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"Horse Girl" Archive Jul - Oct 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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October 31, 2013 – I have been trying to enforce a stable lien on a boarder and now I learn that the horse is about to be sold. Can I prevent the horse from leaving the property until I get my money for back for past boarding costs, even if the horse is sold? Or can the lien apply to the new owner so I get reimbursed for my feed and care that has never been paid?

As usual, the answer to your particular situation will depend on the laws in your state on this issue. However, I can say that once a stable lien attaches to the body of the horse, then the stable can generally assert that lien against anyone who owns the horse until it is satisfied. That can also mean a new owner. This is no different than, say, buying a business or property where the new owner assumes the liabilities as well as taking possession of the assets.

The only thing that defeats the lien is the horse leaving the property. So camp out in front of that stall door, will you? This is where midnight raids with a horse trailer come in. The owner, or his delegate, might visit your barn in the middle of the night with a horse trailer to collect the horse, something you don't want to be involved in!


October 30, 2013 – This post is a continuation of yesterday's reader question.

Now, the care of a stallion is no joke. As prey animals, all horses have an aspect of unpredictability associated with them. But stallions are a separate category because their hormones play an even larger role in their behavior than a mare or gelding. Therefore, you're at additional risk of personal injury, greater liability of risk to others, and greater risk of property damage than with a mare or gelding. So, in addition to the notice of conversion from rough board to full board, you'll also need to give the stallion's owner notice that HE IS RESPONSIBLE for any additional costs of maintaining a stallion at your barn, up to and including the hiring of a handler and for any property costs you incur to fix fences, stall boards, and so forth caused by this stallion. Do this in the same way you gave notice to convert your boarding agreement from rough to full board. This notice should also include a provision that the boarder MUST INDEMNIFY you for any claims caused by the stallion's presence on your land, whether to people or to property.

Finally, you should consider going to court sooner rather than later, to get an order to have the presence of this animal removed from your property along with an order for costs associated with its removal. In some ways, an untrained or aggressive stallion is like a wild animal, and there's the real possibility that you could incur strict liability for the stallion's presence on your property should you encounter future problems and anyone gets hurt. In other words, this is not a situation you can let go for long.

Personally, I STRONGLY SUGGEST that you consider getting the services of an equine attorney practicing in your state. There' are multiple issues at work in your situation and an attorney familiar with the equine laws of your state will be the best able to help you cope with limiting your liabilities and getting this horse and boarder ultimately removed. Assuring that you handle all this in a properly legal way and don't leave anything important unaddressed is something such an attorney can help you achieve.

Good luck!


October 29, 2013 – One of my boarders rents a stall on a "rough board" basis and has been falling behind in his payments. He also has been taking my hay and grain, I think he thinks I don't notice. Also, sometimes I feed his horse because he will skip a day. What can I do about this? His horse is a stallion, a warmblood, and I don't want to kick him off the property because I am afraid to handle his horse. And, if I ban the owner from the property to exercise a stable lien, then I have to care for the animal. I don't think I can do this safely. HELP!

Well, this is quite a problem alright. I'll have to answer this question in two parts, not for you directly because I cannot speak to your state laws or your particular situation, which is what an equine attorney in your state would do. These are general comments.

The first general discussion has to do with the rough board to full board aspect. Generally speaking, a person who leases the space of a stall only is not covered by a stable lien. The stable lien only arises if you're responsible for providing care, such as in a "full board" situation. So, if your current arrangement is that you don't provide care, then you also don't have the ability to place a lien on the horse.

Now, this will differ according to state, so it's not a hard and fast rule, only a general rule (this is an excellent example of why I cannot give advice on your specific situation because of state law variability). If your state has the aforementioned provision in its laws, then in order to obtain a stable lien, you'd have to convert the rough board arrangement to one of providing care. I may say that, if your boarder is taking your grain and hay, AND you're feeding the horse yourself, then you ARE providing care. But to exercise a stable lien, you have to formalize the agreement with the boarder.

You can do that with a notice that you give him in hand, witnessed by a neutral third party that can later testify that you did, in fact, give this notice in hand to the boarder on the indicated day. The notice will state that the stallion owner's behavior of stealing food on some days, and then not coming and requiring you to feed the horse on other days to maintain his health converts the previous "rough board" agreement to a full board rate, and that the horse remaining on your property under these conditions means that the horse's owner accepts these conditions and will henceforth pay for full board. This will give rise to an ability to place a stable lien on the horse if and when you need it. If the owner doesn't want to pay the full rate and takes his horse to another barn, you're done with this issue and it becomes the problem of some other barn.

