps around the pasture he is in and has not stopped for a while. He started this after pacing back and forth a few or more times. Can you help me with this? I need to know why such behavior is going on. Thank you.

Help me to understand what the problem is here in relation to yourself. Do you board this horse? Are YOU responsible for his care? Or, is it more of a neighbor question? Does this horse inhabit a pasture next door to your home and land, and is the biting the "over the fence" variety?

I guess I would need to know that before moving further, because, in truth, if you're a neighbor attempting to deal with another neighbor's horse deal, you don't really need to know why the horse is behaving in such a manner. What you need to know is, if it's a problem for you, how soon the neighbor is going to address those problematic aspects of HIS horse's behavior. This will mean that YOU need to communicate what YOUR problem is to the horse's owner.

In that light, I would say, the biting issue is self explanatory. One fix is a large set of signs posted on the fences that say, DO NOT APPROACH: HORSE BITES. That would prevent your guests from unwittingly being bitten.

The running, I'm not so sure. Why is that a problem FOR YOU? So what if the horse runs in his own pasture? When else is he going to get to do that? If it is in his pasture, he SHOULD be running if he wants to. I'm not sure what you would say about that to a neighbor. "Your horse is running and is interfering with my sleep?" or "The loud hoof beats drown out my ACDC albums?" Ummm. I think you'll have problems with that message.

September 14, 2012 – Yesterday, I had a good question on colic. I want to augment that answer with another tip: good dental care for the horse will also help a horse process food and thus prevent colic.

Remember, a horse's teeth were designed to allow them eat grass for their entire life, and grass is a much tougher food to chew than grain. Unlike in the wild, a domestic horse does not get nearly enough wear on his teeth to keep those teeth worn down. As a result, painful spurs can grow on the grinding surface of the tooth that can prevent the horse from eating food properly — this can contribute to colic. Therefore, yearly floating of teeth (where these tooth spurs are filed down with a large tooth file or mechanized wheel) can be very helpful to the horse as far as his eating habits go.

Annual floating of a horse's teeth also has the bonus of making him more comfortable to work with. Just the thought of putting a bit in the mouth of a horse with grossly, untended teeth causes me to think of all the situations that arise from a horse being in pain and the bit getting blamed. Untended teeth is not a good thing, so help your horse be a good domestic companion and have those teeth professionally floated annually. Once they get used to the tooth filing noise as not actually causing them pain, you can get some hilarious pictures of a horse standing there with his mouth ratcheted open with the filing going noisily on those back molars yet with a very blasť look on the horse's face. You can see the horse thinking to himself "no big deal."

September 13, 2012 – Is there anything I can do to reduce the likelihood of my horse colicking? He is prone to colic and it terrifies me that I will wake up one day to find him gone. I am told that this "just happens". Is this true?

Well, yes and no. A veterinarian might say when pushed for a cause of any particular incident of colic, that colic "just happens", which is code for: I don't know what caused it in THIS instance. On the other hand, there are best practices that will reduce the incidence of colic. Among these are the following:

  • Feeding on a regular regimen – A horse's gut does get ready for anticipated food just as your stomach can rumble around dinner time. Only with a horse, imagine a gigantic and lengthy gut acting as a high powered digestive machine sufficient to process grass and getting all ready to work; then, no food! So, keeping to a regular and consistent feeding schedule will help a horse immensely;
  • Feeding the same amounts – Differing amounts of grain at each feeding can really throw a horse off. If you have a horse prone to colic, get a scale and measure the same amount of concentrated food, every time; and
  • Feeding good quality foods and enough of it – Bad quality hay or insufficient hay will absolutely cause colic. Also, be aware that a horse not used to grass, and especially in the spring with new sweet grass coming up, is more prone to colic at that time if he eats too much spring grass. This can be related to the composition of the new grass with its changing composition of sugar over the season of the plant growing cycle. That is also why growing hay is best left to professionals in that trade; even a week or so harvesting delay will make a big difference in the nutritional composition of the hay. So when in doubt, keep the horse off of the new grass, even though he loves it and begs you with "pretty please, may I have some?"
Be stalwart though this all and keep to the usual regimen. All of these actions will help the horse process food with fewer incidents. The payoff is a healthier horse and less worry.

September 12, 2012 – What is "tying up?" I saw a horse at a horse show being walked and it seemed to be in a lot of pain and I was told that it had "tied up". I didn't know what that means.

Azoturia, or "tying up", can actually be the result of inattentive feeding habits. For example, a highly concentrated feed used inappropriately can overwhelm the actual nutritional needs of the horse. This happens when there is more concentrated nutrition or sugar than the horse needs. The result is a glycogen build up in the muscles which then is broken down into lactic acid when the horse is worked.

Too much glycogen and insufficient or sudden work will produce too much lactic acid that then causes muscle damage resulting in serious pain for the horse. In serious cases, the muscle can actually necrotize (die). Though rare, this is sometimes fatal, so it really is a serious issue. Fortunately, most times the horse refuses to move because his muscles ache, sometimes severely. To help the horse, he MUST be slowly walked and given water. Over time, his body metabolizes the excess sugar reducing the lactic acid and the horse recovers.

Whenever this occurs, the horse's feeding habits should immediately be thoroughly reviewed. Upping the level of hay and using alfalfa hay helps because alfalfa contains calcium. Also, reviewing electrolyte supplements with your vet can also be of benefit. Some horses are prone to tying up, so a thorough inspection of feed and feeding habits is warranted if even one episode of tying up happens.

People who exercise get tied up also, but because people can report their symptoms and what led to them as well as change their own eating habits, the issue usually gets addressed more quickly before it gets serious or life threatening. Because horses have a lot more muscle than people do, this malady can be more painful and is much more serious for them.

September 11, 2012 – I have always wondered why in a pasture with horses grazing, they will graze some areas down to the roots but leave other areas alone entirely. What is going on?

Well, as best I understand it, the reason lies in the manure that is scattered in proximity to the high grass areas. Horses are subject to parasites, including worms. The worm life cycle includes eggs left in the manure, which hatch into larvae that crawl up onto the long grass. The horses can sense the worm infested long grass, and as a result, leave it alone.

Good pasture management seeks to interrupt this cycle in two ways:

  1. First, the clumps of manure are broken up and spread evenly with a drag that reduces the size of the clumps to a fine powder. This causes the worm eggs to be exposed and die in the sun before they can hatch to larvae if the clumps are regularly broken up like this; and
  2. Second, the horses need to be put on an anti-worming regimen that kills the parasites within. If both of these measures are regularly performed, the horses will be safe to graze everywhere.

