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"Horse Girl" Archive Jan - Jun 2013

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

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June 28, 2013 – I want to look into legal protections against liability related to the running of my horse business. I have been told that a limited liability company (LLC) offers the same protections as being incorporated. Is this true? Why would I do a LLC instead of a corporation? I am confused. Please help.

Well, let me lead off by saying that I cannot answer which form would be right for YOU and your business, so you need to address the particulars of this question to your own equine attorney. However, I can say that an LLC is different than a corporation. And there are different kinds of corporations (e.g. C-Corp, S Corp) Although LLCs and corporations both offer protection for the individual by offering entity instead of individual liability, the duties of an LLC are different and simpler than those duties involved in running a corporation.

Something like a C-corporation will grant stock and the laws require that you hold at least one shareholder meeting each year as well as having more involved filing requirements, and sometimes higher annual fees. An LLC on the other hand can be much simpler, especially if you're the only owner of the business. But, rather than go into all the differences between these entities, do address this question to your own lawyer since what will make sense for you will depend on your own state law and business set up.


June 27, 2013 – I'm purchasing a 9 yr old TB. He's very sweet, loves kids, and is a "people" horse. He never gets herd or barn sour, loads awesomely, stands for the farrier and everything. He has also given little kids lessons and has taken children on trail rides.

My question that I have for you: is $1,350 a fair asking price? He's registered, has all vaccines, a negative Coggins test, and just got shod. He also cribs, but not terribly and needs to be shod ever 8 weeks. So, is $1,350 a fair price?

Obviously, I'm not able to see or examine your horse and I have absolutely no experience with him specifically, so I'm only able to comment on what you've mentioned in your question. But based on what you've said, this sounds like a very good price for this horse. Remember, you're buying "peace of mind" with a horse and a proven gentle horse is worth a lot.

Cribbing can usually be contained with a cribbing collar and I've owned many cribbers in my life. This horse is also young enough for years of service. BEFORE YOU BUY, I would have a veterinarian check him out, but that is something I do for all horse purchases. You NEED NOT invest in a giant pre-purchase exam expense for this, rather, just a once over for glaring issues. An important thing is to tell the veterinarian what you intend to use the horse for (e.g. trail riding, lesson horse, etc.) That way, the vet is assessing the horse's ability to fulfill the use for which you intend him.

Good luck!


June 26, 2013 – Has a pony ever won any Olympic jumping medals? I mean a real pony in terms of size, not just by breed. I realize that this is asking if people like Spud Webb exist (a tiny NBA player) but thought you would know if anyone did.

Funny you should ask. In fact, in 1968, a 14-1 hand bay pony gelding (Thoroughbred-Connemara cross) named Stroller won a Silver medal for Great Britain in the Individual Show Jumping Competition, ridden by Marion Mould Coakes. You can hardly credit that a little pony could jump such big jumps, but in all the pictures of the event, there he is, his little ears pricked up and his feet tucked impossibly high and forward. You would not believe how high off the ground he is, or how spread out the jumps are. This pony truly had pogo sticks for legs. I don't think that you would see folks take such chances today.

As for awards, Stroller won a gold medal in 1964 in the ladies World Championship, won the 1967 Hickstead Derby, won a Silver medal in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico as mentioned above, and was the leading show jumper Horse of the Year in 1970. He also won other medals in various events during this period.

Marion apparently had him as her kid pony, but then just didn't want to graduate from him, and since he kept winning, it was hard for Dad to say no. It was in the Olympics of 1968 in Mexico City when Stroller really became a star.


June 25, 2013 – What happened to Napoleon's horse Marengo? I saw a famous painting of Napoleon riding him, I think it was during the retreat from Moscow. Did the horse die in battle?

Great question! No, in fact, the horse was captured by the British in Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. He was subsequently bought by a British general and taken back to England and put to stud.

It's astonishing, but this hardy animal was nineteen years old during Napoleon's long winter retreat from Moscow (3000 miles there and back again) that decimated the French army with cold, starvation and guerilla warfare. The famous painting you saw might do justice to that horse, but hardly to the suffering of those soldiers.

At any rate, Marengo was considered an indifferent stallion and only sired a few offspring before he was retired and allowed to live in retirement to the astonishing age of 38. His skeleton was preserved and is now on display in Chelsea, England at the National Army Museum, minus a hoof. The hoof was taken and made into a snuff box still in use at the Wellington Barracks.

One more related point that you might find interesting, the horse of Napoleon's military adversary, the Duke of Wellington, was a chestnut stallion named Copenhagen. This horse died at age 28 and received a funeral with full military honors. His headstone still exists at Stratfield Saye, Hampshire, the estate awarded to the Duke of Wellington for his military services.


June 24, 2013 – This is the last in a series of posts concerning registration papers and horse sales, and finishes the response to the reader's question of June 19th.

The last point to discuss is, why would a seller hold up or fail to provide registration papers in a horse sale? Well, the long and the short of it generally is: leverage. Essentially, this means that the seller might think he can get more money from you later if he sells you the horse now and then offers to sell you the papers later. Or, he may just set up the sale as if these are two separate products and hopes that you really want the papers with the horse, to which he'll reply that it will cost more for you to get both (not that the papers will have any value to him if you buy just the horse, but he's betting you'll want both and that he can charge more). He does it this way so as to make the horse look cheaper and more appealing initially, and then lowers the boom on you once you've got your heart set on having the horse (and now, you also want the papers).

In a rarer set of circumstances, the horse might be covered by a lien and the financing statement might specifically name the registration papers as being owned by the bank or a lien-holder. The papers won't be available to him (and subsequently to you) until the loan has been repaid.

Or possibly, the all purpose and standard human answer to why the papers might not come with the horse: sloth and incompetence of the seller or some prior seller. In other words, such seller is disorganized and can't find or lost the papers because he didn't put them in a safe place to begin with and can't find them or they no longer exist — you know the type!

Finally, there could also be some other reason the papers are not available, but regardless, none of these reasons are happy ones for the buyer. Not all of them are actively dangerous to a buyer with risk of embroiling that buyer in an illicit sale, but none of them will make a buyer happy! A buyer wants a clean, legal sale with a sound horse and legal, official papers intact at time of sale. Alas, this condition is often not available to the buyer, especially if the price is lower than normally expected for the caliber of the horse.

So, as the old saying goes, buyer beware!


June 21, 2013 – This set of postings concerns sales of horses that have registration papers, but who are sold without them and continues the response to the reader's question of June 19th.

In the last post, I covered some scenarios where the seller has the registration papers, but for whatever reason, does not send them along as part of the sale. Now, I'll talk about what happens when the horse is registered, but the papers have disappeared somewhere in the previous sales.

There is a rule which says that a bona fide purchaser for value will take property and acquire title to that property, even if the seller does not have good title when sold. The person who was defrauded by that seller, in some skullduggery that occurred prior to the seller getting the horse to sell to the new buyer without papers, is limited in their recovery to the wrongdoer.

However, this notion rests entirely on the assumption that the intended purchaser has NO KNOWLEDGE of any underlying skullduggery or impropriety. If you, the intended purchaser, have suspicions that something isn't right with your intended purchase, that means that YOU DO have at least some suspicions that you could potentially become involved in a purchase in which someone could have been defrauded.

Let offer an example. Let's say that you're presented with the opportunity to purchase a beautiful and obviously worthy specimen of a horse that would be far more valuable with papers than without. In that case, that will raise an issue in your mind as to how it came to be, that this beautiful horse is here without papers being offered for sale to YOU. If you come to learn through your inquiries that the horse appeared on the market to YOU in such a way that leads you to believe the seller does not have good title to sell it to you, then that is a risk that I, personally, wouldn't take. The risk is that a previously defrauded owner will track you down and attempt to get the horse back.

The lack of papers would raise such an issue unless two conditions I can think of are met:

First, that the horse's papers disappeared so far back along the chain of sales that there's no hope of getting the signatures of all the previous owners. In that case, I would just take the horse as he is and not worry about the papers.

Second, that there is a good explanation offered to you about where the papers went and how to get them if you wanted them. In this situation, I'd add something to the Bill-of-Sale that requires the cooperation of the seller in acquiring the papers. The seller's signature will then contractually obligate them to assist you in the acquisition. If the seller refuses to to accept that change, I might walk away from the sale. I'd also add something to the Bill-of-Sale that the signature of the seller affirms that he/she has good title to sell the horse. You should run this last bit by an attorney so that the language is good for use.


June 20, 2013 – This thread of postings concerns general principals of law associated with horse sales and registration papers and continues the response to the reader's question of June 19th.

Typically, a horse is sold with his registration papers as part of the sale. However, the law DOES NOT treat the papers as being a part of the horse. In fact, unless specifically named in the bill of sale, the financing statement, or the purchase agreement, a failure to pass along the registration papers will mean that they ARE NOT included and the new owner will have to make separate arrangements to get them. So what kind of arrangements are we talking about? Well, depending on the breed registry, you may or may not be able to get new registration papers in YOUR name.

If you can get a signature from the previous owner, you can typically get new papers on an authorization for such. Or you can purchase the old papers separately. If it was understood and specifically mentioned in the pre-sale negotiations that the sale included papers and both parties understood that the papers were to be included in the sale, but then were wrongfully not included AND NOT mentioned in the sale paperwork, you can sue under a principal of "equitable estoppel". This means that you undertook certain actions in reliance upon promises made by the seller, and since the seller did not follow through, you've been damaged in your reliance on those unfulfilled promises. The threat of this lawsuit is typically enough to procure cooperation from sellers who have the paperwork in hand and are just trying to hold the sale up for a little more dough.

A bigger problem arises when the seller doesn't have the papers and is selling a registered but unpapered horse. More about that in tomorrow's post.


June 19, 2013 – I am in the process of buying a Friesian horse. He is really beautiful and he is a registered Friesian. However, I was just told by the seller that his papers are with a previous owner and that the seller does not have them. What can I do to get these papers? The previous owner is a bit of a strange lady from what I am told. Do I have any right to these papers?

Please let me know as soon as possible because the price of this horse might change depending on your answer.

OHHHH! This is a great question!

First, let me point out that I can in no way render legal advice in this forum and in fact, I expressly forbid you to rely on this forum for such legal rights and remedies associated with horse deals. This is because I would need much more information just to get started, and you would also have to be in the state in which I'm licensed to practice law. Therefore, you need to go to an equine attorney in your area and run your complete situation by them. These matters typically rely on your particular state's laws, so I can't speak to your specific situation.

However, the general topic you raise prompts me to think out loud in these pages about some generally understood principles of law that may or may not control in situations similar to this. (Notice I said, "situations similar to this", which is not YOUR specific situation.) This turns out to be a somewhat involved topic and I'm going to respond over several posts on some topics generally related to horse sales and registration papers. I'll also talk about past and present owners and the duties associated with the sale of horses.

Stay tuned!


June 18, 2013 – I own and manage a barn where boarders sometimes drop off one or more of their minor children to hang around the barn for the afternoon. While I strongly discourage this, sometimes it just happens. What kind of risk am I running with this? Can I get a waiver of liability from the parents?

This is a VERY good question! The answer is that if you condone the practice of allowing minor children to run around unsupervised on your premises, you will assume all of the foreseeable risk associated with that practice. What kind of risk is that? Well naturally, the risk that the children will do something that will get themselves hurt. By not actually stopping the practice, YOU ARE condoning it.

Now, you certainly can draft (or have an attorney draft) a waiver to have the parents sign off on the understanding that they, not you, are ultimately in charge of their children and that if they leave them on the premises unsupervised, getting hurt or killed is one of the possible consequences. As to what will happen in a lawsuit, where the duty of a landowner meets to decide who is responsible versus the duty of a parent who signed an ironclad written waiver of liability, well, that is the legal equivalent of those Japanese B movie plot lines, King Kong vs. Godzilla in other words, I don't know.

I do know that, in the face of a hurt child, a jury or judge is likely to find at least SOMEONE to be responsible and that someone might well be you. I'm sorry to tell you this, but I think your best course of action is to ban the little tykes without a parent on site. From a lawyer perspective, that is the cleanest way to protect yourself.


June 17, 2013 – How hard is it to go to court to seize a horse for unpaid board payments?

Well, it depends on your jurisdiction of course, but in my neck of the woods, it isn't as impossible as managing to feed that horse over time. I've done it as a lawyer on behalf of numerous stables. You'll have to have good records, and it'll take a little time (a few months) and a little money (under $2,000 total), but you can solve the situation. It certainly beats attempting this by yourself and then being subject to a lawsuit for wrongfully disposing of a horse that was not yours.

So, go get legal help on this.


June 14, 2013 – I have been looking to buy a draft cross. Everyone says they are the best in terms of temperament and athletic ability if you are a taller or heavier person, which I am. Do you agree?

Well, as always, I have to observe that horses are individuals just like people. I've seen the full spectrum of both athletic ability and various temperaments in draft crosses. Just because the typical draft horse has an easier temperament than say, a thoroughbred, doesn't mean that all draft crosses are that way — you have to look at them individually. Therefore, I suggest that you approach each horse deal as a one off, which is to expect that every horse has its own personality because it has had its own unique parenting and upbringing that will affect his or her outlook on life.

So, do a good investigation on the background of the horse, its vetting, and its training history. Then you can make a much more informed decision based on knowledge and insight rather than just hearsay. It will pay off in the end.


June 13, 2013 – If I take a picture of a famous horse, can I print the picture or put it on my website? I ask because I was at the Kentucky Derby this year and I took a bunch of pictures of the post parade.