As this has been a long response, I'll address the second general discussion, namely, the care issues of a stallion, in tomorrow's post.


October 28, 2013 – Can you tell a horse's age from a DNA test on blood?

I don't believe so. I heard a lawyer try to say that recently in court, but I have to say that sounds like a bogus claim to me. You can tell a lot from blood, such as parentage and some indicators of the health and sex of the horse and more, but I've never heard of being able to judge the age of a horse from a DNA analysis of his blood. This is a good question to ask of your vet.


October 24, 2013 – I have a boarder who has abandoned a horse on my property. How can I manage this situation? I am afraid to sell the horse because he might come after me but also it has been three years since I saw a board payment. I have repeatedly emailed and called and I even sent a certified letter that came back unclaimed. I don't have the money to hire a lawyer. What can I do?

Well, the answer to this dilemma is being played out in courtrooms across the country as economic times tighten and the price of feed and hay goes up. Most states have a process that allows a stable to deal with the situation, and I would first try to use that process as best you can. Unfortunately, the process DOES REQUIRE that you to obtain legal advice from an attorney that is experienced in dealing with equine law issues. The short answer is that the issue of abandonment is a question of fact for a jury, so it's available as a defense in such situations. Whether or not you could claim it in your case is another story and it will depend on the facts of your particular situation. I'm sorry I can't be of more help.


October 23, 2013 – My barn manager lives in the apartment upstairs from my barn. I don't want her to work for me anymore and I also want her horse off the property. How do I do this? Can't I just let her go?

Well, I cannot give you legal advice that would pertain to your particular situation because I don't know what state you're in or what laws would apply to your situation. However, I can speak hypothetically about the general area and then urge you go get an opinion from an actual lawyer in your state.

Typically, employment relationships are governed by a different set of laws than housing relationships. Where an employer has combined the two relationships, BOTH sets of rules have to be followed. Legally speaking, this will likely not be simple. Therefore, this is really a situation that requires some expert advice.

Also, there's a boarding agreement that will have to be looked at from the perspective of the laws of your state, so this is now a third set of laws that will apply. Obviously, when I say the situation is complicated, I really mean it.

Get legal help quickly because this situation cannot wait!


October 22, 2013 – I have a cinchy horse. What kind of cinch can I get that will be better for her?

The problem is not the cinch, it's the horse. You need a trainer to help you work through this issue with your horse. There are many varieties of "cinchyness" and sometimes it's caused by an injury to the horse that you'll not be able to figure out on your own. In fact, you could even be in danger until you address the underlying cause, whether it's a health or a training issue. While some cinches are easier on a horse, and some riders cinch in a more congenial way to the animal, the fact is that cinches are designed for use on horses. Therefore, a cinchy horse is usually reacting to something beyond the particulars of the cinch involved.


October 21, 2013 – How do I control my horse when he runs? He does not want to stop when I tell him to and I get scared.

Contact a horse trainer. And DO NOT ride him until you get help. You're one bolt away from death or serious injury. The horse knows that he, and not you, is in charge, and this rarely ends well for the rider. Nothing I can say here will help — you, and your horse, need trainer specific intervention. Get it NOW!


October 18, 2013 – What is the market for a horse training business? I want to quit my job and train horses instead.

Well, I do know folks who make a living at it, but it seems to be a chicken or egg type of decision. That is, you won't know whether you're savvy and skilled enough to manage until you DO quit your job and try it full time. And you won't know whether you can make a living at it until you try. That being said, this is a life altering decision and the folks I know that do it would do it no matter what the pay is. The hours are long, the likelihood of injury is great, and the monetary rewards are small, even if you do work all the time at it.

Also, the discipline you're training for may have more or less folks who need that kind of training in your area. I can't speak to the market issues because it's location and discipline specific. If I were you, I'd first apprentice to someone (a similar trainer) for a while, get a look at their business model and see if you can handle that. Then, I feel that you shouldn't quit your job until you have some better idea, through the apprenticeship process, of what is what in your area as to the available market for training services of the discipline in which you train.


October 17, 2013 – I hired a horse transportation company to bring my horse to Tennessee when I moved here last month. Somewhere on the way my horse fell down and broke a rib. Can I sue the horse transportation company for the vet services that I had to spend?

A great question! But unfortunately, this being a legal question, I can't answer it with any specific advice you can use since I don't know all the facts, nor am I licensed to practice law in Tennessee. Therefore, for an answer to your personal question, you'll have to go to a lawyer in your jurisdiction that handles equine law.