September 10, 2012 – I am puzzled by how quickly a cough or a cold will spread among horses in a barn. Surely the horses can't be that prone to infections or they never would have survived in the wild. What is going on?

Ah, good question! Well, let me answer this from my general knowledge base, referring you to a veterinarian for deeper explanation of disease processes.

When horses cough, they spray a fine mist into the air which contains bacteria and/or viruses that cause colds. So, a sick horse spreads the infectious agent widely onto his handlers and into his environment. These agents can be especially contagious among other horses in the usually enclosed confines of a barn. Now, if there aren't frequent comings and goings of new horses, these colds subside quickly because the inmates of the barn usually have good immune systems that quickly vanquish the infectious agent. The trouble is that the population of horses in any one barn is rarely static; in our system, new horses are coming and going all the time.

As a horse becomes more and more geared towards performance or training, the likelihood that he'll meet new companions, and thus be exposed to a slew of totally new bugs with which his system is not yet familiar goes up significantly. The colds you see coming in waves then, are an indication that new infectious agents are being introduced. Horses will become resistant, but it takes time.

In the wild, horse populations are more static. Wild bands stay together and there are less frequent interactions with other herds. I think it's testament to how resilient horses actually are that they can go, for example, to a race track or a three day event and not get sick at all, given the numbers of strange horses that they meet. Also, good practices by handlers will also reduce respiratory issues So, clean blankets, brushes, fly masks, feed pails, buckets, halters, etc., that ARE NOT shared, and isolation of sick, runny nosed or coughing horses. Nothing will prevent the occasional cold, though, so if your horse gets sick and the cold persists, contact your veterinarian. There are quite a few very nasty bugs that can have serious consequences for all if unattended.

September 7, 2012 – I would like to donate my horse to a school. How do I go about doing that?

Well, if you didn't already know any directors of equine programs, I would search online and find a school in close proximity and then find out the name of their director or email contact information. Then, contact that person and describe your horse to see if the horse would be a fit for the program and if they have any need for such. The school has liability issues to worry about and if your horse has any unpleasant habits, you need to be honest about those. But, assuming your horse is suitable and the school is amenable, you should be on your way.

You will likely have to arrange transportation, and for tax purposes, you'll have to settle on a reasonable value for the horse if you intend to claim this as a charitable deduction. In your discussion with the director, find out if the school qualifies for purposes of making a charitable deduction. This is not a given — you have to confirm it and agree on the value.

You'll also have to get a receipt and bill of sale for this to show the IRS. Get the receipt upon delivery of the horse to the school.

Good luck with this!

September 6, 2012 – My trainer is very good at chatting up new clients. However, sometimes I feel he doesn't pay sufficient attention to the old clients and I'm getting tired of the popularity contest. What can I do?

Well, it sounds as though you're dissatisfied, for sure.

I would meet with your trainer to talk about what the various levels of expectations are between you both. As long as you're getting the time you bargained for, it's not a bad thing for a trainer to meet new talent. That benefits you as well as the trainer, because the better the level of student, the better it is for all concerned. There just need to be ground rules you can both live with. You set those rules by a discussion with your trainer.

September 5, 2012 – My horse is very afraid of hoses. How can I get him used to having a hose around him?

Horses sometimes are subject to fears that, if you allow them to continue, can result in serious injury to the horse and the humans involved. You don't say what level of fear your horse exhibits, but I'll assume the worst and imagine a terrified horse when he sees a hose. This bahavior can result from a bad previous experience with a hose or hose-like item, such as with a hose with which he became entangled or an experience with a snake.

If it were my horse, I would use a round pen to let him gallop around and around a hose on the ground while you just stand there holding one end of a lunge line. He'll inevitably tire and will want to settle down. When he begins to slow down, bring him closer and closer to the hose on the ground with each round. If you can make him jump over it, great! Eventually, he should just walk over it. Then, get him used to approaching one end.

Finally, get him used to water coming out of the end. In time, he'll see the light, namely, that a hose isn't much to be afraid of. It will take some work from you initially to take your horse through each of these steps, so hang in there.

September 4, 2012 – I would like to explore therapeutic riding as a career. What can you tell me about whether this is something I can make a living at?

Well, I certainly understand the attraction. At this point, I'm not able to offer an informed opinion about whether or not you could make a living at this as a career. These outfits usually exist as charities or non profits, and it appears as though they suffer from large and fixed overhead costs as well as liability issues.

There are a number of different levels of therapy out there ranging from prison programs and severely disabled children to returning veterans. Each one of these client groups will almost assuredly have different reimbursement processes. It's also possible there could be different credentialing opportunities and requirements.

Unfortunately, I'm just not familiar enough with the field to offer definitive information so as to answer your question. If it isn't able to afford you a living, you could consider a different career and volunteer some of your free time at a therapeutic riding center. You'd still be able to make a difference while also providing for your family. I do feel that therapeutic riding seems a very rewarding field for all concerned.

Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck!

August 31, 2012 – Do horses dream?

Yes. I've seen them lie on their side, sleeping away, with their legs twitching to the beat of the band. Small whinnies, knickers, everything. It has made me jealous to watch since it sometimes looks like they're celebrating beating Secretariat at the Derby, to all outward appearances.

August 30, 2012 – My horse seems to spend a lot of time just staring off into space. Not eating or sleeping. What is going on?

Horses have much keener senses than us humans. If your horse isn't otherwise interacting with his buddies, you can tell a lot about his internal mind set by watching his ears. If they're at half mast, then he's probably sleeping. He doesn't need to close his eyes to snooze.

If his ears are pointed at something, he's listening and watching. Of course, I can't tell you what he's looking at. But you being there would likely be able to notice the goings on better if you pay attention to his ears and where they're pointed.

August 29, 2012 – So my horse is locking her back left knee and is limping and I can't go riding with her. In about one month I'm going horse camping. How do I help her from limping and her locking knee?

My suggestion is that you contact your veterinarian and ask him or her this question. Also, take it from me, DON'T RIDE a lame horse or you'll likely end up with a lamer horse. The lameness indicates that something is wrong and you don't want to hurt your horse further. You need to get a vet to assess the situation before riding her again, and especially before going on a long ride with her, such as on a camping ride.

Call your vet and have him/her see your horse as soon as possible so she will have time to get treatment (if needed) and heal.

August 28, 2012 – I have a horse staying on my property. People said they would just send papers because it would cost them too much to keep where they lived at. But they have never sent them so I have not been able to sell. Got hurt on her bad. Cant walk for a while lots of medical bills no insurance. Out of work. Can they be held responsible for medical and time from work?