The short answer is that, although horses as chattel property do not have privacy rights, their owners do as do all the humans who are represented in those pictures. And, without the owner's permission, you DO NOT have the right to publish their photos, or photos of their recognizable horses without their consent. A horse that is so intertwined with its owner might acquire rights piggy-back style. For example, I think that Secretariet's likeness probably belonged to Peggy Chenery because he was so famous and so tied to her.

So, I advise you NOT to publish the horse pictures to the public without the owner's written permission.


June 12, 2013 – If I am filing for bankruptcy, do I have to list my horses on the bankruptcy schedules? They have no value at all and are just pets.

Yes, you do have to list these horses on the bankruptcy form. I commend your attention to: In re Bachman, 2007 WL 4355620 (Bankr. D. Idaho) where a debtor in bankruptcy failed to do just that, and was found by a court to have committed fraudulent and deceptive acts, despite her claim that the horses had no value. So, don't risk more problems by omitting the horses — include them on the form.


June 11, 2013 – A tree fell on my paddock fence last night from a violent storm. This got me to thinking. Would I be liable if my horses got out for such a reason and injured a passing motorist?

Well, it is a matter of state law which is different for each state, but in most states, the injured plaintiff would have to prove that you were in some way negligent in the keeping of your fence. This sounds like an "Act of God", so to speak, because storms are unpredictable.

But let us say you had a tree that was obviously and perilously ready to fall right where it did. Perhaps is had visible rot, lots of tree limbs down over time right there, and so forth. In this case, I can see a scenario where the right trial lawyer could hold you up for some damages. But then again, I have an evil attorney brain, just primed to make those kinds of arguments!


June 10, 2013 – What do you think of these bitless bridles?

Well, I've seen them around a fair amount. I've used a variation, the western hackamore, for training purposes. I would say that if the rider knows how to use them, and the horse is receptive, it can work.

However, I've also seen such bridles used fairly inappropriately by bossy horses and timid riders, and that's a prescription for disaster. While some of these bridles can be quite stiff and apply quite a bit of leverage to the sensitive nose area or under the chin, it appears to me that a horse can ignore commands far more effectively with the average bitless bridle than they can with a bit.

So take heed, and be aware of your situation with them. If your horse is happy to ignore your commands with a bitless bridle, then you definitely need to consider trading back up to a bitted bridle, unless there are good and sufficient reasons to avoid a bit in general with this specific horse, such as dental or mouth issues.


June 7, 2013 – I would like to hire a trainer to help me learn dressage. Do you have any tips for how to audition trainers?

Yes I do — great question by the way! It boils down to this: go to the barn in question, and look at the other riders and horses. Talk to them. You don't want to hire a clip artist whose main talent is separating rich ladies from their money.

If the horses and the clients are long time customers, the fees are reasonable, the trainer is business-like with invoices and is not all about appearances, then you stand a good chance of learning your discipline without too much worry or angst from that person. But always operate on the basis that you can question what's going on. And if a little voice in your head says, "this is not right", well heed that voice. You'll save yourself money, time, and risk in the long run.


June 6, 2013 – I am going to sell my horse. What do you think about those equine web sites? Are there any legal issues with those?

Yes, there are. By using a website, you do two things: first, you're able to expose your sale opportunity to all the potential buyers of the world; and second, the ad that you write will be captured for posterity. So, you could have a dissatisfied buyer who will attempt to sue you from another state (or country), and second, will be able to use your ad against you.

So, I would do two things to help protect against these risks. First, use a bill of sale that you've run by an equine attorney to have him/her review the document and also to have them insert a "forum selection clause" that will ensure that if there are any problems after the sale, that those problems must be processed/litigated in your home state and using your home state law. Then, I would be very careful about what words you use to describe the horse in the description. Scrupulous honesty with no exaggerations is the key here.

Good luck!


June 5, 2013 – My horse does not seem to want to go. I have to push him and push him on. What am I doing wrong?

Well, you might not be doing anything wrong. Sometimes, a horse might have a foot or leg issue that hurts him to move, even more so with the additional weight of tack and rider. Or there could be a problem with his hoof or a shoe. Have you checked him out with a veterinarian and a farrier? I would do this first, and then you can move on to other issues, such as diet, or training issues.

A horse is made to move, so if they don't want to do so, then that says something. I would only suspect training or attitudinal issues last after you've checked out all the physical reasons first. Too many people think the horse is disobeying when there is a real problem that makes the horse uncomfortable or actually causes him pain — this is unfortunate for many horses.


June 4, 2013 – I was told to use spurs on my horse. Should I do this? It seems to me to be cruel.

Well, like most things in life, the use of spurs is something that takes training and know-how to use properly and without harming the horse. If used properly, the correct kind of spur for your discipline will not be cruel. But, if used improperly, and depending on the variety, a spur can inflict lasting scars on a horse's sides as well as emotional scars that will come back to haunt both the horse, and as a result, you. Spurs mimic the claws of a cougar, and horses react similarly to that similar sensation.

However, the kind of spurs you see used in competitions nowadays with a rounded nub on the end as an aid to signaling when to do something (as opposed to punishment) is not cruel and can be helpful. Of course, learning how to control your lower body and legs as a rider is VERY IMPORTANT. You only want to touch the horse with the spur when you want to signal the horse. Riders new to spurs or those poorly trained will often accidently spur the horse because they don't have good control over their lower body, legs, and feet. Developing proper control is a BIG part of the learning process for a new spur user.

So, I would say that you SHOULD NOT use spurs on anything but a school master horse (very well trained and easy, in other words) until you have sufficient training and experience. And only use the mildest form of spur until then.


June 3, 2013 – My family and I have a farm and my parents are getting on in years. I know that estate taxes are a real problem, but I don't know any good farm and tax attorneys. Can you help?

Well, there are many good tax attorneys out there, and the tax issues and estate issues are not unique to the horse world. What will be unique to the horse world is the actual running of the property coupled with the estate planning. I would suggest hiring a good estate attorney and having that lawyer consult with an equine attorney in terms of drawing up any operating agreements for the hands on running of the farm during transition and dispersal of property, if any.

An estate attorney will not know about things like, manure disposal requirements, for example, and there will have to be features in any operating agreement that will allow the operator to do business in an agricultural or commercial equine setting.


May 31, 2013 – I was recently going through one of my favorite horse magazines and saw an ad for a razor to remove your horse's whiskers. I'm strongly against the idea of removing a horse's whiskers. How do you feel about such a thing?

I must admit that I hate this practice also. The whiskers serve a very real purpose for the horse as they graze or as they eat grain, and so, the practice seems to me to be not horse friendly. However, I recently saw a horse that had me reconsider. This horse had a set of mustaches that would have made Ambrose Burnside proud. (Search for this name on the Internet using images if you want to see some hellacious sideburns — don't say I didn't warn you. This was a Civil war general with a set of sideburns that stood out even in that exceptionally hairy face man-thing that was popular at that time — this man LOVED his whiskers!)

I can see if a barn is trying to set a certain tone, that a set of facial hair like that might set the barn back. But absent an Ambrose Burnside, Teddy Roosevelt, or some other horse-whisker extravaganza, I think that horse whisker shaving should not happen.


May 30, 2013 – Does Freedom 45 Spot-on Fly repellent work on horses? My poor horse gets eaten alive every summer. I put fly spray on now, but I don't think it works very well. I also put on a fly mask and leg wraps.

I'm not familiar with that brand. Also, I think where you are in terms of location in the country can make a big difference in what you need to use. That is, the flies of Louisiana are not the flies of the Pacific Northwest. I think you should go to your local tack shop or feed store where they sell fly sprays in your area and talk to the owner or the store's buyer. There will be a fly spray brand in your area that really sells well. That brand will likely be the one that works best well for horses in your area.

Also, decide what strength of product you're going to use. While the environmentally friendly and "green" kinds of insect and fly repellent can be one option, those tend to be on the milder side in terms of active ingredients. They're suitable for use as long as you keep an eye on the situation. Remember though that there are some days in summer where the flies really torture the poor beasties. On those days, I go for the maximum strength available to protect my horses.

Flies can really do a number on horses and can cause them to lose condition and even lame themselves trying to get away from a really vicious fly attack. They can also lose a lot of blood and sometimes even pick up diseases and become allergic. While America is blessed in not having the tetse fly, which prevents horses from inhabiting large sections of Africa, as a horse owner, you do have to be cognizant and aware of the problem with your horse in your area of the country.


May 29, 2013 – I love Clydesdales and have always been fascinated with the ones that pull the Budweiser wagon. How do they find such outstanding horses? What does it take for a horse to qualify physically?

This is a great question! I had to do a little research, but this is what I found after going to the Grant's Farm website, which is based in St. Louis, MO. Grant's Farm was once owned by Ulysses S. Grant and is now owned by the Busch family. They used to own the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company until its recent 2008 sale to InBev. The farm is still home to the Budweiser Clydesdales and they describe their horses as follows:

  • The full-grown Clydesdale should stand 18 hands (about 6 feet) at the shoulder and weigh between 2,000 and 2,300 pounds;
  • The ideal horse is bay in color, has a blaze of white on its face, a black mane, and a black tail;
  • Most important, the Clydesdale will have white feathering on all four legs and feet; and
  • All hitch horses are geldings, characterized by their even temperament and stronger, more natural draft horse appearance.

So, there you have it. I agree with you that these are very beautiful horses, and Budweiser has done a great job making these horses their company centerpiece in advertising.


May 28, 2013 – Additional Update to Friday's response about horses in the U.S. Army:

I've had some further thoughts on my response to the previous question regarding horses owned by the United States Army:

Horses owned by the Army are also found in the 3rd Infantry Caisson Platoon, the "Old Guard". These horses are also used to pull caissons in parades and in funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. They are also used to walk in parades as the "Riderless Horse" with boots in the stirrups facing backwards. If interested, you can adopt a Caisson horse at: Adopt a Caisson Horse.

The Old Guard is the oldest Infantry Regiment in the United States Army and is still on active duty. Believe it or not, it's often used to escort the president and even performs security duties to the Washington, D.C. area in times of national emergency. If interested, you can learn more at: The Old Guard.


May 24, 2013 – Does the United States Army have horses anymore?

Well, I am not sure. Fort Bragg used to have about 36 horses owned by the federal government that were used as ambassadors and to train special forces teams. These horses were sold and the stable closed, according to an article posted at the Horse Channel as of September 2011. The article was not specific as to how and why.

Given the size of the Army budget, it would seem to me that this is a loss that would have been better served by finding resources elsewhere to cut rather than this. I'll throw this question out to those who might know better than I. Does anyone out there know the answer to this?


May 23, 2013 – I want to trailer my horse down south. Do I need any paperwork to transport my own horse in my own trailer?

The short answer is yes. The United States Department of Agriculture has recently instituted a new rule that is aimed at tracing animal diseases in its new "Animal Disease Traceability Program". This rule applies to anyone who transports a horse across state lines or into or out of tribal areas. The rule seeks to utilize existing forms of paperwork, but the main vehicle of enforcement seems to be an "Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection" (ICVI).

Alternatively, the rules allow you to use a valid Coggin's test in place of the ICVI. Page 2054 of the Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 6 / Wednesday, January 9, 2013 / Rules and Regulations states the following:

"Horse owners who are meeting vaccination and Coggins-test requirements would likely satisfy the requirements for official identification and documentation of equines under these regulations. Documentation completed in accordance with the equine infectious anemia (EIA) requirements in 9 CFR part 75 may be used in lieu of ICVIs. Identification previously used on EIA test reports may be accepted by the animal health official in the receiving State or Tribe."

At the very least you're required to have an ICVI or the results of a recent, negative Coggin's test certificate with you for each and every horse you're transporting. So, call your veterinarian before you get on the road to get one or the other. My belief is that the turn-around on this paperwork is likely not as quick as you might prefer, so you need to get moving on this quickly.


May 22, 2013 – What causes a horse to eat manure? My thought would be a lack in some mineral or vitamin. This horse is 28, has a wavy mouth, chews hay or grass into a ball then lets it fall out of his mouth. He is fed 5 lbs of Senior feed 2 times a day. He is a small horse, about 850 lbs, a bit thin, but not horribly so. Thanks for your input.

It sounds as though there's a possible dietary issue going on. This is could be caused by two things, 1) age related teeth problems and 2) age related nutrition issues. So, even if the horse has perfect teeth, at some point, their insides stop working efficiently. But here I think your horse should be seen by a veterinarian for teeth related issues. A horse will not willingly let grass fall out of his mouth in a ball unless he's in pain or there's something going on with his molars.

This is just my take on it from this side of the computer screen. As always, you should listen to the medical experts who can examine and actually diagnose what's going on with YOUR horse. While I do have lots of experience raising, training, and caring for horses, I'm not an equine veterinarian — and that's what you really need right now to assess and diagnose this problem with your horse.

Good luck!


May 21, 2013 – I got this letter in the mail from the Federal government regarding a census of farms. What is this?

Every five years, the United States Department of Agriculture conducts a census where it attempts to quantify such things as the number of farms, the number of horses, the number of cows, and other such rather mundane facts. It's a good tool for the equine industry, including organizations such as the American Horse Council, to use to support various legislative efforts that have an effect on the horse world. An example of such an effort would be the fact that horses are now included in the definition of livestock such that horse farms can apply for federal relief funds when disaster strikes. This was not the case, for example, during Katrina, when large numbers of farms were devastated in the Louisiana and Mississippi region and could not get the same kinds of relief as other farmers.

So, go ahead and fill it out. It could help us all.