However, I can say generally that, in my experience, commercial horse transporters usually make customers sign waivers of liability. I have no idea whether this was done in your case, or if it was, whether or not it's a good waiver that would stand up in court or whether there are any other statutes or regulations in your state that might apply to your particular situation. That's why you need to get an equine attorney from your state to address this soon.

I hope your horse heals quickly!


October 16, 2013 – A mare was recently added to my barn's herd. She is the only mare in the herd and isn't in heat. All the geldings were fighting over her except my 9yr old Gelding and my instructor's 2 geldings. My question is, why didn't my gelding show any interest in the mare?

This is a good question! The short answer is that it may have nothing at all to do with the gelding's distant memory of more hormonal times, or the relative attractiveness of the mare's pheromone stew to him. It could instead devolve to the fact that horses are individuals, and sometimes, they simply dislike each other for personal reasons, or are just not interested in the other. I'm sure you've met people for whom you feel much the same (or in this case, feel not much for them at all).


October 15, 2013 – How do I know if my pony is having her period?

Mares show their being "in season" differently according to the individual, but I have seen the following behaviors evidenced:

  • They will urinate frequently;
  • They may "wink" the physical structure of their vaginal walls so that the pink inner lining shows like a lighthouse signal (a real crowd stopper);
  • They may whinny and push their back end up against the fence or against other horses in an unmistakable sign that they wish more attention to be given to them;
  • They may bite;
  • They may act in an absent minded fashion; and
  • They may give off an air of "don't touch me or I'm going to hurt you".

There are more behavioral things I could relate, but I think you get the picture. Their behavior may be obvious, or it may be unusual because of the mare's individuality, but you can usually tell that something is different. And if there are geldings around, you may notice that some of them become protective or possessive and don't want to allow other males nearby. You'd think that geldings wouldn't care at all, but some do and it may have to do with when in their own development they were gelded.


October 14, 2013 – My horse stomps whenever she is in my trailer. Why does she do this?

Just hazarding a guess here, but it's likely related to one of several issues. Here are some to investigate:

  • First, there may be flies bugging her in the trailer and she may be stomping to get them off so they'll stop biting;
  • Second, she may understand that a horse trailer means she's about to go somewhere and she, having submitted to being loaded onto this contraption, is now telling you in unmistakable terms that she wants to get this show on the road; or
  • Lastly, she could enjoy the clang and shiver of metal, steel and rubber that comes about when she stomps.
I have seen horses on trailers stomp for all three of these reasons, so you'll have to be the judge of this of whether your horse stomps for one of these reasons or some other.


October 11, 2013 – Why do horses keep testing their rider? It is getting to be a real pain every time I ride.

They test because they're biologically compelled to find a strong leader so that they can be safe in a herd social setting where they won't be eaten by every predator in the area. In that setting, a strong leader keeps them safer because he/she moves the herd to safer locations when necessary, and promotes the collective herd to be ever vigilant and to quickly and constantly sort this stuff out. So yes, all horses will test.

Now, a better question is: how come you've not yet mastered the "I told you so and I'm still the leader" routine? Not doing so means you're likely missing the precursors to equine rebellion. Horses constantly communicate their internal state of mind, and if you miss the first three steps of the testing, well then you'll meet up with the later stages which can be quite interesting.

I think you need to work with a horse trainer so you can start to see the early stages of rebellion and testing, and to learn new techniques for dealing with them. These techniques DO NOT involve cruelty or beating the horse. That approach tends to backfire on the rider without teaching much of anything. There is a whole new world of horse language out there for you to learn. If you can master it, you'll be much closer with your horse and much safer too.

Good luck!


October 10, 2013 – Can you put horses on land that has agricultural preservation restrictions?

Yes, usually. Now, each restriction committee or state program has more or less different restrictions. I've also sometimes seen other restrictions, such as limiting or prohibiting some commercial operations. But by and large, horses are deemed to be an agricultural use.


October 9, 2013 – How does an alpha herd horse do with people?

The two issues are not related. Horses differentiate people from other horses. Now, it is true that an alpha horse may be more inclined to want to have their own way with people (as well as with other horses), but that may or may not translate into a more difficult horse.

I've also seen it work the other way too, which is, a scared low-level horse acts out more with people because they desperately need to feel safe and feel best with a strong leader, whether that be a person or an alpha horse. Conversely, an alpha can be pretty unimpressed and unflappable with most things, even with people around. So, don't assume that an alpha horse will be hard to work with — they can be just as nice and easy as any other good horse.


October 8, 2013 – Is Robert E. Lee's horse buried with him?

Someone just asked me this recently because that is the legend. The actual answer is, yes, and no. General Robert E. Lee died in 1870, and his horse, Traveller, followed the funeral procession with the General's boots reversed in the stirrups (this is an old military tradition indicating that the soldier will never ride again). Unfortunately, Traveller did not long outlive his master and died of tetanus the following year.