You're unclear in your question/description about whether or not you took this horse thinking that you were getting title to her at that time. Without knowing the facts and details of the situation, it's difficult to advise you. I can say that one option would be to get an "Order for Sale" from a court to help resolve this situation. To do so, you need to contact an equine attorney and explain ALL the facts. There may be other options as well, but you'll need competent legal advice to guide you along whichever path you decide to take.

Let me further offer a caution to help keep you out of trouble. You may be tempted just to sell the horse or otherwise take measures to end the financial drain on you, believing that because they gave you the horse, that you're entitled to do so. BUT, situations like this often go very sour.

Based on my past experience with similar situations, if you do sell the horse at this point, you're at legal/financial risk doing so. This is because you did not get any paperwork at the time of transfer. So, you have no protection if the people try to hold you responsible for the horse later. They could even allege at some later time that you stole it. If that happened, you will not be able to offer any documents to support your claim to the horse and it will turn into a swearing contest. In swearing contests, he who has the last signed bill of sale usually wins.

Now, going back to my suggestion, the process of requesting an Order for Sale will involve sending letters to the people essentially telling them to put up or shut up on the ownership of the horse. If they say in reply that YOU are the owner, then you'll have that issue sorted out and you can proceed as the horse's owner. Conversely, if they assert ownership, then you can attempt to recoup monies spent using legal means.

The bottom line though is that you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you are the owner, then expect to be responsible for the costs of the horse until you sell it. Either you own it, can sell it, and must take financial responsibility for the costs you've incurred, or you can make a claim for reimbursement, but don't own the horse.

August 27, 2012 – How can I tell if my horse has recovered from a tendon problem and is safe to ride?

This is a good question. The answer depends on what you'll be asking of your horse and how severe the original injury was. Sometimes, if a horse really tears up a tendon, they're not sound for anything other than gentle walking with light riders. They may appear sound, but if you ask them to do anything beyond that, they become lame immediately and remain lame for a long time.

So, on this issue, you need to consult your vet and as well as use common sense. In other words, don't push it.

August 24, 2012 – I really like palominos! Do you think they will ever become a breed?

You're right! The color palomino, which actually means "gold coat and a flaxen mane and tail", is currently not a breed, just a color combination. Also, this color does not breed true, which means that two palomino horses bred together may or may not have a palomino foal. In fact, it's not so likely they will. This has to do with whether the color gene is recessive or not.

So, to answer your question, no, in light of the foregoing, I don't think that this color is likely to become a breed any time soon.

August 23, 2012 – I heard the term "overriding" the other day. What does that mean?

It means that the horse is being ridden too long or worked too hard, and therefore, is becoming too tired. Such a situation pushes a horse into metabolic distress. The results can be a horse that dies far sooner than he would have if he had not been overridden, or even dies as a result of being overridden, if it is severe enough.

The degree of exertion that causes overriding is determined a lot by the condition of the horse. A well-conditioned horse can work harder and longer than one that is poorly conditioned. When a horse has been worked too hard and/or too long for his conditioning, recovery becomes difficult and can take days. If he is pushed again too soon (e.g. the next day or two) he will approach and can enter metabolic distress. Once in distress, the horse's health (and sometimes his life) can be in danger — more than one horse has been run to death. Even full recovery from metabolic distress and then being overridden again takes a permanent toll on the horse that is cumulative.

You want to avoid overriding a horse.

August 22, 2012 – I am amazed at the increase in gambling involving horse racing over the last few years. Is that really what horse racing is starting to be all about? We don't really need a casino at a racetrack. It doesn't seem right to me.

I agree that there seems to be a big increase in gambling ventures associated with horse racing in the United States in the last few years. Some of this is spurred (pardon the pun) by the recession and the fact that state and local governments get a percentage of gambling winnings, making horse betting a hot favorite to help balance state budgets. The forces arrayed against gambling include church and other constituents interested in stopping the spread of a practice that preys upon the poor. It also leads to sin parlors and other iniquitous practices such as organized crime and corruption. So far, the forces of gambling seem to be winning on this one.

Stay tuned on this, as I can see this area of the law becoming more highly developed in the future. For example, I've noticed that the federal government seems to have given up calling the practice of placing a bet on a horse race over a telephone from another state, a violation of criminal law. It should get more interesting in time as off-shore betting interests line up to see if they can participate in this form of capitalism unchecked by the Feds, which so far hasn't happened.

August 21, 2012 – What do you think of Friesian horses? Are they good riding horses?

Friesians are among the world's most beautiful horses. They are widely used as both riding horses and carriage horses. Their characteristic black color, showy action (picking up their feet and prancing at the trot and canter) as well as a sturdy build and beautiful flowing, longer mane and tail make them real movie stars and show favorites.

Friesians are descended from Dutch war horses that turned to the carriage trade, and today serve as dressage and carriage competition favorites as well as frequently appearing in movies as the horse ridden by the star of the show. For example, Alexander (played by Colin Farrell) for some reason turned up riding a Friesian Bucephalas in the big epic 2004 depiction of Alexander the Great. I'm not quite sure how a northern European light draft horse could have made the trek back in prehistoric days all the way to Macedonia. But at any rate, I'm also sure that screen Alexander could not have been better served.

August 20, 2012 – My horse is really bossy. He starts fights no matter where I put him. HELP! What can I do?

Well, I see only two options, but I only recommend one of them. You should just keep your horse away from all other horses by placing him in his own, separate paddock. This is also a way to prevent liability for you, which is good, as well as preventing your horse from hurting and getting hurt from other horses.

There's another option you may hear of, which I DON'T recommend. That method is to turn your horse out with two or more really bossy, older mares. The horses will have a knock-down, drag out fight. While I've seen the method work, I don't recommend it because your horse or one or more of the mares could get seriously hurt or killed. So, not only would you risk losing your horse, but you could also be liable for whatever happens to one or more mares.

Let again be very clear: I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS TECHNIQUE! I only mention it because I'm concerned that someone else may recommend it to you because it was often the way this problem was approached in the past, sometimes with tragic results. You don't want to get me started about the number of cases I've had that began with one horse maiming another horse in the pasture.

Separate your horse from other horses and your life should be much simpler.

August 17, 2012 – My horse's back is sore and I can't ride. What can I do to help him?

Well, I would first rest him until he no longer indicates pain when you test the muscles along his spine. You do this by placing your fingers on both sides of his withers, pressing down, and running them along both sides of the spine toward his rump while still pressing down. You don't need to press hard, just enough to determine whether or not there are any sensitive areas. If he hunches down, stop pressing: he's in pain.