May 20, 2013 – I gave my horse to a trainer to sell. The horse was sold, but then I got a letter from the new buyer that says the trainer said all kinds of things about the horse that I never authorized that trainer to say. Now the new buyer is going to sue ME! What can I do?

Well, it may be of limited comfort for you to know that the trainer is ALSO personally liable in situations like this. However, you may still bear some responsibility if you gave a dishonest trainer full scope to negotiate on your behalf. If you delegated all authority to such a trainer, it's not hard to see how the law might hold you at least partially responsible. It will really boil down to what was said, when, and by whom.

YOU will be held responsible for the apparent authority you gave to the trainer, who is essentially your bargaining agent in this case. However, if you withheld responsibility and authority to speak on key points, such as the horse's history or medical condition, then you may not be responsible and the agent might be. This is one area where you'll really need an attorney; AND NOT just a regular attorney; you NEED an equine attorney. Don't waste time getting going on this; the early stages matter very much while folks are getting locked down on their positions. So, get moving FAST!


May 17, 2013 – What is your opinion of the Kentucky Derby as a sporting event. My husband and I have talked about going for years but never have. Do you think it is worth the hassle to go next year?

Well, I would hardly be the Horse Girl if I didn't feel that it was worth it! In fact I've been to the Derby many times, and each time was memorable, fun, and well worth the trip. From my perspective, it just seems to keep getting better over time. The Hats the ladies wear, the Big horses that race, the trainers that each time seem to outdo themselves in pre-race maneuvers, the drama over the post positions, the Derby talk leading up as each punter tries to prognosticate the future, the decision over my personal betting ticket, the jockeying for tickets that are NOT the infield (getting a little too old for that scene myself), the drama of the post parade in which I change my mind five times from my pre-race line up, the dash to the betting window, etc. All of this is just warm up for the race itself, which is the best two minutes in sports.

But, I may be biased.


May 16, 2013 – I am going to get into the business end of horses. I have some backing from my family on this. They are insisting that I go ahead and form a corporation and hire a lawyer to do paperwork. How important is all that? Do I really need this stuff?

Well, let me put it like this: if you're in business in the horse world, it's only a matter of when, and not if, someone under your care will fall off and get hurt. When that does happen, you're at risk of being sued by the person who got hurt. There may be merit to such a lawsuit or there may not be merit, but either way, in such cases, the person that they will sue will be you, and most likely personally as well as professionally. At that time, if you've taken appropriate business like steps to run the business as a business and have used the legal forms of protection for such efforts, you'll likely be in a much better legal position. For example, forming a corporation or an LLC for your business will help to protect your personal assets, such as your home and savings, from the claims of a lawsuit.

Now, you may feel that you're "judgment proof" for some reason or feel that you have so few assets that you have little to lose and so not care at all, but I doubt that this is a good reason to avoid using good business sense. For one thing, a judgment can haunt you and your assets for a really long time, twenty years or more sometimes. For another, if your family is devoting resources on your behalf, it's unfair and a poor return for them for you to say that you don't want to exercise good business judgment.

So listen to your family. You may be very glad you did some day.


May 15, 2013 – This is a continuation and the last posting to answer a question asking what to do about a horse that escapes confinement regularly and also has COPD.

COPD can be a real problem for some horses. You MUST work closely with your veterinarian to help your horse with this problem. Horses with COPD can vary significantly in the diseases severity. I also want to say that you should not be afraid to get a second or even a third veterinary opinion if you feel that your horse is making little progress. I've noticed a wide variation of ability in veterinarians, especially when it comes to various diseases. Sometimes, it has to do with the vet's experience (or lack of) with a particular disease. At other times, it's just that some vets are better than others. You should try to make sure that you're working with one of the really good ones regarding this disease.


May 14, 2013 – This is a continuation of a previous question that asked what to do about a horse that escapes confinement regularly and doesn't want to be caught.

Horses are not stupid. Why should they want you to catch them? There they are, frolicking in clover with their buddies, and here you come with halter in hand and unmistakable signs of impending work hovering all about you. Spare a tear for the situation, please!

What you, the human, has to do, is to convince the horse that the better fun part of life is to hang out with you. Food is a great way to do this. (Bring a bucket.) Make catching not necessarily equaling work. Catch, feed, and release your horse after much patting and mushy talk.

Second approach (better): Once the catch has started in earnest, make it entirely clear that the chase will proceed at a walk until the horse relents. Now, this may take a while the first few times. But, you CANNOT give up before catching the horse. If you give up the chase without catching him, that teaches the horse that he only need hang out a little bit longer to beat your resolve to catch him. He'll enjoy that immensely and you can't let him win at this and learn the lesson that he can beat you — things will just keep getting worse and you'll never be able to catch him.

With perseverance and consistency on your part, he'll quickly figure out that it just pays to get caught. We'll talk a little about COPD tomorrow.


May 13, 2013 – What do I do about my horse? He repeatedly gets out and never wants to be caught. He also has COPD. What do I do about all of that?

Wow! Each one of these questions is a book in its own right. Let me answer one at a time.

For a horse that continually gets out, well, this is a problem. If you know that the horse is an escape artist, and you don't figure out how to stop him, then if the horse gets out, and say, runs into traffic and hurts someone, you could be held responsible. I know, I recently successfully concluded a lawsuit on just this basis. So it's incumbent on you to contain your Houdini, but good.

I take it that you've already tried clips on the stall door or pasture gate? While I don't recommend a lock that's not generally easily accessible for fire safety reasons, there are several intermediate steps between a padlock and an open gate. Remember, you have opposable thumbs and should win this battle of the wits.

I'll address this further in tomorrow's post.


May 10, 2013 – I would like to dip a toe into the horse racing scene. Is there a way to do this as an introduction first?

Well, yes, there is. There are a number of organizations and entities that offer Thoroughbred ownership as a percentage of ownership, thus spreading the risk, the cost, and the rewards all at once. Typically these fractional ownership deals WILL NOT allow you any say at all over the management of the horse, since the syndicators will rightly figure that you know little about it and can only mess up operations. But, you will have bragging rights (especially if your horse wins) and you'll get a new take on the whole racing scene. It can be a real fun time. Good luck!


May 9, 2013 – Do Thoroughbreds make good pleasure mounts? I had a rescued Standardbred that was a awesome pleasure mount.

Some thoroughbreds make great pleasure mounts after leaving the track; some don't. It's really an individual thing, dependent, it appears to me, on two things:

  • First, if the horse is in good physical shape from his running days, and
  • Second, if he was a sane individual to start with. If so, I feel there's no horse as faithful and as useful as a Thoroughbred for a range of activities.

However, if the thoroughbred in question stems from an excitable branch of the Thoroughbred family tree, or if his temperament got warped in training or at the track, I WOULD NOT recommend such a horse to anyone but an experienced and youthful rider. You can get a trainer you trust to help you evaluate the horse for temperament issues. Also, you can get a veterinarian to evaluate the horse's health. But most of all, trust your gut on this one. If it seems "sticky", it likely is — don't get involved!


May 8, 2013 – Can I get an equine attorney to draft a clause that binds a stable to preserve my horse in the event that they have to put him down? I ask this because I had a horse that had to be euthanized and they put him in the ground before they even told me about it. I was so shocked I can't even tell you. I am still heartbroken. What can I do about this?

Well, I know you don't want to hear this, but a stable has few options when a horse has been injured or becomes ill to the point of euthanasia. Horses are large and dangerous, and a horse in pain can be a real menace. So, the onset of an induced euthanasia for a sick horse can happen well before owner notice at times. And unfortunately, under some circumstances, no pre-drafted contract will prevent it from happening.

Now, your question doesn't really seem to be about notice. It seems to be about preserving the horse's body in some way — this is a bad idea! When a horse dies, there's only a small window of time where the body can be exposed to the elements before health consequences start occurring. There really isn't much preservation possible.

So, sorry to say, I don't think there's much you can do here. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.


May 7, 2013 – I stable my horse in South Carolina for the winter, and ship him north for the summer months. This past year, I boarded my horse at a new barn, and when he arrived, I must say that I was shocked at his condition. He is MUCH thinner than I anticipated. What can I do about this?

Well, the first thing I would do is to get him checked by a veterinarian. Skipping on rations may be one cause for the loss of weight, or, there may be another cause. If he gains weight and condition with all due speed on good food and care, then I would definitely talk to your winter stable owner and register a complaint. I would certainly NOT go back there again for next year. Just make sure that you have a good idea as to what is what, first.

The other factor that works against using this facility again in the future is that you were blindsided by the weight loss. A good stable that notices the thinning would contact the owner to tell them right away. It sounds as though you were not informed, which is another red flag about the facility you used.

All in all, I think you need new winter quarters for your horse.


May 6, 2013 – I hurt myself riding six months ago. Is it too late to pursue legal action against the instructor who got me into this mess in the first place?

According to most state statutes of limitation, you usually have at least three years from the date of an injury to bring a legal suit against another party. Contact an equine attorney to be fully advised of your state's statutes on this topic. This is not something you want to leave to a post from a stranger. Get properly advised!


April 26, 2013 – If my stable tells me that they can go and take my horse from another barn to collect money they say is owed from past months. Can they do this?

The short answer is no. A stable lien, which is what you're talking about, dies when the horse leaves the barn. This is the short and long of the common law and statutes on the topic. If anyone tells you otherwise, call an attorney right away.

Before your horse could be taken from another barn, there would need to be a judgment, a court order, and an execution from a sheriff. However, if you think that some barn owner is going to try to do this, you'll need an attorney to deal with it and you don't want to wait for this to happen. Otherwise, it sounds like a hollow threat.


April 25, 2013 – When I ask my horse to stop, he stops, but only for a second and continues walking without my consent, repeatedly. How can I make him listen?

Consent is such a strong word. How about considering what could be happening from his point of view: "He/she told me to stop, but since I did that and he/she didn't follow up with any other direction that I respected enough to heed, I walked on. I felt this was necessary since I'm obviously running the show here."

You can fix this attitude, but it will take some work, that is, you have to consistently enforce a consequence for walking on that involves work, and work, and more work. This work is usually best accomplished in a circle, that is, moving his back end around and around until he gets tired and stands. The first few times you do this, it'll seem to take forever. However, your horse will soon get the picture that "stand" means STAND STILL until told otherwise.

If you don't have the ability to enforce this consequence, get help from a trainer. It isn't so much hard to do as it is hard to follow through — but follow through is critical. Without it, his behavior won't change.

I hope this helps, and Good Luck with Mr. Stand!


April 23, 2013 – I read your article on equine slaughter from a few years ago. What is the current state of slaughterhouses in the US for horses?

After a long hiatus, it appears that a horse slaughter house is poised to open in New Mexico soon. It seems the opening of this slaughter house, which will be operated by Valley Meat, is due to several factors. According to an article posted online March 19, 2013 in Businessweek, last year over 197,000 horses were shipped to Mexico and Canada to slaughter for the European horse market. At the same time, in the U,S., shelters and horse rescue operations have been strained beyond their limits. This has been at least partially caused by rising feed prices due to several factors from the drought in the Midwest to continued ethanol subsidies and by world-wide grain buying and export to hungry nations.

The U.S. currently has no local outlet to deal with sick, lame, diseased, and unwanted horses for distressed and financially pressured owners. The end result has been much suffering for horses documented by all the state and local authorities trying to eradicate cruelty to animals. The expectation is that, by having fair and humane regulations here, it'll be better than shipping horses to other countries that may have little qualm about how those horses meet their eventual end. The U.S. cannot regulate slaughter in other countries for humane treatment, but it can regulate them here.


April 22, 2013 – What is the single most important advice you have for someone who just started out riding? I know I will hear a lot of advice but when you are just starting out, it is hard to figure out what is more important and what is less important so I thought I would ask you.

Well, I would say that the single most important advice is to be very observant, calm, and present in your mind at all times when working with horses. That means what it says: no daydreaming; no rushing; and no riding while in an agitated or upset or hurried or otherwise distracted state.

Horses have a whole different level of observation and awareness than people and nearly all bad situations and accidents have, at their root, a moment where the person involved was not paying adequate attention, or noticed but failed to heed the obvious signs by the horse of approaching danger. You have to learn how to be on "horse time" and with "horse mind" which also has the added benefit of noticing a world of beauty apart from our own generally narrow selves. This is one of the main draws for all horse enthusiasts, but I rarely see such advice mentioned, so I'm mentioning it!

You might be interested in reading some articles we have, such as Safety Around Horses to help avoid potential problems and Be on "Horse Time" to enjoy riding to the fullest.


April 19, 2013 – Can I make a trust to benefit my horse after my death?

Yes, you can. But to do so, you really should consult a trust attorney on this one, because there will need to be details spelled out over how the trust is to be managed, by whom, what the oversight might be, and how the trust is to eventually terminate. So, this is not a job for just any attorney, but for someone well versed in trusts and estates law.

If you don't make such a trust, then the horse will be a part of your estate, essentially, just another chattel property or good that will be sold by the administrator of your estate. The trust will let you control what happens to the horse once you're gone (not from the grave, mind you, but as close as is possible).


April 18, 2013 – I am getting divorced, and while we have both worked at our horse business, I think it is fair to say that I am more involved than my husband. How is this going to work during the divorce? Can the judge make him continue to pay the bills while the divorce is going on?

This is a question of state law and the laws governing divorce in your state. Please talk with your divorce lawyer about this. The short answer is that I have seen some judges that WILL order spousal support with an eye towards keeping the business afloat during the proceedings. But, I have also seen other judges refuse. This is going to depend on your state law and the facts of YOUR situation, so get legal advice quickly!