Traveller was originally buried on the grounds at Washington and Lee University, but not for long. He was later disinterred and his skeleton displayed, but then his remains were re-buried in 1971 in the Lee Family crypt. He was there in spirit always, is my view.


October 7, 2013 – My horse keeps overpowering me when I bring him his food. What should I do?

Well, since you feed him, I have to ask how it is that you've somehow engineered it so that HE CAN run you over in the food rush. Manners are one thing, but since you're the one putting the food in the bucket, make it so that he can't put his snout in the food until you're out of there. Believe it or not, you can train a horse to stand like a dog at attention for his food. However, given the fact that you and your horse need some ground manners training under a less stressful environment than the food thing first, I would start with small, baby steps. You need to work on ground manners with the help of a trainer. Your horse is already out of your control when you feed him and waiting is just taking lots more risk on your part. You need to enlist the help of a horse trainer, at least so that he/she can train you how to take control safely and how to train your horse to wait to eat until you give permission.

Be VERY CAREFUL! A horse that pushes his weight around with people doesn't respect people and can be VERY, VERY DANGEROUS! Get training help from a horse trainer to resolve this problem. This is a problem that will go away if you manage it correctly.


October 4, 2013 – Is it ok to train a horse when it is windy?

It depends on the situation, the horse and the trainer. Horses have a hard time concentrating on the trainer when it's windy. The leaves and the grass and the paper and the tree limbs all move around which could indicate a lurking predator to the horse's mind. So, he'll be fidgety, apprehensive and will find it hard to listen. However, there are also good reasons why you might want to put the horse into that situation and let him know that you, the trainer, will keep him safe if only he'll listen to you. It can calm a horse to know that wind is not as scary as he thinks it is. In time, a good horse can go into a gale, which as a trainer, is where you want a horse to be able to be in terms of trusting you.


October 3, 2013 – I have a very quiet young horse already broke to lead and tie and to have her feet handled, and I am very interested in training her further up to riding. I figure we can learn together. What should I work on first?

You can probably handle general ground work such as feeding, brushing, picking out feet, leading, and so forth safely, since she is already trained in this. However, because you don't already know how to train a horse, I WOULD NOT attempt anything further if I were you. Let me say this another way: the horse will look to you to see if you know what you're doing. Please don't take this wrong, but you definitely don't know how to proceed safely or you wouldn't be expecting to learn this process together with your horse — your horse will pick this up immediately — I kid you not!

If good natured, your horse may not immediately move to terminate your existence, but sooner or later your interests and hers will diverge and then she'll act according to what SHE thinks is best. At that point, you'll be in danger and no amount of seeking advice in an online format will help you because a horse's decision making process is instant and irrevocable.

Therefore, get this horse to a trainer with experience. Of course, if you want to hang around during the lessons and get the trainer to explain him or herself to you so you can learn, that will not be wasted time. But you can't safely learn this on your own with your horse; you need to learn it from an experienced trainer. Otherwise, your very safety and that of others around will truly be in jeopardy. A young horse that hasn't learned true respect for humans is a real danger to them. Please don't conclude that I'm exaggerating about the danger — I definitely am not!


October 2, 2013 – Is it better to feed a full meal of grain before or after a light workout? I usually feed my gelding a 9yr old gelding before I ride but this seems to give him gas and cause him to kick at his stomach as if agitated. I'm still green to horse ownership.

I would wait to feed after the workout. Even then, you want to make sure that he has cooled down by the time of feeding. If he is warm or sweaty at all, walk him until he is cool. This has much polo experience behind it!


October 1, 2013 – Does Queen Elizabeth have a horse guard? It seems like she would with some history behind it. I tried to look this up on Wikipedia but it was too confusing.

Yes, I checked out the Wiki entries myself and they were a bit confusing. For readers unfamiliar with this term, a mounted guard is a regiment of the army using horses. The riders are soldiers trained in fighting or law enforcement using horses for transportaion. These days, much of the guards' work is actually more ceremonial.

In the case of the Queen of England, she has lots of mounted guards, for both historical reasons and personal preference, the Queen having quite the equestrienne background herself. But historically speaking, two very famous guards are the Queen's Life Guards. One of those guards are mounted troops that are part of the Household Guard dating back to the Restoration and King Charles the Second.

The Blues, the other famous mounted Guard, originated from one of Cromwell's regiments of heavy horse, which were incorporated into the army also by Charles the Second. They became part of the Household Guard after recognition of their valor at Waterloo, which as you may remember, defeated Napoleon. You can count on the British to do this ceremonial thing very well, and these Guards rank right up there!