If the pain sign goes on, call your vet or an equine chiropractor. Also, investigate your saddle and see if it could be the source of his pain. Most equine back pain is caused by improper fitting saddles and/or riding too long. Think about it: a horse has a really long back that wasn't designed for humans to sit on it. They build up muscles to overcome the problem, but the danger is always there.

August 16, 2012 – How long does it take for a horse to settle in after a move? I moved my horse recently and he lost some weight in the beginning and he still seems nervous.

Well, it varies according to a horse's personality and his new living accommodations. Horses are individuals and have individual likes and dislikes just as barn managers do. So, you need to evaluate the WHOLE picture. And you should not only be observant enough to know what your horse's needs and wishes are, but also how your barn manager's temperament and approach is likely to affect your horse.

For example, let's consider some of the aspects of the new accommodations in which your horse now finds himself:

  • Is your horse's stall large enough for his size?
  • Is the barn noisy?
  • Is the barn crowded?
  • Does your horse have sufficient turn out space?
  • Does he have sufficient time each day in that space?
  • Are all his new companions sociable or are some of them bullies? If so, does your horse handle that ok or is he highly stressed?
  • Is the food drastically different from what he'd been receiving?
  • Are the horses fed individually in their stalls or does the farm feed all the horses in an open area, such as a paddock? A barn with such an arrangement and some bully horses might keep the new comer from getting any or an adequate amount of food. Individual stall feeding is much better.
  • Is the approach and interaction of the barn manager and the help compatible with your horse? Or are they very aggressive?

You can see how a change of venue for a horse can introduce many new and different variables. Fortunately, most horses settle in fairly easily if the conditions are halfway similar to where they had been. In fact, if you think about it, horses are remarkably resilient and can manage long trips and different locations without losing health as long as their needs regarding food, exercise, water, and companionship are met.

If the weight loss continues, I would definitely get a bit more serious about it and examine the regimen and the barn environment in connection with your horse's veterinarian. If the food is sufficient and of good quality and the horse can access it, he'll generally not starve himself if everything else is ok. So, look into other factors.

Good luck!

August 15, 2012 – Why did NBC refuse to show equestrian games, at least so far as I could tell? There should have been something like an all equestrian all the time channel.

I longed to see those events also and couldn't find them. I don't know whether they weren't shown in the U.S. at all or whether it happened at some time that I wasn't watching. Nevertheless, NBC did include them on their Website and you can see them at NBC Olympics: Equestrian Sports.

August 14, 2012 – I really get hacked off by all the little charges on my board bill. It seems very petty and nit picky and it also really adds up. What can I do to stop the death of a thousand cuts?

Well, this is capitalism at its finest. You have one of two choices:

  1. You can either take over more of the services embodied by the smaller charges, such as blanketing, turning out, and supplements, to name some of the charges I've seen on board bills;
  2. Or you can move to a barn that doesn't charge for such services separately.
Believe it or not, the cost of running a boarding establishment runs neck and neck with board — they're not making a fortune, so it's not surprising when barn owners start charging for smaller services. And since board charges are for "reasonable care", that's a wide gauge to drive the charge engine down. You can always respond as a consumer should, which is, with your feet.

August 13, 2012 – There is electric tape in the riding ring along one wall at the stable I am riding at. I didn't think it was on, but then I was talking to the barn manager and she said it was. Is this safe?

In my opinion, no. If a horse somehow touches it with a rider on board, you'll likely have an injury. Horses don't like the tape for good reason and that's why it's a successful fencing method. You don't want to be on board when they get shocked — it isn't a pretty sight (or ride).

Speak to the manager and suggest an extension cord. There is really no excuse for this method of delivering electricity.

August 10, 2012 – Is there something I can put in my horses pasture to get rid of the urine smell? My neighbors are complaining and I'm worried, but not sure what else to do. I have used lime in the stalls and pasture, but had no luck.

I clean the pasture daily. If the weather is drier, does it make it smell more and will the rain wash the smell away as the urine concentrate is broken up? What about using a vinegar mixture on the urine spots? PLEASE HELP... I'M DESPERATE FOR AN IDEA THAT WILL WORK! Thanks!

I am skeptical that the smell is just urine. Urine can only really concentrate in a stall. Outside, the urine would dissipate over a large area. I suppose you could use wood chips over the wet area right after the horse releases, or you could try vinegar, but my immediate reaction is that your neighbors are trying to mess with you since a pasture is not like a cat box. Horse pee would sink into the ground and evaporate almost immediately, not to mention the additional dilution effects of periodic rain. And to answer your question about drier weather, dry air would actually cause less of a smell — not more.

The other cause of smell from horses is manure that accumulates in a pile. If it is broken up into a thin layer over the large area of the pasture, you kill two birds with one stone: you kill smell and flies. There is a drag sold by tractor dealers that does the honors of breaking up the horse manure piles. You need to drag the pasture at least once a week and more if you have neighbors that complain about manure smells. If you only pick up piles at the end of the day, well, that might cause an odor and attract flies if you just move the piles to your larger manure pile. Only dragging (to break it up) or manure removal services using a bin (expensive) would work.

This is a question of neighbor relations though, not necessarily nuisance law. If the pasture is regularly dragged, you should not have a smell or a fly problem.

Be alert to document your clean conditions through third parties if you think your neighbor is lining you up for a nuisance suit. In other words, you may want to hire a professional to analyze your conditions and provide the results in writing. In this day and age of diminishing agricultural experience, you need to be proactive on this and get advice quickly. Otherwise, your life could be made a living hell by uninformed boards of health and hungry, out of work, attorneys who are not familiar with equine law or the facts about manure.

August 9, 2012 – Do I have to have a contract in writing to sell a horse?

No. But, if the horse is sold for $500 or more and the deal goes wrong and you have to prove the execution of the deal to a court of law, you may not be able to do so if you don't have a written agreement which satisfies the Statute of Frauds.

The Statute of Frauds is a law common to all states which essentially means that courts, for the most part, do not have to waste time with litigating sales of goods (which a horse is) over $500 with no written agreement. This policy decision was made because, and I know you will be shocked to hear this, but litigants sometimes don't tell the truth when they have a financial interest at stake. The courts figure that, if the deal wasn't worth writing down, then it isn't worth enforcing by a court of law.

There are some exceptions to this rule, but as with land transfers (which also require written agreements), your best bet is to execute a Bill of Sale and get signatures. It doesn't have to be fancy, just a documentation of the transaction.