April 17, 2013 – What would you say is the main problem that a horse faces in dealing with a beginner rider? I want to learn to be a riding instructor and this would help me understand the issues.

It's two issues, really. Having watched lots of beginning riders, I've noticed that a horse who has a beginner on his back is dealing with a weight that fights his natural movements, and the horse is also receiving lots of conflicting signals. Now, horses trained to ride have, for the most part, figured out that if they do what the rider asks, then it isn't too bad and can even be fun for the horse. So, most horses will accept training and direction because it isn't the worst thing in the world for them, even if somewhat unnatural to have a rider on their back telling them what to do. An experienced rider sits on the horse's rigid spine in such a way that the two move together, and the horse is not faced with fighting to balance himself with top-heavy additional weight. So a matched set of experience, for horse and rider, can make for a really great time for both.

School master horses have more or less figured out that it's their job to teach people. And I swear that horses for the handicapped take it one step further than that: they get actively involved in trying to help their companions. So, a school master horse, when faced with the contradictory signals, will sigh and continue on until he does get a clear signal. This is very helpful for all concerned, and most especially for the rider who is trying to learn how to discipline his wayward hands and seat and legs while moving forward on the horse.

However, a horse that's not used to a beginner rider can get frustrated and angry at the conflicting signals and the constant pounding on his back. Such horses can and will retaliate against the rider, and this is a scene set for injury. This is why states that have an equine activity liability statute, nearly always except from the statutes protections, an improper match of rider's skills to the horse. This is a well known problem and the law takes it into account.


April 16, 2013 – Are there draft crosses out there that would make a good warmblood type for dressage and jumping? The ones I have seen have big heads and thicker legs that don't spell jumping in my mind.

Well, all draft crosses will be a bit of a gamble in this area. I've seen Quarter Horse Belgian crosses that look pretty useable for jumping; they have a shorter back and cleaner head than many of the thoroughbred-clyde crosses you'll see. But again, there's no way to tell in advance what traits will be passed on. That's why the warmblood breeds are so expensive — they have proven performance in many cases, and sometimes even with specific bloodlines. This is a good question though.


April 15, 2013 – I read your recent post on horses going barefoot and I really disagree with what you said. I think horses can go barefoot fine and I think it is cruel to shoe. I strongly believe that a horse's foot was intended by nature to be barefoot and a lot of lameness is caused by bad farriers. Just thought you should know there are other opinions out there and we don't all agree!

Well, I didn't claim to have the only opinion. But, I would point out that as long as there have been horses ridden by humans, there have been horse shoes. The early versions bear quite a resemblance to the modern shoes. So given the historical nature of shoeing horses, I think it's safe to say that the practice must bear some usefulness to the rider or it wouldn't have been done and used over all those centuries.

Historically, horses were needed for a man to servive, whether to get away from dangers (hostile groups, wild animals, etc.) or just to get back from the wilderness to civilization. Therefore, a horse's owner/rider would do almost anything to keep his valuable horse alive and in good health. Horseshoes were a big part of doing that.

Also, a horse lamed by his running barefoot in the wild tends to be lion lunch, so you wouldn't generally see failures of hoof wear in the wild. People, however, need their horses to stay sound, and over time with work, nothing beats good shoeing for that insurance policy. But thanks for the opposing opinion!


April 12, 2013 – What is the best way to shed out a horse? This hair is driving me crazy!

Well, I hate to tell you this, but lots of brushing is the only way to speed nature's process. As long as your horse is healthy, he'll shed out no matter what you do. But, you can definitely speed Mother Nature along some by using curry combs (the hard round ridged rubber ones). Don't bother with a soft brush much until the worst of the hair is out because it won't have any appreciable effect. You'll have to use a stiffer brush. Of course, you need to be careful that you're not brushing (or combing) too hard or in the same place so long that your horse gets irritated and comes to hate being brushed and combed and fights back. This especially important to remember with horses having sensitive skin.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you can't get all the hair all out in a session, or even in a few sessions. At some point, either you or your horse will have had enough brushing/combing even though hair is still coming out. That's when it's time to quit for the day, because no matter what, there will be more loose hair tomorrow.

Frequently bang the curry comb against a hard plank or wall so as to remove all of the scurf and dust that will build up along with the hair. Also, don't wear anything you care about while you are doing this. You'll never be able to use that treasured garment again!

Finally, understand that, even though you'll be able to speed up the shedding out process a some, you won't, for example, be able to cut the time in half. The separate hairs will release when they will and your efforts can only make so much of a difference. Fortunately, this whole process usually only takes about four to six weeks to run its course.


April 11, 2013 – Do you believe in keeping horses barefoot?

Wow! What a can of worms that question is!

I believe that horses should go barefoot occasionally for foot health reasons. At least once a year, and for at least eight weeks or so during which there is at least one trim, and possibly two, depending on how fast the hoof has grown. In my opinion, horses who work on hard surfaces are better off being shod however. There are a few breeds that have very hard hooves that can manage without, but those are few and far between. Mustangs, for example, can usually shift without shoes.

I also think that horses that aren't in work can manage fine without shoes. But a horse that is in work and barefoot all the time gets a real pounding on the heels of his feet. The constant concussion on bare feet can result in a foot that looks like a duck's from the spreading heels caused by the constant pounding. I'm sure that saying this will cause a chorus of outraged dissents from pro-barefoot farriers. However I was asked for MY opinion.

Now, there is a flipside. Horses that are shod all the time usually end of getting ripped up hoof walls from the constant nailing in and removal of nails. So they need time off from shoes every now and then. Another observation I've had is that the time ranges recommended here for going shod and unshod can shift according to the skills of the particular farrier. In other words, with a real good farrier, horses may need less time without shoes to get their hooves into good shape again. Conversely, bad farrier work may require more time with no shoes for the hooves to recover. This is based on long and bitter personal experience at keeping a herd of horses in work for several years in a row.


April 10, 2013 – When I watch dressage horses use an extreme degree of collection, I always think "how cruel" because of the way the riders are leaning back on the bit. Why do they do that?

Well, I don't think you can include ALL dressage riders in that group. A truly artistic and impressive performance comes from the horse, not so much from the rider. If the reins are held gently, it will be obvious to the judges and scored appropriately. That means that the horse is holding himself in the position you see and the rider IS NOT leaning back on the bit. If he is, the judges will see that, too, and will usually reduce the rider's score accordingly.


April 9, 2013 – Why are horses so hard to load into horse trailers?

Well, horses have a long history and even a genetic memory of wishing to avoid places that appear to be a "blind alley" to them. That's because those horses that got trapped in such places tended to be mountain lion or wolf lunch. So, dark, small, enclosed places are given a high degree of native suspicion by horses.

Now, they can be trained to understand that nothing bad will happen to them if they do go into a trailer. But this takes trust in you as their herd leader for them to follow you in. Some horse trainers have developed good methods for training horses to load and you can buy books and tapes on such methods. There are also many articles on the Web about this topic, including one here on QueryHorse entitled: The Lunch Box – Trailering.


April 8, 2013 – I am involved in a lawsuit where the main argument is against a trainer that I hired. The other side is saying that I am responsible for some inappropriate things my trainer did. Can I be liable for these actions by my trainer?

The short answer is: maybe. As any good lawyer will tell you, the answer revolves around the facts at hand. The law says that you're responsible, as a principal, for the actions of your agent, IF the agent was acting within the scope of the authority you granted him (or her), at the time of the complained of action.

As you might imagine, this is quite the argument and your success at refuting this argument will depend in some measure on the legal advice you get now. So, go ahead and find that equine legal specialist because the horse world is not like other areas of the law. That's because custom and usage, as well as past emails, letters, and conversations will all play a part in addressing this argument in court.

If you already have a lawyer, and it sounds as though you do, hire an equine attorney as a consultant to him/her. This is one area where a non-equine attorney (and your legal case) will very likely benefit from the equine specialist's insight and experience. In fact, it could very well be the difference between winning and losing your case.

Good luck and I hope it all works out well for you!


April 5, 2013 – HELP! I just got an audit notice from the IRS. I run a horse business as a second career. I am afraid they will ding me with hobby losses. What can I do?

Well, first of all, don't panic. DO find an equine accountant with experience in this field. Then, you'll have to prepare a case that highlights your efforts at making a profit in the horse field. The IRS uses 9 different factors to help them sift the fake from the genuine efforts to make a profit in this most difficult of fields to make money in. It is possible to run a viable horse business if you're business savvy, and it's even possible to win a hobby loss audit even if you did in fact lose money.

Some of the things a court will look at in reviewing the agency's findings are:

  1. Time spent at the endeavor;
  2. Whether expert advice (in business, not necessarily the horse expertise end) was sought;
  3. How much money the taxpayer sank into the business from other earned income (doctors who make an effort to shield income are particularly disfavored);
  4. Whether a business plan was used and was there an effort on an ongoing basis to trim business practices according to conditions met on the ground so as to make money; and
  5. General business like practices will be reviewed, such as the existence of a separate checking account, etc.

There are many more indications that would possibly pertain to your set up, so get the help you need quickly. Dealing with the IRS is no joke.


April 4, 2013 – What is EEE? I see a lot of scare stories about it and I don't know what it is.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, is a virus carried by wild birds and transferred to horses by mosquitoes. The horses then come down with the disease. This is a VERY SERIOUS disease. It attacks the central nervous system of horses and is nearly always fatal. The onset is rapid and is accompanied by seizures and uncoordinated movements usually leading to death within 48 to 72 hours.

There is a vaccine and ALL horse owners are STRONGLY urged to get their horses vaccinated each spring because the disease spreads through contact with unvaccinated horses. SPEACIAL WARNING: People are susceptible to the disease and if a person contracts it through a mosquito bite, the fatality rate is 50/50 — this is not a disease to risk for you or your horse — MAKE SURE you get your horse vaccinated every year!


April 3, 2013 – What do you suggest as essential horse products to stock into a trailer for use during the season, not grooming equipment, but more product related?

Well, some of this'll depend on what your season is, and what it's for. I can describe one of my experiences running a small, 10-horse leasing and riding polo program for all levels of skill in a fourteen week season. Given the six week prep it took, where the horses were ridden lightly every day to get them into shape and where the tack was prepared beforehand. These are the products we used most during the season:

Supplements:

  1. Fly spray;
  2. Hoof ointment;
  3. Spray on saddle soap;
  4. Topical and antibiotic ointment for cuts, scrapes and to help prevent fly issues; and
  5. Medicated shampoo to wash the horses daily so as to prevent the contagious transfer of skin fungus and bacteria (a big problem because blankets, wraps and sweat are a natural breeding ground for all kinds of nasty bugs that are very hard to eradicate). Couple that with obsessive washing of blankets and bandages.

While bute and veterinarian attention was called for occasionally to deal with lameness issues, the best treatment we found to deal with those inevitable problems was rest. If a horse came up sore and achy, we just turned them out for a week or so before recalling them. This worked well, but it required an actual herd of thirteen or fourteen to keep ten sound horses in work the whole season.

I included the point about "rest" to highlight the fact that, sometimes, it's not about using a particular product that solves an issue, but rather just using a different approach. In this case, we used rest instead of drugs or salves and it worked great!.


April 2, 2013 – How can horses sleep standing up? All that weight to keep up, I just don't see how they can rest like that.

Well, they can't stand up to sleep all the time. They need a few solid hours of lying down sleep every few days. But the rest of the time, they can "sleep on the hoof", so to speak.

A horse's leg structure is such that it has a securing mechanism at the top that lets them "lock" their joints into place so that all their weight rests comfortably on four pillars (their legs), with no muscle effort needed. It's an evolutionary step that has allowed them to stay alive on the hoof over the millennia. Horses in areas with real predators (e.g. mountain lions) don't have the luxury of lying down very often because they could become lunch for a big cat. Those who lay down all the time usually did not survive because they couldn't get up fast enough to run away.

Now, that's not to say that horses don't enjoy a good lie down — they do! Also, if you ever get a horse into the NEST, a medical product that allows a horse's weight to be lifted without pressure on his joints or skin to allow healing, you can see that they figure out right away that this system is a superior couch (or horse Barcalounger®) and look forward to the snooze like any teenager.


April 1, 2013 – Why do all Haflingers look alike?

Well, these hardy ponies (the breed is also known as Avelignese) from the Swiss mountains look alike because they all descend from one Arab stallion (named Folie). Since then, the breed's traits have been ruthlessly maintained. These easy keepers are very hardy, surefooted, strong, and companionable horses. Haflingers, while still among the small horses, are generally larger than many ponies and they're very beautiful.

Sounds like a winning combination to me! So, you can see why breeders would continue to pursue and maintain these characteristics. And while each horse is an individual and there are slight variations, for the reasons mentioned above, they do tend to look more similar than members of other breeds.


March 29, 2013 – I have a question regarding my veterinarian. I am pretty sure she messed up bad with regards to my horse. She mis-diagnosed a lameness problem that ended up costing me thousands of dollars in recommended treatments before I got a second opinion and the second vet knew right away what the problem was and treated it. My horse will never recover fully but at least he is comfortable now. What can I do about this so she doesn't go on and do this to someone else?

Well, this is quite the question! First, you should get all medical records as soon as possible — request them in writing. Next, contact an equine attorney to see if there's a case there of professional negligence. You didn't say what the actual problem was, and the fact that a veterinarian got an initial diagnosis wrong is not necessarily professional malpractice. The issue instead is whether she deviated from the standard of care used by veterinarians generally in regards to that health issue.