September 30, 2013 – I want to let a trainer rough board on my land. But, I am worried however that I could be letting myself in for liability with the horses. Will I be covered under my umbrella homeowners insurance?

Unfortunately, these are valid fears and a real worry. The short answer is that you WILL be letting yourself in for liability and you likely ARE NOT covered under your homeowner's policy. Most homeowner policies have an exclusion for livestock or horses and also for commercial ventures — few such policies insure a business on your property. So, if you're getting paid, then that IS a commercial venture. Therefore, while I don't know the specifics of your business, state law, your insurance policy, etc., this is all something that you should discuss with an equine attorney practicing in your state.

Also, you should get an agreement with the trainer in writing regarding the rough board situation where THE TRAINER assumes ALL liability related to his/her training activities and indemnifies you for any claims or actions arising from the use of your land for their training. This waiver should be drafted by an equine attorney, NOT a regular lawyer, because there will be legal issues and cases specific to horse law in your state that most regular attorneys won't know about, but that an equine attorney will.

So, you've asked a good question! I've given you enough information to proceed further into protecting yourself — procure the services of a competent equine attorney in your state.


September 27, 2013 – I think I would do better if I did not pay full board for my horse. If I rough boarded and managed my own feed situation, I am sure I could save a bundle. What is your take on that?

You might save money, but unless you live next door to the property where the horse is, you'll not be able to see how your horse is managing on a frequent enough basis to have this be a viable option. Rough board is NOT license to reduce feeding, which, unless you live on or near the property, is what inevitably happens. And if it does, YOU WILL BE LIABLE and/or CRIMINALLY CULPABLE for neglect of your horse.

So for me, I don't feel that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Therefore, I will continue pay full board happily. I might switch barns on occasion, but I don't want to worry to worry about the health of my horses.


September 26, 2013 – Are synthetic saddles any good? I ordered one on the word of my instructor. Are Synthetic saddles made from plastic and some leather?

A synthetic saddle by definition is a "plastic" saddle, that is, a substance not otherwise found in nature — that's why it's called "synthetic". They're usually inexpensive and these saddles have some very good qualities in terms of durability and the ability to become wet without harm. As a result, they don't require anywhere near as much maintenance as a leather saddle. Heavy rain won't harm them and you can actually just hose one off after a ride that has caused it to become covered in mud. Synthetic tack, in general, is highly favored by endurance riders for these reasons and those of sturdiness. All that said, I don't think that these saddles are as pliable and stretchable, nor do they have the same feel as a leather saddle. So, you'll just have to see if it works for your particular riding.

Write back and let us know your opinion of the saddle after you've had a chance to use it for a while. I'm sure that other readers considering such saddles would love to hear what you have to say.


September 25, 2013 – What kinds of horses were used with the Pony Express? I imagine mustangs of course?

Yes, some of the horses used were Mustangs, but also thoroughbreds and Morgan horses which were then in very high regard for military uses. About 400 to 500 horses were used in total. They had to not only be fast, but hardy and with great stamina and these breeds certainly fit that bill.

Believe it or not, the Pony Express only lasted for a year and a half from April 3, 1860 to October 1861. It used horses in ten mile increments from St. Joseph Missouri to Sacramento California. This permitted the delivery of mail within ten days, which was unheard of at the time. The Pony Express ended because the telegraph came into being and was able to send messages almost instantly.


September 24, 2013 – I am very concerned about my four-year-old Arabian mare. I have had her since she was a yearling and have worked with her nearly every day. We spent a lot of time doing foundation work and she's been an absolute dream.

She's calm, not spooky, and very bright. She learns quickly and eagerly. I did note, however, that she was rather clumsy and tripped quite a bit. Earlier this year when I was riding her in an indoor arena, we were loping and she tripped and fell down, injuring my leg when she fell on it. I backed off of her training thinking she was young and this was a balance issue, but when she fell with me again recently (straight down on her nose, shoulder and knees), I had the vet do a complete neurological exam on her, blood tests, a physical, and a thorough observation of her movements. $400.00 later, no medical issues were found.

I called a chiropractor who couldn't find anything to speak of. I changed my farrier, put shoes on her front feet thinking perhaps her feet were sore. I have used different saddles, ensuring a good fit, both western and English, and I use only a snaffle bit with a fairly loose rein. No other aids like martingales. I urge her on to keep her from being lazy, but she still stumbles frequently. I am not loping with her anymore, but do go on trail rides without incident. However, I'm always worried she's going to go down again.