August 8, 2012 – My horse doesn't like me. What can I do to change his mind?

Well, why do you say that? Does he lay his ears back and just try to bite YOU and YOU alone? Or does he favor all humans with the same disfavor? Is it a species dislike or a particular dislike?

If your horse truly hates humans, well, good luck. Somewhere in past times, he became convinced that humans stink. Horses have long memories — you won't change his mind.

If it's just you, well, what did you do to him? You can change his mind if it is just you, but you have to be observant. Talk to a trainer to get it figured out.

Finally, have you ever considered that your horse doesn't hate you? Is it possible that it's just his personality or that you're expecting dog-like behavior (tail wagging, showing excitement, running up to you or dancing when you arrive)? While some horses will act like this way (well, except the tail wagging), most do not and prefer to keep grazing or hanging with their buddies. It may just be that your horse likes you as much as he likes anybody else and is just not very demonstrative in this area. It may also be that you have unrealistic expectations of horse behavior. You may want to enlist the help of a trainer to give you their read of your horse's attitude. You may be concerned about a problem that doesn't exist. Also, don't confuse your concern with a horse that may not respect you. This is another issue that a trainer can help you both identify and rectify.

August 7, 2012 – I want to sell my horse. He is lame and there is no hope for recovery. If I take him to an auction, do I have to worry there is any chance that he would be sold for slaughter?

The short answer is, yes, depending on the auction. Buyers for horse slaughter still operate in the United States although slaughter houses themselves were banned in the U.S. up until recently. The horses are shipped over the border. This trade has prompted numerous efforts to ban it.

The horse industry is divided on this issue. Some advocate banning all horse slaughter and transportation for slaughter. Others advocate allowing it as an industry requirement to ensure humane treatment. Surprisingly, the results of the slaughter ban seem to show that horses did not fare as well under a no slaughter rule. This is because owners that could not care for their horses would not feed or otherwise deal with the problem proactively. As a result, many horses became emaciated and some starved to death.

In your case, if your horse will be lame permanently, I would consider euthanasia. It's not easy to put an old friend down, but it's also not a good thing to put the responsibility for care on someone else. The horse could end up with, as they say, a significantly reduced chance for a good life.

These are tough issues for us to deal with, but they do come with the responsibility we take on for the care and quality of life when we adopt animals.

August 6, 2012 – Our barn insists on feeding low quality hay. Are there any laws about this?

Yes, believe it or not, there is. Feeding adulterated feed to animals is the subject of many state laws and regulations. In part, stemming from a more agricultural past, these laws remain on the books. Either do some research into the specifics in your state, or call an attorney. This is a serious issue given the drought and lack of good feed available at reasonable prices. Some barns cheat, to the detriment of your horse.

It would be good to know the law in your area BEFORE you mention anything to the barn. Failing that, MOVE! Better quality barns will not skimp on food, but they will pass the price along to you — there is no free lunch on this. Still, I would much prefer to pay for good hay and feed and have a healthy horse rather than save money and have a sick, colicked, foundered, or euthanized horse.

August 3, 2012 – I fell off the lesson horse last week and hurt my back. I got back up on the horse at the time, but have been in increasing pain and now I have shooting pains and numbness running down my leg. I have notified the instructor and the barn owner, but they told me it was my own fault for falling off. I think it was their fault for putting me on a horse that was too much for me to handle. What can I do? I may have to take time off of work and I don't have the money for the medical bills.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing does happen from time to time. The issue that would have to be decided if you are of a mind to pursue this, is whether the state you live in allows suits for negligence against instructors and barn owners. And if is does, whether you have a case against these potential defendants.

I really can't answer either of those questions in a post, nor would I because it would constitute legal advice. What you should do now is contact an equine attorney in your state and ask THEM these questions. Be prepared to answer a lot of detailed questions about the circumstances and your damages to date.

Since it's still early in the process, you have time, but don't wait too long. You'll need to seek advice to figure out which way to go. Once the statute of limitations has passed, then it won't matter how much pain and suffering you end up experiencing, your window for bringing a lawsuit will have passed. Don't wait! Explore your rights and options now.

August 2, 2012 – My horse is missing teeth. He has front teeth and back teeth, but nothing in the middle. Is this ok?

Yes, it's fine. Horses actually evolved this way. The front teeth serve as shears to cut the grass off, and the back teeth serve as the "chompers" to mash up the grass sufficiently so as to digest it. Grass is tough stuff to eat, and only the combination of the horse's efficient teeth and ultra long gut can manage the feat.

Cows cannot manage this. They have to regurgitate the grass back up to re-chew it many times to allow for digestion; this is known as "chewing the cud". The cud is the wad of grass that needs many digestive efforts before it yields.

The downside for horses is that they cannot regurgitate — they also cannot vomit. It's a one way system, which is why adulterated or poisonous feed or hay is a problem for horses. They simply cannot save themselves by vomiting the problem food up. It has to go all the way through their digestive system!

Finally, that tooth gap makes it handy for putting a bit in a horse's mouth — a good thing all around. Officially, that inter-dental region or gap is known as the horse's "bars".

August 1, 2012 – I am concerned because my horse is getting sunburned around his face and eyes. I have a fly mask, but his nose is still getting burned. It's reached the point where the skin is peeling. Do horses get skin cancer?

Yes they do. In fact, I had an albino gelding when I was growing up that got skin cancer and had to be euthanized. So, a horse needs shade and shelter to get out of the sun if that horse has lighter skin.

Failing that, you'll need to use sun screen on the horse daily just as you would on a child. But shelter and shade are the essentials. The horse I spoke of really needed to live indoors in a barn during the day. Keep that in mind when you think about how to keep him because your horse also seems especially sensitive to sun exposure.

Good luck!

July 31, 2012 – I board my horse but I clean his pen. I try to see him at least 3 days a week. My usual routine is I greet him and then go clean up which takes me about 20 to 30 minutes. During this time, he walks around and comes to me to be petted frequently and also usually stands next to me to give me a "gift". When I walk to the far end of the pen, he follows me and then acts startled and runs away jumping and kicking. I don't think he is being aggressive toward me and never kicks close to me. Is he just impatient because he knows we are going to the leave the pen when I am finished?

Running away, jumping, and kicking is behavior usually meaning one of two things:

  1. Either he is telling you that he doesn't want to go to work (which is what he's telling you if he makes you chase to catch him); or
  2. He's just expressing his joy of movement with an audience (sometimes he'll also not let you catch him because he's having so much fun.)
The difference between the two is that, if he's not happy, he'll look like it, and if he is happy, he'll seem, well, happy. It's hard for me to reach any deeper conclusion based on what you describe, but I bet you'll be able to tell if you look more closely.