Also complicating the issue is causation problems, which roughly stated is: Was the horse's malady caused by the veterinarian, either by administering the wrong treatment, or by the delay of the proper treatment because she made an improper diagnosis? Suffice it to say that you'll need a veterinarian willing to outline for you in writing whether this first vet's behavior warrants further investigation.

Most equine attorneys do know a vet willing to offer an opinion so as to decide whether to proceed further. So, your job is to first get the records, and then an equine attorney and go from there.

GOOD LUCK!


March 28, 2013 – Why do horses squeal?

Good question! No, I mean that. I think it has to do with settling dominance issues. If you ever watch horses that squeal, they usually do so with ears either at half mast, or with faces at vertical nose to nose. So clearly, they're attempting to settle who is top dog, but they're not engaged in the all out assault of flat ears and head weaving flat with mouth open like a snake.

I read somewhere once that there is a theory that the horse that could squeal the longest had the most lung capacity, and so, could whip the opposition. So, they're having contests like daring each other to swim underwater the longest as a means of settling who's the boss, at least, as regards the squeal.

I don't actually know whether this theory is correct, but it clearly is a dominance thing.


March 27, 2013 – When does a filly become a mare?

At age three. Horses can be bred at three, though it's not recommended. Breeding should not commence before age four because the horse is still fairly immature at three. Just my opinion on this one!


March 26, 2013 – I just bought my first horse and I am going to go get a grooming kit at the feed store. What do YOU think are the essentials to get?

This is a good question! These are on my list:

  1. A bucket;
  2. Several differently sized sponges for the horse and the tack cleaning;
  3. A water brush (short stiff bristles);
  4. A curry comb (hard black round solid mass that removes caked mud);
  5. A hoof pick;
  6. A sweat scraper;
  7. A plastic curry comb as opposed to rubber (the different weights are useful depending on the shedding season);
  8. A regular comb (like for people, only bigger and stronger); and
  9. At least three body brushes of gradually increasing stiffness of bristle (the softest being like down, useful for brushing the horse's delicate face skin).

Some people like the metal curry combs, but I don't because they rust. Ick! Also, consider getting a plastic carrier to hold and easily bring all this stuff with you. Voila! Grooming central!

Because this is your first horse, you may want to consider reading our article entitled: Items to Buy With Your First Horse.


March 25, 2013 – What is the best way to organize a manure heap for compost? I have read a lot of conflicting advice on this.

In my opinion (which is what I think you're asking about), simplest is best, if you have the space. That is, place three piles next to each other. The first pile is the fresh stuff. The second pile is the partially broken down stuff. And the last pile is for the really, really "almost gone to black gold" pile. You can use that last pile to put on your garden, your fields, or you can sell it to gardeners or nurseries. Moving the manure from one pile to another regularly will ensure good mixing and prevent fires from spontaneously starting from the heat of composting.

Now, if you don't have the time or the space, or the volume is too great, then you'll just have to forego the compost option and let contractors haul the manure away. (I'll refrain from all of the cleverly worded puns that spring to mind.)


March 22, 2013 – I have a boarding contract that I give the three boarders at my barn and I would like to incorporate a waiver of liability into that contract. Can I do this?

Well, you can, but it's not recommended for the following reason: it will be difficult to lay out a sufficiently detailed waiver in the body of a boarding agreement. You risk creating a document that is so confusing that it can be easily challenged later. Also, sometimes people will come onto your property and they won't be boarders, but you will still WANT THEM TO SIGN a waiver of liability. Thess people could be friends of existing boarders, visitors to the barn, riding students if you ever offer riding instruction, non-boarding riders that come for a clinic you may host, etc., etc.

Your best bet is to have two separate documents for clarity and for usefulness. That means a boarding contract and a separate liability waiver. Be sure to get an actual equine attorney to draw one or both up for you, not a regular attorney that is not familiar with equine law. He/she will understand liability, but not the vagaries of horse behavior, related precedents, and other existing law pertaining to horses, horse businesses, etc.


March 21, 2013 – I am in the process of building my barn and I wanted to know what you thought was the ideal set up for paddocks. How big, where, amenities, etc. are on YOUR wish list?

As in, if I win Powerball on Saturday, what will my dream barn and paddock set up look like? FUN QUESTION! Well, my answer to this somewhat depends on what breeds we're talking about and what discipline of riding. But assuming normal sized horses and amateur riding, I would like the following:

  • Individual paddocks that are accessible from the outside of the barn AND from their stalls;
  • A dutch door set up;
  • Board fencing that is 50 by 100 feet at the very least and larger if possible. I want no mud in these paddocks and they each need a sandy corner for rolling and some shade trees, perhaps in other corners;
  • Insulated water troughs outside as well; and
  • Lots and lots of grass!

If you meant a paddock where the horses live outside, then I'd want larger paddocks with three sided run-in sheds, as a minimum. Of course, if compatible, the horses could all share a very large paddock with a large run-in shed that accommodate all of them and protects them from viscous wind and rain as well as hot sun. But the trees will help lots with the sun, and horses usually prefer being under large shady trees than in a run-in.


March 20, 2013 – I am thinking of getting a horse that I have been told has "navicular." I don't know much about it and looking it up is a little confusing in if this is a bad idea or not. I really like the horse. Is this a big problem? Should I not get the horse? What is this?

Yes, it is a problem. Navicular is a degenerative condition/disease of the navicular bone, which is a bone inside the hoof. It is brought on, some think, by concussion on the feet (riding on hard surfaces, jumping, etc.) and some horses appear more prone to this than others. Its symptoms can be alleviated by shoeing that relieves pressure on the bottom of the feet, but once this deterioration has begun, there is no cure, so to speak.

About the most you can say is that the horse's usefulness will be limited and you can only keep him sound through measures that will increase in cost and invasiveness over time. Ultimately, there will come a time that the horse will no longer be sound at all no matter what you do or for what you use him for. This time will be longer or shorter depending on his use and his care. And when the vet says that the horse is suffering and that it's time, you need to be able to follow through so the horse does not suffer.

Your purchase and caring for him may bring him a better remaining life than he otherwise might have, but it will come at a financial and emotional cost to you. Therefore, unless you're up for that challenge both financially and emotionally, my advice is not to get this horse.


March 19, 2013 – I see jumpers that are being sold as fully trained at 4 years old. Is that ok to train a horse so early?

In my opinion, no, it's not. Jumping places a unique strain on muscles, bones, and ligaments, and especially with the bigger horses, certainly, they're bodies are not yet mature enough to take the strains of frequent jumping. I would be wary of buying a young horse such as this that had been put through lots of jumping training at an even earlier age. Therefore, I would insist on a full vetting which includes X-rays and so forth.


March 18, 2013 – My husband and I want to have a horse farm. Is it better to buy the land with a stable on it or for us to build our own?

It is almost always more expensive to build your own. From a cost perspective, it usually DOES NOT pay to build. Conversely, from a "I want it my own way and am willing to pay for it" perspective, it's always better to build.

Now, implicit in this equation is whether you're a commercial venture or a private farm. Commercial ventures can get banks to loan them money, but only on a showing that it will get paid back. So like most people, you'll need to assess your budget, the reach of your pocket book and the available offerings in your area to come up with a reasonable answer to your question.


March 15, 2013 – My horse wants to canter all the time and Im afraid. How do I stop her?

Work in an arena with an instructor on changes of speed. Also, lunge her well before riding so that she's not so frisky and excited. The more you work her before you get on, the happier she'll be to listen to you. This is an obey thing, not a run thing.

As part of this, you also need to get help so that you're not so afraid. The heck of it is, if you tense up because you are afraid, she'll read that as "RUN" because you'll be tightened up in a ball and will be whacking her sides with your heels inadvertently. We call this posture the "turtle", and if you're afraid, it's the one thing you'll do involuntarily. She'll also definitely sense your fear and feel there is good reason for her to be afraid, and therefore to feel she SHOULD run.

So, get help on how to sit down, sit back, lower your heels, relax, and sit up. If you do that, presto, like magic, your horse will relax and walk. But you can't do this alone or you already would have done it naturally, so get an instructor. This is a common beginner problem, so don't feel badly.

Good luck!


March 14, 2013 – Is it safe to ride a horse in snow?

If you're reasonably sure what the ground surface is like underneath. Walking over a junk yard in snow is even worse than walking over a junk yard without snow. That's because you can't see the dangerous obstructions on the ground. Another thing to consider is the slipperiness of the footing. But, if you're on a clean trail or similar pasture with safe footing, then it should be ok. As always, you want to think ahead and use caution and you'll be more likely to have safe, fun rides in the snow.


March 13, 2013 – How many horses should you have in a herd?

There is no "should" for this question. In the wild, horses band together to as great an extent as the herd boss stallion and lead mare can control — there is some finite number. In domestication, the limit is more the result of the most the owner can afford. Horses are happy in herds of two to very large groups. So anything between those margins is what you see.

From a keeper's perspective, more than about ten in a paddock gets difficult to give grain to effectively. This is because, by the time you get to filling the last bucket with feed, the first horse is usually done eating. This typically ends up in "steal the bucket" games going on down the pecking order until the bottom horse on the totem pole is robbed of his food day after day and stands there looking skinnier and skinnier — NOT GOOD! In a deep pasture with lots of water and grass, such issues are usually less of a concern. Even then, it's always a good idea to keep aware of the health and condition of the lowest horses on the ladder.


March 12, 2013 – If a boarded horse does damage to the barn where he boards, is the horse's owner responsible?

That depends on the boarder's contract with the barn. In many barns, the stable owner makes the horse owner specifically responsible in the contract. Absent that contractual provision, the barn owner may still press the issue in a legal suit if the damage is beyond ordinary and reasonable wear and tear.

If, say, the horse had any pre-existing temperament issues (e.g. an angry wall kicker) that the horse owner did not reveal to the barn owner prior to boarding, it would likely be adjudged an equitable claim. This is something that can get ugly fast, so get legal help from an equine attorney if something goes wrong or you already find yourself in this situation.


March 11, 2013 – Why does my mare rub her nose on her farriers back? She never shoves the farrier and always is awesome for him.

Well, believe or not, as with humans, horses are capable of gestures of affection. These can be real, heartwarming, gestures of good will and love — your horse's actions could be that. Or, it could be a gentle reminder that, "Hey buddy, you sometimes drive nails into my feet. YOU better be careful!" It's hard to say, I've seen both.


March 8, 2013 – Where does the term, destrier, come from? I know it is a knight's horse but that still doesn't show me where the word came from.

It's a French word, as many chivalric terms are, the French and Normans being the glass of fashion and chivalry in their day. Essentially, it means "'to the right". The term stems from the fact that the squire led the war horse on the right hand of the master. He did this so that, if the need arose, the horse could immediately be pressed into battle.

Good question though; it took me a bit to find that one!


March 7, 2013 – Are there such things as equine accountants? I mean, if there are equine attorneys, it stands to reason there would be equine accountants. But what would they do differently than regular accountants? (I'm an accountant and would love to work in the horse world.)

There is, indeed, such a thing as an equine accountant. Their main additional value is that they have experience in dealing with all of the tax issues that arise with horse ownership and equine businesses. A regular accountant may not be as familiar with the tax rules affecting equine businesses. Of course, this is a good thing for horse owners and businesses so they can have their tax matters appropriately taken care of. There are a lot of equine-related tax rules and a good equine accountant can save a lot of headaches for those businesses for which these rules apply!


March 6, 2013 – What is that Bible passage about the horse? Someone told me there was one and I could not find it when I looked. It might be the version of Bible I was looking at.

You might be looking for the Book of Job, 39-19, from the King James version, which goes like this:

"Hast thou given the horse strength? Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? The glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted. Neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting."

I've not heard of any other passage in English Literature that is as vivid a picture of a horse at war as this description.


March 5, 2013 – What is a "cob"? I see it sometimes on horse sale websites but it doesn't seem to be a breed.

Well, you're right about that. A cob is more of a type than a breed. They can be large or small, but they share similar characteristics of strong muscles, short backs, larger heads, shorter necks, and shorter cannon bones. So, they're sturdy and are good at carrying weight more easily. You'll often seen cobs crossed with Thoroughbreds to produce a really fine hunter and jumper with the sturdy bones of the cob and the longer legs of the thoroughbred.


March 4, 2013 – Do horses have binocular vision? This for a bet.

Well, you don't say which side you bet on, so I don't know if this will be good news or bad news. Horses do, in fact, have binocular vision, but only in front of them. They have a wide field of monocular vision on either side of their head, all the way almost to the rear, and two tiny blind spots. One is directly behind them (which is why you announce your presence BEFORE you walk up behind a horse so they don't get startled and kick you off the planet). The other blind spot is out to about twelve inches in front of their nose — further than that, they not only see you, but WITH binocular vision.. I often wonder at the courage of jumpers, who literally take that leap in the dark every time.


March 1, 2013 – I am looking at rugs for my horse. Why do I need a shoulder pleat in a rug?

A shoulder pleat is a good idea for a rug that's going to be on a horse walking around outside. It allows him to extend one front leg forward and rest on it while he grazes. I'm sure you know the pose I'm talking about.

This posture will cause a rub to start on a regular blanket and will restrict his motion, which will make him fidgety and unhappy. In the worst case, the abrasion can rub the hair right off the skin of your horse where it makes contact, and it can also break the front straps of the blanket causing the potential for injury as the horse tries to shed the rug without having hands. This, I'm sure you agree, is something to avoid.


February 28, 2013 – How do I get my horse to drink water when he is newly arrived at a stable? I had to do some traveling last summer with him and this was a real problem. I am planning my schedule now and I just thought of this and thought maybe you would have some suggestions.