Could she be suffering from a mineral deficiency? I'm completely out of ideas. By the way, she's very small, only 14hh. I'm 5' 3", 125 lbs. None of her siblings have this problem.

I'm sorry you're having this problem. I do have some thoughts, but could not confirm much without seeing your horse for myself. As a result, I'll instead just describe some similar problems that I've seen over a lifetime of horses.

First, this does sound like it could be EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis), a Central Nervous System infection caused by a protozoa. I know you said your vet did a neurological work up, but you should ask if he or she specifically considered and tested for this ailment. EPM symptoms do come and go, so it could be that she was fine the day the vet did the work up. If it is EPM, it can be treated, but it's important to diagnose it and begin treatment as soon as possible, so get this checked out right away.

Another thing it could be is something like the following: a young Arabian horse will sometimes have almost no back muscle power at all, particularly over the loin and rump. Such a horse tends to be weak and underpowered. Unfortunately, those are exactly the muscles needed to both carry a rider AND move the horse around a turn. Even though you're small, she is smaller. You do not say whether her other stumbles occurred while turning, or if she stumbles without a rider on the flat. In addition, if she is suffering from EPM, this same lack of muscle power will elevate the seriousness of her inability to move to the point where she might fall down. But either way, she'll encounter problems.

So in your position, I would engage in a series of rule outs. First, check with the vet to rule out EPM. Then, closely observe when and how your horse is having her problems to see if it's muscle power or nerve power she's lacking. If she stumbles at a walk on the flat and straight without a rider, then I suspect a neurological culprit. Conversely, if it's related to turning and carrying a rider, then she needs to go on a muscle building program. Such a program will look a lot like the program my sixteen year old basketball daughter is currently on: lots of protein, regular exercise, and lots of turning in circles at speed. This includes lunging often on both sides with a saddle. Don't do less than twenty minutes day. Then build to an hour a day or more with walking, trotting, and cantering on both sides. Only then do you add a rider to the picture.

I hope this helps — good luck!


September 23, 2013 – I am thinking about building my own barn to manage my horse the way I want. There is some land with a house near me that would be perfect. I want to hire some local teenagers to help feed and do turn out. Do I need any kind of work agreement with these teenagers?

This is a dream of many horse owners. A written work agreement is always a good idea in that both parties are clear as to what they're agreeing to, but there is still more that you should make sure that you understand before going down this path.

If you hire someone, including one or more teenagers as you describe, you'll have to abide by all the rules and regulations around running a business in your area. This will apply even if you're bartering barn help for riding time — it's still a form of employment as far as the law is concerned. That means that, in addition to paying their wages or letting them ride for work performed, you'll also need to purchase Workers Compensation Insurance, pay the employer's part of Social Security, provide a W-2 to the employee for tax filing purposes, and so forth.

Also, if you don't hire someone to help, then that means you're on the hook for it all. You'll have to feed twice a day, without fail. Now I know a few folks who don't mind this. But, they also don't travel...ever. Or if they do, they have to hire someone to come onto their property and then they agonize and worry and sometimes have to cut short vacations to deal with colic or some such. If a horse owner doesn't cut short the vacation and stays away, they sometimes run into animal cruelty charges for failing to appropriately manage their animals. This is not a joke — I've seen everything and every twist on this in my law practice.

Please understand, I don't mean to rain on your parade. I just want you to know that there's a lot more to keeping horses yourself than you might think. Because of that, for many people, boarding seems easy by comparison.

Good luck!


September 20, 2013 – I bought a horse on an installment sale and have it in writing. Now the trainer is calling it a lease and is trying to hold me up for more money. He even showed up at my barn threatening to take the horse back. He can't do that can he? I have been paying my payments. What should I do?

Well, I cannot give legal advice in this forum. You have too many particular details for me to speak to what your situation is or what the laws in your state would control. However, I can talk generally about the rights of those who lease horses vs. those who buy horses.

A leased horse is still owned by the original owner. However, during the term of the lease, as long as the person paying the lease is holding up their end of the contract, then that person has the rights to use the animal granted by the lease. The owner does not have the right to unilaterally terminate an ongoing lease, typically, unless that specific right is specified in the agreement.

Now, if the horse was sold, then on an installment sale, the previous owner does not have the right to repossess the horse without making specific arrangements beforehand, such as filing a financial statement and negotiating a security agreement with the buyer. Again, as long as the payments are being made as agreed, even these rights do not allow repossession.

In cases where shady people attempt to bend the rules, the best bet is for the buyer to contact the police to put them on notice of a civil situation brewing. Then, contact an equine attorney to take on the case and to serve the parties with a notice of trespass so that the horse stays where it is until the situation can be resolved. This issue occurs fairly regularly in the practice of equine law so my advice now is to contact your local equine attorney pronto!