July 30, 2012 – Hi, I purchased a mare 7yrs ago. I worked with her a lot in the beginning, using the round ring. She is extremely smart and emotional. I put a saddle on her about a month after. I rode her after saddling for the very first time. She and I were extremely close. She never gave me any problems at all.

Just this last spring, she became very ill with founder and had to be put on a rescue ranch. She was no longer my horse, any one that tried to saddle her or ride her just did not happen, except for one time and that was me with her. She also allowed me to ride her, she was great. Since then, they have wanted to try and work with her on their own, due to sponsors she has and what not. The other day, she purposely kicked a man she knows very well. Now the vet thinks she is okay to come home with the proper care.

I'm concerned as to where I should now start with her. I don't think I should just start by riding her for awhile. She needs to know she's safe again and to gain my trust back as I have not even seen her now for approximately 2 months.

Should I start fresh with her like I did in the beginning? I really appreciate any help with this. Thank You!

I think your instinct is spot on! Start slow and be very observant. If she kicked someone once, she may kick someone again. Working on being safe FIRST is the best advice I can give you on this.

Don't hesitate to send her back if you spot a kick attitude. Life is too short to worry about your head getting shoved in by a horse. And keep in mind that kick injuries are usually head injuries, and that makes them VERY DANGEROUS. Horses know how to aim!

July 27, 2012 – I want to seriously compete in show-jumping. But, I am not from a wealthy family. How difficult will this be for me? Do I stand a chance against the money set?

Sure you do! But, your skill set will have to include a lot more than just the ability to ride the horse. You'll have to be good enough at jumping to get those with the bucks to sign on as a co- participant with the horse training and riding process. That means, in addition to very good horse skills, you'll need to be a good business person and a good promoter as well as a good communicator.

There are a number of riders on the circuit that got there just this way. I don't want to understate the difficulty of all this, but to give you reasonable hope — this can be done. Talk to some currently on the show-jumping circuit about how they did it. They will all likely have an individual path that got them there, but a general skill set that you can copy.

July 26, 2012 – Checking a Horse Camp for the Important and Practical End of Things (continued from yesterday's posting – see post below).

To continue from my response yesterday, here are some things to investigate about a potential horse camp that relate to the safety, fun, and non-legal side:

  1. Ask for references from other campers;
  2. Ask about the ratio of campers to horses and to staff. Larger camps will have more horses and thus a larger selection if a camper doesn't get along with his or her assigned horse. However, sometimes there isn't sufficient staff on hand to monitor the level of love versus the level of annoyance shown between the horse and camper. It goes without saying that there is a need for sufficient eyes on the campers by the staff. What is sufficient will depend on what the campers and horses are doing with their time. Riding in a ring is different than riding on a trail and is different than tacking and grooming a horse. I would not be comfortable with a ratio of any more than five horses and campers to any one staff member;
  3. Ask about the experience level of the staff members. While common, young teenage girls DO NOT make good staff to be in charge of things;
  4. Look at the condition of the horses. Happy, round, glossy-coat horses that are friendly and come up to the fence to be petted says something about how they're being treated that is good. Skinny, afraid, and reluctant horses will say something else, such as the horse is being mistreated and overworked. I would not have my daughter attend the latter type of camp;
  5. Ask about the schedule during the day. Adequate rest and down-time for both horse and rider needs to be observed, especially in the heat of the day; and
  6. Try to get a current picture of the premises where the camp is being run. Some owners are pack rats and accumulate junk. Junk and disorder are dangerous around horses. Conversely, clean and neat barns are generally safer and imply there is a greater attention to detail — this is what should be taught around horses, so I would vote for the cleaner and neater barn.
That's enough for now. GOOD LUCK!

July 25, 2012 – I really want to enroll my daughter into a camp for "horsy" girls. How do I check whether the camp is ok or not?

What a great question! Let me divide this answer into two parts. The first answer will be the business/legal end, and the second will be the horsey practical end.

How to check a horse camp on the business legal end:

  1. Check the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General's office for any complaints against the camp;
  2. Check to make sure the camp is licensed by the state as a camp. Most states require a camp to have a license;
  3. Check the Registry of Deeds with the camp owner's name(s) to see if there are any outstanding large liens against the owners which could reveal they've been sued and lost personal injury lawsuits — not a good sign;
  4. Call the Town Counsel to see if there have been any complaints lodged with the Board of Health against the camp;
  5. Ask the managers of the camp if criminal records checks are done on the employees; and
  6. Ask for references from other campers.
The foregoing should get you started. I'll post more tomorrow on the practical end of things.

July 24, 2012 – My horse is like a car that's out of alignment. She won't walk in a straight line and always drifts toward home so I'm constantly turning back, which is a pain when moving cows. Thanks!

I agree, especially since it seems to be a "willed" drift as opposed to an alignment issue. You may be unhappy to learn that this is actually your fault because you let it happen. Conversely, the good news is that you have it within your control to fix the problem. If you make your horse work every time she drifts, that is, turn tight in that direction and lining out in the correct direction, she'll soon "toe that line" (pun partially intended).

In other words, once your horse realizes that drift = work, she'll quickly opt for a straighter, less strenuous role in the process. But you'll have to do the work up front (that is, making your horse work when she drifts from your intended course) which is a pain. As the man says, pay me the going rate now, or pay me a whole lot more later!

July 23, 2012 – What color is a roan horse? I saw that word used to describe the horse's color and don't know what it is.

It's a base coat of say, chestnut, with white hairs mixed in. This results in a reddish colored horse that looks like a strawberry milkshake, hence the name "strawberry roan". Or, you can have a dark bay or black horse, again with the white hair mixed in resulting in a bluish gray horse, which we call a "blue roan". I kid you not. They actually look blue. Fascinating stuff, don't you think?

July 20, 2012 – The town inspector of animal health and safety is very activist in our town. This past spring he showed up and demanded that we scrape and remove all of the mud out our paddocks. Well, the paddocks did have some mud, not surprising for New England spring, but the horses had a dry place to stand. This cost us a fair bit of money.

Now, with the heat and the drought, the inspector is talking about having us install fans in our barn. I believe that fans can be a health hazard as they can get dirty and cause a buildup of dust and cobwebs. Also, we would have to get the barn re-wired. Obviously we do not have the money to do this. What can I do, I am at wit's end?