Well, this is a problem for sure, especially where a stable uses chlorinated water, which horses really don't like and have to get used to before they'll drink it. I've heard some people say that if you sweeten the water with apple juice, it can overcome the problem. Personally, I'd let the horse smell the apple juice so he knows what it is first, and then pour some into the bucket, and then see. Don't add too much. Juices have sugar in them and that's definitely not something good for horses when there's too much. As you know, even grass that's too sweet has its risks for horses.

Good luck, I know water can be a real issue and you can't ignore this problem. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink", or so I have heard.


February 27, 2013 – If the barn that I work for pays me under the table, am I running any risks?

Well, as an attorney, I would say yes. Barns that pay cash on the side tend to cut other corners that could really cause you some problems in the future. Here's just a short list of the kinds of problems that you can face:

  1. If you hurt yourself while on the job, you'd have to file for workman's compensation and disability. Now, how difficult will it be for you to prove you worked for the barn then? You'll have paid no taxes, filed no forms or proof of employment, and neither will the barn have — there is no proof you were employed.
  2. If you worked and the barn refused to pay you for that work, do you think you could file an unpaid wages claim? How would you do that? What proof do you have on the amount you're owed, or even that you truly work at the barn rather than just volunteer?
  3. On the flip side, how are you going to defend yourself if the IRS finds out and decides that you owe taxes on the money that you earned (and the interest and penalties for not claiming that income)? While it is true that the IRS has many bigger fish to fry than you, it has a long memory and can be difficult for citizens to deal with. So, your butt could be "cooked' as they say, if the IRS decides to "pursue you" at any later time.
  4. "Cash under the table" almost certainly means that no employee related insurance exists. While the barn may be penalized by the state for failing to cover this insurance, that won't help YOU pay the hospital bills. It also means that no workman's comp is paid. You have no coverage and no recourse to government safety nets if you're not paid up-front. Also, none of this will go toward your Social Security earnings, either.
This is just a short, and by no means exclusive list. So, while I understand the temptations of moving to an "underground" economy, it seems to me that the risks here are born disproportionately by you.


February 26, 2013 – Why do horses want to be in the herd so much? I mean, I understand that they like the company, but why do they get so anxious?

Well, this is a question that allows me to talk about the fundamental nature of horses. You have to always keep in mind that horses are prey animals and that this fact drives a lot of their behavior. Their social structure of being in a herd allows them to outwit predators while also being stronger as a herd (strength in numbers).

Obviously, this has helped to preserve the species and avoid extinction. So, wanting to be in a herd is instinctual and taught to foals in the herd environment. That is, if they misbehave, they'll be ejected from the herd. If you've ever seen a senior mare disciplining juvenile horses, you'd see the offender driven off and not allowed to return until sufficient remorse and time goes by, sort of the equine version of a major "time out".

This is a penalty with real consequences in the wild, so those who didn't learn the lesson fast enough didn't survive to pass along their genes. The result has been horses with a "herd mentality" so to speak. So today, horses raised outside of a herd environment may not be as socially adjusted, but most will be just as anxious living alone without knowing why.

Personally, I vote for a well-adjusted, herd-raised, and group-oriented, horse.


February 25, 2013 – Hi! Was reading earlier postings (Why are thoroughbreds only grey, bay, or chestnut?) on the colors of thoroughbreds and I came across a pic of a lovely WHITE Thoroughbred mare. Her name is Yukichan. Just wanted to share!

Hey, thank you for the tip! Generally, if the mare has black skin, though, I think technically she's a "grey". And if pink skinned, she might be an albino.

I looked at your link and you're right, Yukichan is a white horse with pink skin and black eyes, so she's not an albino. However, I did see that the article shows that the Jockey Club registered her as a grey! Must be one heck of a mutation in there somewhere!


February 22, 2013 – My horse is being very stubborn and won't lunge and she is like that when I ride her. She is a brat. She is an Arabian but I have ridden other Arabians and they weren't this snobby. She is very disobedient. She throws her head and sometimes bucks me. WHAT DO I DO?? I'm only twelve so I can't full on "show her who is boss". Please help!

Well, I sympathize with you. I had Arabians when I was growing up and I had the same issues with mine. The thing is, Arabians combine endless energy with endless endurance, and with endless and motivated smarts. If all that is working for you, then it's great. But if instead it's working against you, well, it isn't so much fun, as you're seeing.

I would talk to a horse trainer to help you organize your cues to your horse, and to better learn how to enforce your will. Once you and the horse achieve an understanding and the consequences for misbehavior, you'll have a much better behaved animal. HOWEVER, you, the barn owner, or someone also needs to attend to other important things, such as diet and proper exercise. This is to make sure she isn't being disobedient because she's being cooped up, bored to death, or improperly fed.

You need help in all this, so be sure to talk to the barn owner, your instructor, or your parents — you need to get that help to better control your horse and to ride safely.


February 21, 2013 – I am certain that endurance riding must be cruel to horses. How could it not be?

Well, things are not always that simple. The discipline does attempt to rigorously monitor itself for the welfare of the horses. For example, if a horse is in distress when it stops at a check point, it will usually not be allowed to continue. These rides are staffed by veterinarians who check lameness, heart rate, fluid levels, temperature, and so forth. The intent is only to allow a horse to continue if it is fit to do so.

Of course, there will always be those riders that will overwork their horse preparing for the competitions, or even during the competition between checkpoints. The urge to win does motivate the riders to push along — most will put the horse's welfare first while others may not. And as with any other discipline, there sometimes are accidents.

For what it's worth, the horses themselves to seem to like it, so I don't feel that the sport is inherently cruel. As with all disciplines, the rider should always be aware and be concerned about the horse's health and welfare. While I'd bet that most are, I also have to believe that some are not, as with most things.


February 20, 2013 – I know that breeding purebred animals such as dogs can sometimes lead to problems in the animal's structure. I am thinking about German Shepherd hips and bulldog heads being so big that the poor things cannot even be born naturally. Are there any similar problems with horses that you know about caused by showing and breeding?

Well, now that you mention it, yes. Arabian breeders exaggerating the table top croup have led to mares that have a tipped up vulva that does not drain naturally, causing health issues. And Friesians have the highest incidence of placenta retention of any horses. Then you have Quarter horses that suffer from too small hooves in the show ring set, and worse, a genetic muscling condition (HYPP) from the stallion Impressive that leads to a seizure disorder.

I am sure there are more ailments out there from breeding to type, but those are the ones that immediately came to mind.


February 19, 2013 – What is "campdrafting?" I came across the term the other day and I am not familiar with it in relation to horses.

This is a great question! Campdrafting is the Australian version of cutting cattle combined with a course like the sheepdog trials in Scotland. That is, the rider must cut the cow out of a mob of cattle, and then completely herd it around three fixed points (such as a tree or a barrel), and then past a gate.

This sounds very difficult to me. Trust the Aussies to come up with something that makes the American version look tame!


February 18, 2013 – Are bits cruel to use on a horse? It seems to me that it would hurt to have a bit in your mouth.

Well, yes and no. Yes, a bit can hurt a horse. No, it's not cruel if the bit is used correctly by the rider (no constant pulling) and it's suited to the particular horse.

A bit provides a method of communication with a horse that is nearly foolproof in its communicative powers. This same communication is not as sufficiently foolproof with hackamores or methods that rely on pressure upon the nose. Now, please understand, it isn't horses that are deficient in understanding, it's the people who must translate a command, such as "stop" to the horse. A horse knows how to stop. A bit provides an unmistakable command structure for people to tell horses what we mean.

If you ever look at medieval bits, you'll see that snaffles and curbs have come down with very little alteration through the ages. That's because they have and continue to work.


February 15, 2013 – Why are thoroughbreds only grey, bay, or chestnut?

This is a good question! Books and books have been written on Thoroughbred genetics. But as far as I can tell, the short answer is: ruthless suppression of the bloodline in the formative stages of the breed. This process has been extensively detailed in the early writings about the stud book kept by the British gentry where the breed arose.

There were certain parallels at the time between attempts to keep the horse stud book "pure" and keep the nobility...noble. At any rate, the contemporaneous furor caused by the first two colts of the Godolphin Arabian, who won against the titled set, is quite the tale. The end result is, bays, chestnuts, and greys; no paints; and no spots. Also, there's rarely black, rarely white, and when they are such, they're listed as grey, dark bay, or brown (aka black).


February 14, 2013 – I wonder why they keep racehorses in stalls all the time when they are at the track. This doesn't seem to be healthy for the horses. Can you help me understand why they do this?

Well, I have to agree with you on this, but it boils down to space, time, and money. Horses at the track are there to do a job, and that job involves winning races. Tracks are usually located in semi-suburban or even urban neighborhoods, and there aren't paddocks sufficient to allow them to be turned out when they're at the track.

Also, when at the track, owners and trainers are motivated to reduce the chances of injury to the animals, which turning a horse out often invites. Finally, providing turn out and exercise beyond the workout in the early morning would cost a lot. Costs are already very high and the added benefits to the horses are just not worth it.

If it helps you at all, you should know that racehorses vote with their feet on whether they like that life or not. A less than motivated animal will not win or even race well, so he is quickly sorted out and removed from the racing circuit and usually go to other homes and a new life. Therefore, in the end, stall life seems to do them little harm overall.


February 13, 2013 – My dad won't get me a horse. I have wanted one since I was real little. I think that he is worried about both money and that I might get hurt. Well, I won 't get hurt and I asked at the barn in our neighborhood and they have a horse that is for free. So help me convince him, will you?

Well, as much as I hate to say this, I have to come down on your dad's side on this one. Horse ownership is not to undertaken lightly. In fact, not at all until you have a real understanding of exactly what you're getting into, which it seems to me, you really don't. There are two things wrong with what you said to me:

First, even experienced horse people can get hurt with horses. This is not to say that horses are as dangerous as, say, sky diving, but there is a risk and no one can say for sure that anyone won't get hurt. You might, in fact, get hurt.

Second, the price of a horse is NOT the cost. The TRUE costs of owning a horse are the ongoing feed and care costs. There is no way to take a short cut on these. A horse eats what a horse eats and the cost of keeping a horse can be very high (for feed, hay, bedding, shoeing services, vet services, occasional medicines, worming, tack, lessons, trailering, etc., etc. This has been so since people first started keeping horses.

So, rather than just fighting with your dad on this one, why don't you educate yourself through helping where you can, leading toward working with horses, either at a barn, or at school. Horse costs being what they are, labor shortage is chronic in this field. Once you can make yourself useful at a barn, you can start bargaining for lessons. Or, get a job and then ask your dad if he would mind if you paid for your own lessons. Even with the small pay that kids can get, you can save up enough for one lesson over time, and then see if you like it and if the effort is worth it to you.

If you sign up to muck stalls at a barn, you'll soon learn exactly what it takes to keep a horse, at least from the labor end. Responsibility and hard work on your end will do more than I ever could to show your dad that you're serious and willing to take on the responsibility, when and if you'll ever be ready to move on from there.

And, I will say one thing that you can pass along to your dad, which is that, by and large, a girl truly hit by the horse bug never recovers. All you can do is channel it usefully.


February 12, 2013 – I am an employee on a farm where my rent is included in what I get paid. My barn owner is taking advantage of this situation, and I am working all hours now. This is not ok but I am afraid I will get tossed out and I have nowhere else to go. What can I do?

You need to call a lawyer right away (and not necessarily an equine attorney for this more standard kind of case). Most states have laws that protect both workers and tenants, and your situation deals with both issues. An employment lawyer and your state attorney general will deal with the wage issues, and a real estate lawyer can deal with the apartment issues. Don't be afraid, although an owner CAN institute eviction procedures for nonpayment of rent, this would be a long and difficult process for them if they're abusing an employment situation, and it sounds like they are. Get legal help now!

Good luck!


February 11, 2013 – Our power went out at the barn where I board. I am really getting worried about the water situation. What can I do as a boarder?

Well, I presume that the barn owner likely already knows about this. Have you asked him or her about the situation? Most farms can sustain a short term water loss just by getting folks to help carry buckets. However, a longer power outage might cause problems. You can make some useful suggestions, such as offering to help the barn borrow a generator.

Work with your barn owner. If the barn owner is not responsive, then file that away in your thinking cap as to when, and if, you want to move away from this establishment. Horses need water and horse owners need communication with their horse caretakers.


February 8, 2013 – When was the horse first domesticated?

There is some dispute as to when this was accomplished, in terms of date certain. It is clear that man likely domesticated horses after dogs, cattle, sheep and goats. There are mentions of horses in clay tablets found in the third millennium (2000-3000 B.C.) These writings refer to the horses of the mountains. They were found in areas south of the great steppes of Asia that lie north of the mountain ranges beside the Black and Caspian sea. Therefore, this area likely housed the first great horse peoples of the earth.

A fiction writer named Jean M. Aul wrote a stirring imagined account ("The Valley of Horses") of this first encounter of man and horse. I think her views on this are as valid as anyone's, and certainly a lot of fun to read!


February 7, 2013 – Why does my horse roll with his tack on in the school? Thanks!

Because he's being naughty and you're letting him do that. Essentially, he's saying that he would prefer to have a back scratch to working. You may want to consider training him not to roll when tacked because it can damage the saddle, and can also present some risk to him. Such risk can include bruises from the saddle concentrating forces of his weight onto small areas of his skeleton (pressure points). If you don't know how to train him not to roll, enlist the help of a local, competent trainer.