September 19, 2013 – I am determined to learn how to ride. I have read so much about how good it is for your physical fitness to be a rider, especially the muscles in your core, and so I have been taking lessons. My problem is that I am very afraid. Not only am I afraid, but I can tell that whatever horse I ride, they know it. What can I do?

Well, I certainly agree that you get a lot of health benefits from riding horses. But, I must say that if you're really frightened and your fear does not diminish after working with reputable trainers that work hard to educate you on suitable and gentle lesson horses, then you should consider that riding is not the exercise for you. The truth is that horses will always be able to tell if you're frightened, and it's not safe for you to be on a horse where it must call the shots on the proceedings because of your fear. Unfortunately, there is no middle ground on this; the horse must either lead or be lead, and your fear will make you unsuitable as the leader.

So work with trainers and try to get more comfortable and over this issue. But remember, DO NOT push the issue if you can't master your fear. Life is too short and there are many other ways to get fit that don't involve such risks to your personal safety.

Good luck!


September 17, 2013 – I would like to trail ride and spend the night at a bed and breakfast. Are there such places?

There sure are! For example, there are a number of places in the New England area where I am. There are also such places in the White Mountains of New Hampshire as well as the Green Mountains of Vermont that will let you rent their horses or you can bring your own.

However, if you were thinking about New England, it could be a little late. As we approach autumn and the prime leaf peeping season, you may not be able to book a reservation and may have to instead plan early for next year. Still, I would at least try as you may find a vacancy somewhere, it's just harder at this time of year. If you're considering some other location or some other time, you're probably ok.


September 16, 2013 – What is a eclipse? I assume it is a kind of horse but I don't know anything more than that.

No, it's not a kind of horse; it's the name of a famous horse (though, not that famous, evidently). Eclipse was one of the greatest Thoroughbreds in history. He was born in England in 1764 and was unbeaten as a race horse in eighteen starts, including eleven "King's Plates". His name came from the fact that he was foaled during a solar eclipse. He is still remembered today for the phrase, "Eclipse first and the rest nowhere".

Eclipse was a very fast horse and his astounding speed shocked those who saw him run during his time. He is said to have been able to cover 25 feet in each stride. His portrait by George Stubbs, that of a striking chestnut horse, is iconic, and for horse folks, it's instantly recognizable. Unlike Secretariat, another striking chestnut stallion, Eclipse was a race-dominating sire, and his progeny ruled the British racing scene for years after his retirement to stand as a stallion.

Secretariat is known for his ability to sire mares that begat fast offspring, which is likely a bit more valuable for breeders, but less so to those looking for the big championship stake markets. Still, the name Eclipse, though from a horse foaled in the 18th century, is one that endures.


September 13, 2013 – Hi! I like these kinds of questions lately about famous horses and breeds because most horse mags I read are always about training. Mine is, are chicotege island ponies still living in Virginia? Do they still round them all up to swim over the channel?

Glad you're enjoying the change of pace — we are, too. We're never sure what kinds of questions will come in at any particular time. But they do seem to come in clusters, so we're not sure if this is sometimes driven by the season, a news item, a newly released movie or TV program or whatever. We will also sometimes group related questions for a sequence of postings to maintain some continuity.

Yes, there are still ponies living on Assateague Island and the ponies are called Chincoteague ponies. Nowadays, the original herd has been split into two herds via a fence on the Maryland/Virginia line. The Maryland ponies are considered feral and are managed by the federal government via monitoring and contraception so that the ponies don't overpopulate their sparse grazing. The bird protectors and the pony supporters in recent years have had some difficulties because fences put up to protect the bird sanctuary areas have trapped and killed ponies. The fences have also prevented their access to grazing and to the ocean, which the ponies use to ward off insects. Still, the Maryland herd is going strong at the time of this posting.

The Virginia herd is owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department, and this is the herd that swims over the channel for culling to benefit the Department. This herd has more interaction with humans and receives veterinary care for infectious diseases, since the culled animals are sold to the public. Both herds have had infusions from other breeds to improve the stock gene pool, notably two Arab sires as well as a Shetland pony and some color sires for the paint markings so prevalent in the breed now.

The ponies are considered easy keepers as well as easy to train, and are obviously very hardy. They stand about 13 hands tall, and so are big enough for most adults to ride. So far, it appears the ponies are set to manage well for the foreseeable future!


September 12, 2013 – I like quarter horses and have heard that they are the fastest horses. Is this true? What is the fastest quarter horse time out there?