Well, you won't like this answer, but the short and long of it is that you need to carefully look at the by-laws and regulations for your town and hire an equine attorney as soon as possible. A town typically has wide discretion in these matters, but they can't act arbitrarily or capriciously. You'll need an attorney to help you set up the conditions showing that THIS inspector is going beyond the scope of his mandate.

Unfortunately, as towns get poorer due to economic conditions, we're seeing more and more of this type of activity. I believe it can be a concealed way of raising revenue, but you have to fight it case by case. Good luck!

July 19, 2012 – Hi, am planning on letting three ladies share my horses for riding for a small fee towards shoes and food, etc. Am I responsible if any of these ladies have an accident while attending/riding my horses?

YES! You certainly are responsible, so this is a VERY good thing for you to be checking out!

Ok, if something were to go wrong, this is a situation made for evil litigation lawyers to swoop in and seize all of your assets: your home, your vehicles, your bank accounts, your investments — the list goes on and on. In fact, I'm having a hyperventilation attack just thinking about it. You don't want me to start regaling you on the list of horror stories that I know about going on right now. That said, this can be made very workable and safe, but you need to have the right things in place.

So, call a good equine attorney pronto that's licensed to practice in your state — pronto means RIGHT AWAY!!!!! And yes, it MUST BE an equine attorney for this application because a regular attorney will not understand the details and vagaries of equine law. In addition, DON'T LET ANYONE TOUCH OR RIDE your horses without having first had them sign a waiver (drafted by the aforementioned equine attorney) and securing appropriate and adequate equine liability insurance. You see, your letting these ladies ride your horses for any fee, even just to defray your horse maintenance costs, is deemed a commercial situation and your homeowner's insurance WILL NOT cover your liability exposure, even if it would cover it for your personal use.

July 18, 2012 – My horse has always been pushy and kicks her stall walls at feeding time if she doesn't get fed first. A few weeks ago, the barn owner told me I had to move to another barn after my horse kicked through the wall into another stall and almost got the owner of a horse while she was brushing her horse there. So I moved my horse to a new barn. The new barn owner is having a fit at the kicking and I caught her hit my horse on the nose with a crop when my horse tried to grab some hay out of her arms. He's been kicking the walls at this barn even more because the owner feeds the horses later and won't feed my horse first. I told her never to hit my horse again and just to feed him first and earlier in the day and everything will be better. She told me she would either break my horse of his kicking and hay grabbing habits or she'd throw us out of her barn. Can I sue her for hitting my horse and threatening to throw my horse out? I already paid for the whole month and always pay my board on time.

I see some problems here, but they aren't so much with the barn owner. Your horse is very ill-mannered, is also potentially dangerous to humans, and your attitude is that the misbehavior is fine with you. I would never allow a horse like that in my barn if the owner didn't let me correct the horse's behavior. I don't want someone injured and I certainly don't want the liability from ignoring this problem.

The kicking is a problem and not for the barn owner, but for you, as YOU will be liable for all damages caused by your horse. While feeding the horse first and earlier is one strategy, this is not a long term solution because no barn owner will allow themselves be bound to do so even on your orders. The standard for care is one of REASONABLE care, and that will allow the barn owner to manage the care as he or she sees fit. If an appointment or other delay causes the barn owner to be late, or even if the barn owner just wants to teach the horse manners, the standard of care would allow them to do so. Therefore, I feel that your desired solution is not a good one. Here are the facts:

  1. First, your problem horse needs an attitude adjustment before someone is hurt;
  2. Second, you need an attitude adjustment so you stop being an enabler of your horses bad attitude;
  3. Third, the question of whether you can sue her is beside the point of what you would get if you did, which is, nothing (no damages). Also, you'll likely be gone from this barn sooner rather than later, which is maybe something you would like to do, but on your own terms and without the negative reputation you and your horse are building for yourselves;
  4. Fourth, the barn owner hitting your horse on the nose with a crop is not going to hurt your horse except to sting — that is EXACTLY what the barn owner is trying to do to curb your horse's behavior and it's unlikely that anything gentler is going to work. You've let this whole situation get so out of hand that the barn owner now has to resort to more drastic measures to curb a dangerous horse and try to get it to respect humans; and
  5. Fifth, you have a very different idea about how to manage your horse than the person you've paid money to do so. This is a common thing for horse owners, but most horse owners understand that they don't have complete autonomy in this regard because it's not their barn — you appear to have missed this VERY IMPORTANT point. If you really want to call the shots, you need to buy some land with a barn and undertake all of the headaches of keeping your own horse in the manner that you feel is best. Even then, you MUST correct your horse's unacceptable and dangerous behavior. Unless you're prepared to do that immediately, you're going to be stuck with a recurring problem because you've got a horse that is liable to cause physical injury and property damage.

You were VERY LUCKY the woman brushing her horse was not hurt when your horse kicked through the stall wall. If she had been seriously hurt, at the least, your horse would probably have to be put down. At worse, you could additionally have HUGE injury liability! On top of that is the fact you could also be stuck with repair bills.

This is a bad situation all around. As the horse's owner, you need to step up and exercise more responsibility than you have so far. If not, you're begging for a lawsuit of your own.

July 17, 2012 – What does it mean when my horse stomps his feet while I'm riding him?

It could be flies or it could be a well expressed editorial opinion along the lines of, "let's get this show on the road!!!!" Other than flies, horses will often use stomping (or sometimes pawing) to send some message to humans. So, besides indicating that they want to go as mentioned above, they may also be signaling that they're hungry and want to eat or they may just want some attention. As you so clearly have shown, this is an action we notice.

July 16, 2012 – My horse is in a paddock with 8 other horses. They normally get along fine but always come over when I bring my horse an apple, carrot or other treat. I dont bring extra treats and I get scared when they all come around me and start pushing their way in while I give treats to my horse. I yell at them and they wont go away. I told the farm owner and she told me not to give my horse treats around other horses. I want her to tell the other horse owners to better train their horses so they leave us alone. What can I do?

Nothing. The barn owner is right. This is a group attack situation that will not get better and instead will get worse as you, the well meaning idiot, trains the sharks to attack faster and faster to get theirs quicker.

Personally, I would hesitate to treat a group of unconfined horses for just this reason. A line of tied horses? Sure. Or one or two buddy horses that don't mind sharing? Ok. But not a group of nine horses. The dominance thing will get out of hand in a nanosecond. And then someone, possibly you, will end up getting kicked or bitten. The horses could get injured, sure, but YOU will certainly fare far worse than they.


July 13, 2012 – Can I store my saddle ok at home? The barn has dirt floors and the tack room gets dusty and dirty and that makes my tack grimy. I hate to just drop my saddle on my garage or basement floor. If I did do that, would it hold up ok?