February 6, 2013 – Hi! I've been noticing that my mare is much more responsive than my gelding, seems to listen better and she seems to be quite bonded with me too. My gelding seems to have more of an attitude of "Ummm...are you sure you want me to do that? Well....okay, I guess I will." I have worked hard to get him to be more responsive to me and he is much better than he was when we began, but he would still rather take the easy road so to speak.

Maybe this is just this particular mare and this particular gelding. My question is this: What differences do you see as regards mares and geldings, pros and cons? I believe mares are often used as polo ponies? Looking forward to your response. Thanks!

Well, funny you should say this, but I've noticed the exact same behavior with my mare/gelding combinations. This may be why the Bedouins favored mares to ride into war, and why chivalric knights rode stallions instead of geldings. This is also why polo players do prefer mares, as they can be a bit more "giving" to the rider's project. This may, in fact, be a mirror of what I read in many women's magazines as well, the refrain that a woman does more for the family, or what have you. (Of course, this is rank speculation on my part.)

The plus side to a gelding is that, as slow to engage as he might be, you know what you're going to get, day in and day out. This steadiness overall will translate into better performance for those who must put in the hours, day after day. Mares can be a bit flighty sometimes, and will occasionally take a decided U-turn into crabbiness whereas, geldings mostly avoid that.

There, we've just summed up horse mood swings. Thank you for a great question!


February 5, 2013 – I compete on the Equitation circuit in Florida. I saw one of my good friends, a rider who owns his horse but does hire a trainer to take care of it. The horse's blood test did not "pass" and I am afraid for my friend. What advice do you have, I see that you are a lawyer.

I am sorry to hear of this. The first thing your friend needs to do is to hire an equine attorney for himself who is familiar with USEF hearing procedures. These procedures can be found on the USEF website. The sanctions can be quite severe, and as the USEF will penalize all the connections to the horse as part of its regulatory scheme, this is something that can't wait.

For his own good, get your friend moving on this NOW!


February 1, 2013 – The Horse Girl is on travel and will resume posting next Tuesday, February, 5, 2013.


January 31, 2013 – Can I learn to ride without a saddle? How dangerous is it to ride bareback?

Well, you certainly can learn to ride without a saddle. Bareback riding is even recommended by some trainers as a way to develop a good, close seat on a horse. Still, I would offer some cautions on the experience:

  1. First, the older you get, the harder you fall. Other than at the walk, bareback riding for older folks would not be as safe as riding in a saddle; and
  2. Second, choose your mount carefully. A high withered thin horse is definitely not a comfy ride!
But with that in mind, if you want to start out learning to ride without a saddle, and under the close supervision of a trainer with a suitably comfy, round, and quiet horse, go for it!


January 30, 2013 – I have a twelve year old quarter horse appendix mare. She can be very loving but sometimes she scares me. She can push into me hard and also sometimes she steps on my feet. I think that bringing her treats makes it worse. What can I do about this? I am not very aggressive and I don't think I can learn to be.

Well, I think the first thing to keep in mind is that if you are afraid, your horse will know it. Horses can read these signals very easily by observing face, body, and eye movements. We have white around our eyes and horses are very good at reading directional signals and body signals. So, if you're afraid, then the thing to do is to work with a trainer at the same time as you work with your horse. This way, he can observe both of you, how you interact with her, and offer suggestions as to how to be the leader by suggesting what not to do that you're doing and also what you should do.

It's important that you set certain ground rules with the horse, and you'll learn how to do that by working with a trainer. This will be a fix over time because both you and your horse will learn new, proper habits. I agree that treating indiscriminately can increase the tendency to be aggressive, so don't treat your horse until you learn how to manage inter-species relations with more comfort.

If you ultimately feel that you can't manage this horse, don't be afraid to send this horse on to the next owner. There are all kinds of horses and all kinds of owners, and you're risking a lot with this mare. If you decide to sell this horse and get another more suited to you, make sure to give full disclosure about her tendency to push. However, before you decide to go that route, it's my opinion that this mare is just bossy, you're timid, and voila! — this common scenario is born.

So, try the trainer first. If you can learn how to be your horse's leader, I think this will all work out. But it will require that you shed at least some of your timidity for this to work. In fact, unless you can, you may have a problem with most horses.


January 29, 2013 – I think it is cruel for riders to ride bucking horses in the rodeo. Why are they allowed to do this to the animals?

Well, I don't know what rodeos you're referring to, but the American ones that I've seen involve the use of horses that are trained, and in most cases, even bred for the job. The horses themselves know what the job is, and they like it. They're not frightened and wild creatures, rather, they're star performers in their own right. Some are actually able to be ridden outside of the rodeo and the horses know the difference between those times and performing.

In addition, the cowboys that compete on the circuit with them get to know and care about them. And their caretakers and owners take very good care of them. If you think about it, it's in the owner's best interest to do that because they make money on them. If the horses were not kept in good shape, they couldn't perform.

So, as befits the athletes that they are, the mental image you might want to consider is that of an NFL star quarterback pulling up to the curb in a limo with cameras flashing and lackeys catering to these horses every whim. Also, these horses are usually heavier and stronger than the saddle breeds that you might be more familiar with. Top rodeo horses used for breeding stock typically are very gentle on the ground. As I said, these horses know their job and are different from a horse that might buck with a rider in civilian life, so to speak. These horses buck with determination and stick-to-itiveness, and there are definite breeding strains that do this better than others, which suggests a genetic component.

Therefore, I don't think this is a cruelty issue as much as you might think so.


January 28, 2013 – Can dogs and horses really be friends?

I think so. Both are certainly smart enough for that. And although not likely in the wild due to predation being the rule there, in a domestic situation where man sets the rules and assures that they get enough to eat, horses and dogs can co exist and get to know each other in a "non-eat or be eaten" capacity. Both are playful, and once a good session of play occurs, then the dog or the horse are likely to remember and think about repeating the fun since I think they mostly get bored in our company.


January 25, 2013 – Thanks in advance for the info on Ruffian. And who is Tesio?

Yes, I broke up your questions into separate posts, yesterday and today.

As for Alberto Tesio, he was the breeder of Northern Dancer who was the greatest sire ever of Thoroughbreds ever. Tesio wrote a book on his theories, which were somewhat advanced at the time. I actually have that book, and try as I might (and even allowing for the difficulties of translating Italian to English), it's hard to follow. On the other hand, it's hard to argue with his success as a trainer (if not a writer).


January 24, 2013 – Who was Ruffian? I know she was a racehorse but why is she famous?

Ah, how time flies. Ruffian was a dark bay or brown thoroughbred filly born in April 1972 at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. She was owned by the Janney family, out of the mare Shenanigans by the stallion "Reviewer". She was the superhorse filly of that era, winning ten races (for fillies), and setting two speed records at Belmont Park. She also set seven stake records and tied the all time record for the Coaching Club American Oaks race. She easily outclassed all other fillies racing at the time, and given her blinding speed, was favored to win in a match race against the best colt of that class, the Kentucky Derby winner "Foolish Pleasure".

She was favored because her best time over a distance (3/4 mile) was faster than the colt's best time over that distance. Still, during that era, it was uncommon for the fillies to race against the colts. Also during her two year old season, the same year that Foolish Pleasure had won the Kentucky Derby, she had punctuated her season with a hairline fracture in her right hind pastern. She was given stall rest and the injury mended over time. She went on win several more races in daunting fashion leading up to the match race with Foolish Pleasure.

It's a testament to her quality, presence, and personality that, when given the choice of riding Foolish Pleasure vs. Ruffian, the leading jockey, Jacinto Vasquez, chose her rather than his Derby ride (Foolish Pleasure). The match race that day, on July 6, 1975 at Belmont Park, lives on in memory because of the tragedy that struck. Ruffian was winning the race at three eighths of a mile when her right leg shattered. It was a mad scene, the match race was televised, and given the era of Billie Jean King and women's rights, it was watched by one of the largest audiences ever, including by myself. That is likely why you've now heard of this great filly.

As a postscript, the owners and the trainer, Frank Whiteley, made every effort to save this great horse, but in waking up after the operation, her thrashing in the post operative recovery so injured her that she had to be euthanized. It was a heartbreaking occasion, foreshadowing the Barbaro and Eight Belles tragedies by many years. At any rate, she was buried at Belmont Park at the foot of the flagpole a few feet from the finish line.

So now, if you ever watch racing at Belmont again, you'll be watching a little bit of history as you see who wins the race for a great question and the stroll down Memory Lane!


January 23, 2013 – Is riding in snow dangerous?

Well, possibly. Because snow covers the ground, it can obscure many dangers, such as holes in the ground, fence wire, nails, and other obstructions that your horse might step into or on that injure him. Also, snow can build up in an icy ball if a horse is wearing shoes. That ball can cause him to slip or fall. It can also put large and somewhat dangerous stresses on his legs and hooves.

But absent those two issues, riding in snow is not dangerous and can be lots of fun. You just have to be careful and observant is all, just like a horse would be.


January 22, 2013 – I just moved my mare to a new boarding facility and she spent 2 days in a stall. Then a week in a paddock where she could only touch the other horses over the fence. Now she's been with the herd for 2 weeks and is doing well except one thing. She'll charge the other horses ears pined but won't bite. She just shakes her head at the other horses. Why those she shake her head at the other horses?

Well, since she doesn't have opposable thumbs to make a fist, she does the best she can with what she has at hand, and that is shaking her head. Think of her standing there shaking her fist at the other horses, daring them to start something with her. If you need more, you can supply the appropriate human words to her thought bubble. Regardless, the horses get the message loud and clear, and they don't need the references I supply above. For the moment, your horse wants the other horses to leave her alone and is communicating that to them very effectively. Give her some time to get comfortable and this bahavior may fade away. She may even bond with one of them. If not, at least it's her choice.


January 21, 2013 – My mare seems to tolerate women better than men. She does fine with her male farrier but seems to like her female vet a bit more. My mare has never shown aggression to men and I did buy her from a nice gentlemen. Can horses sense when people are bad?

Well, I've certainly have heard tell of such things.

I think horses react to signals that people send unwittingly. Now, and this is just a theory, mind you, a "bad" person by definition would be someone who does not care what happens to those around him or her, and who has ill intent, possibly towards those obstacles in their way (including the living things). I am sure that a horse can "read" such signals very clearly. It has to do with observation of eye movement and body posture and a lot of other subtle signals. Just like zebras can tell if a lion is hungry or just coming to get a drink of water, so can a horse figure out if the human headed their way has something bad cooking inside.

Now, the man/woman thing is different. Horses are also not that smart, and if treated in a way that they view as badly by one man, might generalize to all men. Since men are stronger on average and have the ability to be rougher, and often, are in the farrier and vet trades where a horse might receive some treatment that THEY perceive as unwarranted roughness, that can create a reaction of protest from a horse. That protest in turn elevates the drama and emotion in that a human might then react to using some methods, such as twitching. Twitching is a loop on the end of the stick wrapped around a horse's upper lip, leading to a momentary paralysis of movement (a useful tactic if you absolutely must have a motionless horse for a few minutes without using drugs). Or a man might resort to ear grabbing (another favorite motion inhibiter), or roping and tying down, or hobbling and other less pleasant coercive techniques. You can well see that a horse might fear or at least significantly dislike such treatment, and consequently, interact with some humans that he/she associates with inflicting such treatment feelings with other than a happy or positive attitude.

Horses might not be as smart as humans or other primates, but they're NOT stupid either. They have instincts that have helped them to survive through many millennia and they've learned to stay away from anyone they fear could inflict that treatment on them again. Let's face it, if someone comes up to you and slaps your face, especially several times over a space of time, you'll likely be wary of and try to avoid anyone like them whenever you see them approach. Horses and other animals are no different.


January 18, 2013 – This is the fourth and final installment which began with Tuesday's (Jan. 15, 2013) post inquiring about "saddle fit".

A few more things need to be said about fitting saddles and the parts that will affect your horse. The saddle will be fixed to your horse through the action of a rigging that is placed over the saddle tree and culminates in a ring holding straps that extend from the front and back of the saddle. The girth is attached to this ring on both sides of the horse and tightened.

This ring can be placed in such a way that it is closer to the front part of the saddle, or the middle, just by lengthening the back strap or shortening it (or the front strap, as they say, it's six of one, half dozen of another). Or there can be two rings, one in front and one in back. So, when the girth is tightened, there will be different pressure points on the saddle tree pressing down on the horse's back depending on how the rigging is set up.

Also, depending on the use of the saddle, say, if roping is being done so that the horn will be yanked, the impact will travel through the rope, to the horn, to the saddle tree. In medieval times, a knight would use a lance and the shock of the impact would travel from the lance to the rider to the saddle tree. Similarly, if you look at the saddles of the conquistadores, some of the saddles even had a back rest that rose up to cradle the hips of the rider, just to brace for this impact.

Obviously, these pushing or pulling impact forces affect a horse, too! A smaller and less noticeable similarity to this effect is in play, depending on how high the back of the saddle is, and the angle of the cantle. A steep cantle will cause the rider's buttocks to hit the back of the saddle, causing some wear on the horse as it travels downwards. If your horse is very sore on the back part of his back, this may be what is happening.

The other factor affecting fit will be the placement of stirrups. Usually, stirrups are fastened to the front part of the bars via a groove or slot on the top of the front part of the bars. The weight of a rider in the stirrups pulling down on this part of the bar may have a greater effect on a horse's back by a saddle bar that's improperly angled for that back.