No! Don't drop or store your saddle on the floor. It'll be more likely to be damaged from mildew, rot, dryness, or rodent damage if you do so. Instead, you need to get (or make) a saddle rack (a cheap rack will do) and use saddle soap every few months to keep it clean. For such a large investment, this is small labor and will save you lots of headaches.

July 12, 2012 – I was injured walking my friends horse and had to get stitches. Is she liable?

I think you should contact an equine attorney in your state to get the low down on this question. Anyone can sue anyone for anything, but that doesn't mean that you have a reasonable likelihood of winning. To find out the answer to YOUR question, you need someone with knowledge of your state's law and also equine law, of which, only an equine attorney licensed in your state will be able to answer this question appropriately.

Good luck!

July 11, 2012 – I had to give my horse away because I'm out of work and could no longer afford to feed her and she wasn't such a good horse so that I could have sold her for any money. She had a lameness problem and sometimes would buck as well. I found a lady who likes horses and keeps them well, or so it looks like from the condition of the property and other horses there. They all had food and water and were in good shape.

I felt I couldn't leave her at the barn where she was because things were deteriorating and the horses there were getting into bad shape. The husband is a junk dealer and you would not believe the amount of metal and trash laying around. My horse did not look happy to be there, but she did know the other horses and had her "buddies".

Did I do the right thing? I didn't want to send her on to an inexperienced family and the only other option would have been to euthanize her. No other person in their right mind would have taken her given her issues. I am just not sure here what the right thing would have been. I just feel so bad to have had to move her to a strange barn and let her go.

Unfortunately, sometimes there are no good answers in situations like this. The horse you were dealing with was clearly no horse for a beginner, and any experienced horseman would think twice about committing to a project like this. I don't think that sending your problem downstream would have been a good thing either. And out and out euthanasia, though legal, seems unkind and wrong for a horse that has committed no crime, as they say.

I would say you made the best of a difficult situation. Your horse may not have liked her strange new surroundings initially, but if she is being properly fed, safe, and has buddies, I think that's just about the most that you can do in such a situation.

July 10, 2012 – I have been using my hard work at the barn to help pay some of my horse's board fees. I got into an arrangement with the barn owner where I help around the barn twice a week and she takes money off the board. When I got into this deal, I thought it would be a good thing, but the barn owner is a tyrant and has been making me work longer and longer hours and doing more and more stuff that is really hard. I was on a ladder last week and fell off and hurt myself bad enough so that I had to go to the emergency room. I can't pay the medical bills. Shouldn't she help because I was doing work in her barn?

Most states have a workman's compensation set up. This is insurance for an employee who gets hurt on the job. By doing work for your barn owner, YOU ARE an employee of this owner. Doing chores for board doesn't change the fact that you're essentially being paid in board (rather than money) for your work. Therefore, you should file a claim for benefits and to get your medical bills paid.

Now, this claim will require you to file for these benefits, and if the owner doesn't have workman's compensation insurance as she should, will cause her a hardship including possibly penalties. But there is no free lunch when it comes to employing people. Insurance is required of employers for exactly the situation in which you currently find yourself.

You should contact an attorney in your state if you need help. Good luck!

July 9, 2012 – The 4th of July Holiday really bugs me a lot because my horse loses it when the fireworks go off. Even in the distance, my horse picks up his head and looks around like he is scared. Can I train him out of this?

The short answer is yes. Obviously, you'll never be able to stop the fireworks displays, so you need to attack this problem from another angle. Believe it or not, horses can be trained to ignore loud noises. As an example, consider how horses are trained to compete in mounted shooting events with a rider firing a gun on horseback.

One good way to get a horse used to this kind of noise is to find a regiment that re-enacts battles from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and hang with them for a while in a cavalry unit. Your horse will watch the other blasť horses not react to loud noises, including guns and cannons. You can start off of the battlefield and move closer and closer in company with the other horses. Over time, the horse learns to ignore the explosive "popping" noises, which mean nothing, and instead will focus on the job at hand, which is re-enactment of the battle. Many horses enjoy the re-enactments.

July 6, 2012 – What should I do when my horse won't listen to me and does what she wants?

Get a horse trainer to help you determine whether her lack of cooperation can be overcome — sometimes it's not worth the effort with some horses. If it can be, you need to learn the appropriate techniques to assert your leadership position as well as the training that the horse gets directly. However, if the trainer can't change that behavior and determines the horse isn't likely to listen to anyone, your only options are to try another trainer or sell the horse and get another. Obviously, failure to get a cooperative horse with several trainers means the horse has issues that are likely not worth fighting.

The reason is that such horses often represent a danger to you and others. You shouldn't risk yourself and certainly have no right to risk others. A horse boss is bad for humans and can endanger life and limb.

July 5, 2012 – How do I get my horse past a scary object when riding down a trail?

This is where the leader of the herd would assert his authority to tell the underling two things:

  1. First, that the object, while scary, isn't THAT scary, and that he, the leader, is well able to deal with such paltry issues; and
  2. Second, that even if the underling finds the intended course of action objectionable, he still MUST do what the leader says. Are YOU the leader of your herd?
If not, your horse will tell you right away. You won't be in any doubt of it. Were I to try to sort such matters out on the spot, I can tell you, it would be difficult. Your best bet is to keep the horse busy doing something else and minding you. This will serve to keep his eyes off the scary object. Try speaking gently and softly to your horse while doing this and it should be reassuring to him. This may not solve the whole problem, but that is how a leader would act.

Good luck with this and get help if you're NOT the boss of your "herd of two".

July 3, 2012 – Every time I ride my horse into a brook or the edge of a pond to drink, my horse gets excited and starts to paw the water with his right front paw. He starts to get violent about it after 30 seconds of this and my friend says he is getting ready to roll in the water. Is this true? If so, what can I do to stop him and let him drink?

It does sound to me like he's getting ready to roll. He likely found out that, if he does this, you'll get off and he'll get a cool bath. Some horses like water better than others. If yours is a water horse, you had better be on your toes and ready to haul back if he starts to go down. You and he likely have different ideas on the wisdom of trail baths.

Finally, I wouldn't worry about his drinking water. He'll make drinking a priority if he feels that he needs water.

July 2, 2012 – Can a check serve as a bill of sale for a horse?

Yes, it can. Make sure to put the name of the horse on the "memo line", such as "Purchase of Drummer". Of course, don't forget to include the amount, date, and signature. But fortunately, that information is necessary for the check as well as for the "Bill of Sale".

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