Now that I've thoroughly frightened you with all this, let me also say that, unless your horse is an actual freak of nature, if you think about your horse's basic structure and apply some of these thoughts above in consultation with your saddler, you should be able to find something that works fine. Saddles were made to fit most horses or they wouldn't still be used. And having successfully fitted an entire polo string of many different horses over the years with many different saddles and having very little time out for saddle wear issues, I can attest that saddles work great and that there is some room for error. Of course, getting the help of a saddle professional to assure you've got the right saddle for your horse in the first place is the best way to ride without causing your horse pain and risk of skeletal damage.


January 17, 2013 – This is Part 3 which began with Tuesday's (Jan. 15, 2013) post inquiring about "saddle fit".

Let's continue looking how the parts of the saddle fit (or not) the horse's back:

As we just touched upon, a third factor to look at is the height of the fork versus your horse. A high withered horse with a short fork will almost certainly cause the gullet to rest directly on top of his withers. This is the fastest way to get a wither gall that I know of. A wither gall can be an actual bone bruise if it's not observed and eliminated quickly. Obviously, this is VERY detrimental to your horse's health — DON'T let it happen!

Also, a gullet that is too wide can cause almost the same effect. We've already talked about the steep angled bars irritating a round horse behind the ribs, but a too wide gullet can also have the effect of placing a lot of weight on either side of the horse's withers. This will cause a sore spot right on either or both sides of the withers. You may have seen that too at some point.

So, the mechanics of fitting a saddle are to first start with taking a good look at your horse. Second, ask a lot of questions about the way the particular saddle is made. Third, then do some of testing without a blanket to see where the wear marks are on your horse's back. If you notice a rub spot that shows a lot of friction on one part of your horse, that is an indication that the saddle doesn't fit your horse properly at this time. I say "at this time" because a saddle may fit properly sometimes, but not at all times. That's because weight swings will change a horse's shape and a horse that's put on or lost a significant amount of weight will change shape enough that the saddle no longer properly fits. You just have to keep an eye on it and invest in some good, padded, saddle blankets. They can save some of the wear and tear, although not all of it, of course. The saddle has to be close to fitting for a blanket to work.


January 16, 2013 – This is Part 2 which began with yesterday's post inquiring about "saddle fit".

So, the parts of a saddletree that fit the horse are: the width of the gullet, the height of the fork, and the bars, including their length and angle.

Some maintain that, because a longer bar will distribute the weight over a wider area, that this will be more comfortable for the horse. I think that this statement will only be true if you're riding a long-backed horse. If you look at the skeleton of a horse, you'll see that there is a point on the back where the ribs end, but before the hip bone begins. This area is a bit sensitive on a horse that does not have the benefit of muscle tone developed and maintained with lots of current riding. If you have a short-backed horse with little muscle tone, then a longer bar ending beyond the end of the ribs will actually load weight on a sensitive spot — OUCH! So, length of the bars vs. your horse is something to explore on each horse you're fitting with a saddle.

A second factor to keep in mind is the angle in which the bars are placed on the saddle. The bars need to correspond to the angle of your horse's back. Consider what a horse feels like to you when you're sitting on him bareback. On those horses with a very round barrel that allows you to sit not only on your own buttocks, but also on the upper part of your thighs, it can feel almost like a table top. This wider rounder back is very common among some types and breeds, such as drafts and well muscled Quarter Horses. But if you take a saddle with bars that are fitted at a steep angle to the tree as is necessary for use on horses with narrow-backs and high-withers and try to use it on a round-barreled horse (e.g. a Quarter Horse), it will cause all of your weight to lie on a narrow ridge along the top of the bars. This can cause a whole series of back problems depending on how narrow the gullet is. In such a case, the saddle will act like a pincher fork on either side of the horse's spine, all up and down the length of the saddle — remember, the tree moves — it's supposed to, by design. OUCH AGAIN! The reverse is also true. If you place a saddle with a shallow gullet designed for a round, low-withered horse onto a narrow high-withered horse, now much of the weight will be on top of the withers — VERY PAINFUL for the horse!

So as you can see, the shape and size of the tree plays a very important part as to how your weight is distributed on any particular horse. And you can also see how the saddle tree design MUST MATCH the kind of horse on which it is used if the horse is to be comfortable and not injured by the saddle and rider. More in the next post.


January 15, 2013 – I have spent a lot of time and money trying to get a properly fitted saddle for my horse, but I am not having any luck. What am I missing?

Well, I bet you know more now than you did when you started this venture, but it sounds as if you're still coming up short. While I obviously can't be on hand to fit your horse, I can offer some thoughts that might be useful in your quest. This is advice that will pertain to either Western or English saddles. I'm going to talk a bit about general saddle principles and hope that it helps you to get a better understanding, and in turn, helps you resolve your problem..

Since we're talking about saddles and fit, then we're also talking about the saddle tree because that's what actually is in contact with your horse's back. I bet you've been blinded by science on this one. How many trees have been talked up as being the best ones around? Lots, I bet! The high tech stuff aside, let's talk about the basics of saddle trees.

The saddle tree got its name because it's a combination of a wooden frame fastened together with rawhide that was then shrunk to fit the frame tightly. The virtue of this was that the tree, though stable and firm, still had flexibility to move slightly with the horse. So, if the component parts of the wood were fit to match the back and withers of the horse, a traditional saddle tree was in fact quite comfortable for the horse.

So what parts have to fit? A saddle tree has the following aspects fitting the horse:

  1. A fork;
  2. The gullet (the underside of fork);
  3. The bars (the long part that rests on either side of the horse's back); and
  4. The cantle.
The fork and the cantle are fastened to the bars in such a way that the bars are angled. The angle and the length of the bars is what determines the fit on the horse. Also, the width of the gullet and the height of the fork are critical.

I'll expound on this further in tomorrow's post — stay tuned.


January 14, 2013 – What does a clash of aids mean when it comes to horseback riding?

Great question! A clash of aids occurs when the rider gives the horse more than one signal, but those signals conflict. Or at minimum, the horse interprets them as mutually exclusive or as opposing signals as he understands them. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

A rider, even a beginner, will readily understand that kicking or putting pressure on a horse's sides will signal the horse to go faster. And horses will naturally speed up if they feel pressure on their flanks because long evolution has taught them to run from a lion's claws that tends to target that area. However, sometimes a newbie rider will panic and pull hard on the reins, and therefore, on the horse's mouth to make the horse stop while at the time GRIPPING the horse's sides with their legs (telling the horse to go forward). The rider is scared and trying to hold on with all of his/her limbs.

Well to the horse, the signal of pulling back on the reins is something the horse understands as "STOP". But the leg-vise grip on the sides means "GO". As you might imagine, it's not unusual for a touchy horse to get a bit irritated at this because he doesn't know what to do to stop the simultaneous mouth-pulling and side-kicking. This is why new riders need to learn on school masters, that is, horses that understand and will put up with such silliness instead of just dumping the new rider to the ground.

The foregoing goes into a bit of how well riders and horses need to work together naturally, and how it's the responsibility of the RIDER to manage their signals and send them clearly and appropriately — the horse already knows what they all mean and how to implement them.


January 11, 2013 – I have a 16.2 h 10 year old Tennessee Walking Horse gelding. I am only 5'3" and about 4 times smaller than his 1000 pound self, but he is obedient to a fault with me. He is my soul mate. But he has a horrendous quirk. He won't tolerate any other person, especially men, handling him.

My mom and two sisters are not his biggest fans. He is not aggressive towards them, but is not polite and agreeable either. He makes it known. They are to the point that they hate to handle him because he gets an 'attitude'.

It's not only them, it's also friends and others. I don't know what to do about it. People are leery of him for this reason. Is this a bad vice, and if so, what needs to be done for it. And is the problem on my end or it this just how he is?

Here's something you need to ask yourself and think about to determine how you can proceed: when the third party, you, and your horse are together, does your horse accept your corrections of his attitude? Or does he only display this attitude only when you're not around?

If he only does this when you're not around, then this is a serious vice and you should be thinking about selling him on to a new owner because this is a lawsuit waiting to happen. You see, you obviously can't control or train him to correct his behavior when you're not around. You can try sending him to a trainer for an attitudinal correction, but I wouldn't hold my breath. This is because your horse has correctly surmised that, whatever anyone else tells him, he can push your relatives around. Any training he gets from a third party will not "take" over time because he remembers how easy it was to do what he wanted with your family or others when you weren't present. Think of an errant toddler's defiance and think of that as being your horse for the moment.

The reason this is a lrgal problem for you is that, now that you know your horse has a history of this behavior, you're "on notice" as we say in the law. Therefore, any future problem could result in liability to you. So now, if someone gets hurt, you are liable because you knew of the problem, and you did not take (obviously, in hindsight) reasonable methods to deal with it.

Conversely, if he will act up and can be corrected with you present, then you can work with your relatives until they learn how to deal with him so he becomes obedient and friendly. By doing so, they and he will learn all they need to know about cooperation. But don't trust them or him to be alone together until you're completely comfortable with BOTH sets of attitudes on BOTH sides from YOUR observation.

Good luck!


January 10, 2013 – How short is too short for stirrups? Or, how long is too long? I am having an argument with my husband on this one.

Well, you're to be commended for having a spousal argument on this, it means that both of you have the right thing in mind, which is, HORSES! Stirrup length depends on what discipline you're riding to some extent. English leathers can stand to be a bit shorter because there's less leather and more swing to the stirrups. This is helpful for jumping, say.

Western riders ride with a longer leg and more grip. In all cases, you want the stirrup not to be so short that you can't balance yourself well, keeping in mind that the shorter the angle between knee, ankle, and hip (think of a triangle), the harder and more strength it takes to balance. This is why jockeys, pound for pound, are among the strongest of all human athletes. But at the same time, if a stirrup is too long (think of bike pedals that are set so you cannot reach the ground with your feet), you'll not be able to adequately balance because you can't reach the stirrup if it falls off your foot.

In all cases, the length is more or less dependent on your individual make up, but essentially, you want your knee to be slightly bent, and the stirrup to be placed on the ball of your foot. A bit shorter can help some riders, and a bit longer is more comfortable for others. Work with a trainer on this one for the fine tuning.


January 9, 2013 – When my horse shies away from something, should I get off and let him look at it? This seems like the right thing to do but also dangerous.

Well, I can see what you mean. This is a good question and there is a split of opinion about it. Some advocate that the horse should be thoroughly desensitized before moving on. Others say you'll only confirm a bad habit. There is merit in both positions, but I think it more depends on your ability to manage the horse and his attention and the surrounding circumstances at the time. This means:

  1. The timing of the matter, such as, how much time do you have to devote to the issue at that moment?
  2. Where are you? I mean literally, where are you and is it a safe place to let your horse investigate? and
  3. Are there others with you that will be kept waiting if you deal with the issue right now?
If on the side of a trail with other riders and lots of trees, it's NOT the time to school a horse with single-minded devotion. You could injure yourself or put the other riders in jeopardy. At minimum, you'll inconsiderately keep them waiting.

I DO advocate desensitizing a horse in a round pen when you have lots of time to devote to the project. Otherwise, I recommend that you take the horse's attention and devote it to some action you wish to accomplish at this time, whether speeding up, slowing down, moving sideways, whatever. Your insistence that he obey you will do two things. First, it tells him that the object is not to be feared; and second, it affirms that you're in control.

So, move on, keep working, and the next time he sees something scary, he'll remember that you had no fear — you fearless leader you!


January 8, 2013 – I have a horse that has to be "the Leader" on the trail ride. If he isn't, he acts up. But once he gets back in front he is okay. How can I go about correcting this? Please advice and thank you!

Actually, this is a common problem. In fact, it's why horses race, and why some horses really excel at this — it's horse competitive spirit in action.

Nevertheless, your horse needs obedience training so that YOU can control his speed. I think it will depend on terrain and who is with you. So, until you have this corrected, I would only trail ride with schooling partners (others with which you can trade places to put you and your horse in back to train him to stop this behavior). And only go in areas where there's open enough ground space to do circle work repeatedly when needed. In other words, whenever he starts with his attitude, put him into a circle of varying diameters for several loops around. Reward good attention with stopping work. Also have your training partner stop and wait for you both while you sort it out, then continue. Rinse, repeat. After a while, he'll figure out that following your commands about what speed to go means less work for him.


January 3, 2013 – What's a good and cheap joint supplement with MSM?

It's interesting the way you asked this question: "good and cheap". MSM (Methylsulfonyl-Methane) is a joint supplement believed to have anti-inflammatory properties for treating inflamed joints. Notice that I said "believed". That's because the product appears to be safe for horses, but its efficacy is not reliably proven with all horses — it seems to work well for some and doesn't do much for others. So unfortunately, a recommendation is beyond my scope and you need to do what I would do in your shoes, which is:

  1. Go to the store and check what is available;
  2. Examine each product's instructions and product label information;
  3. Make comparisons of each product's contents. Also, compare prices on similar products to get as much bang for the buck as you can; and then
  4. Buy the biggest container you can find for that price.

Though, I will admit that this approach, although systematic, certainly hasn't allowed me to say with conviction that any one product is BOTH cheaper and better than any other. Your veterinarian may have more information with which to make a recommendation, so you should also check with him/her. If your vet says that all the products are pretty much the same or you try several and tend to get the same results with each product, then I would shop with quantity/price points in mind.


January 2, 2013 – How much water does a horse need per day?

A lot! Horses are bulky and need water to digest; also, they sweat to regulate temperature just like us. Therefore, in hot weather, they can drink up to eighteen gallons a day and usually not much less in cold weather where they need to drink lots of water to digest the hay that keeps them warm.

So, having lots of good water available for their horses is a top priority to all horsemen.


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