Yes, Quarter Horses are the fastest breed, but others can run farther (think Thoroughbred) or jump higher. No one horse is the best at everything. Still, the Quarter Horse is the fastest at sprinting and acceleration. In fact, most Quarter Horses can accelerate faster than most sports cars.

The World record was broken in 2011 in Sunland Park New Mexico by a gelding named Valiant War Hero who clocked in a record time of 14.594 seconds in the 300 yard dash. The American Quarter Horse Association has a chart that they maintain of the world record speeds at various distances.

The oldest time on that chart is 1983 for a 660 yard dash, with most of the rest of the records dating from about 2009 and later. I don't know if the recent increase in speedsters is the result of breeding or conditions, but it is clear to me that SOMETHING has juiced up the times recently. In terms of miles per hour, horses are rated as the 8th overall fastest land animal with the cheetahs and antelopes outdistancing them, but not by much. The fastest Quarter Horse was clocked at 55 MPH!

The epicenter of Quarter Horse drag racing and breeding is Oklahoma. It's a great sport and fun to watch. Wish I could clone myself and add that to the list of horse activities to try!


September 11, 2013 – Are horses used for work anymore? Seems like machines would have made them unneeded for all that.

Yes, horses are still used commercially for work. Logging, ranching, and border patrol are some of the uses that horses still beat out machines for in terms of maintenance and usability. Logging involves steep terrain and horses can manage better without damaging the hillsides in a way tractors or trucks cannot. Likewise, no all terrain vehicle yet can out dodge a cow that is serious about escape. And many cities use mounted police units that are hard for a running thief or mugger to escape.

In the wilderness, a horse doesn't need a gas tank for refueling every few hours or days. So, yes, horses are still commercially viable in a host of commercial occupations.


September 10, 2013 – Will horses play with other animals?

If the YouTube videos I've seen are in any way representative at all, that's a definite yes. My favorite clip is of a mini horse and a Great Dane going at it over a dish towel. The Great Dane had the edge in grip strength, but the horse had the edge in the busta-move speed aspect. If they were playing basketball, the Dane would have been a post and the horse would have been the speedy wing with the big first step. At any rate, they looked like they were having fun.

The second best clip I saw was of a squirrel raised by a cat. The squirrel had learned how to purr.


September 9, 2013 – Can horses get jealous? My 9 year old gelding seems to get upset and acts jealous to some degree. But its only with older boys 15 and up that he gets agitated around. My horse will play gently with a 6 year old boy in the pasture. I'm a timid women, so could my gelding be protective?

Absolutely! Your horse can become Macho Man, be jealous and seek to protect your bodily integrity. In fact, wild herds depend on SOMEBODY becoming Macho Man at appropriate points. Though it's usually a stallion, in point of fact, geldings have been known to take on stallions.

Just be careful that your gelding isn't a risk to male humans. If you notice anything like that, you'll have to be less timid and signal to your horse to back off a bit and let you handle your own affairs. Otherwise, you could be setting up a situation where someone could get hurt.


September 6, 2013 – What is meant by a straight shoulder? I have read the term mentioned but don't know what it means and can't seem to find an explanation.

Good question! A "straight shoulder" is a description of a type of conformation in a horse. It describes a situation in which the point of the withers where the neck meets the shoulder at the horse's top line is more directly over the point of the horse's shoulder at the top of the foreleg/chest. In some cases, it is almost directly over.

Now, compare that with a horse having a sloped shoulder. In this case, the shoulder line slants well back so that the withers/neck meeting point is behind the point where the shoulder meets the chest and top of the foreleg. A sloping shoulder helps a horse run while a straight shoulder helps a horse pull weight.

It takes some time and effort to recognize these conformation differences, but hopefully this description helps you make some headway in recognizing the differences. You help train yourself by looking closely at the horses in a herd with this in mind and you'll start to see that the location of where the legs come up to the chest in relation to the withers varies with each horse.


September 5, 2013 – What do you think about getting a free racehorse? I see one offered on a website and though I am interested, I am also worried. There must be more to it than that. I would like to take a horse on speculation for resale.

Well yes, usually, there is more to it than just that. In an effort to cut into the slaughter trade, there is paperwork that you'll have to sign to get a race horse right off the track. That "contract" you sign will make it difficult to resell the horse in an auction format. For example, you may be liable for various penalties if you agree to take such a horse and then you sell it at auction.

Further, unless you have significant experience and ability to vet a horse, you may not be able to tell if the horse has health or leg issues, or has a temperament problem. Finally, unless you have good horse-training abilities, you may have significant difficulty or find it downright impossible to get such a horse to switch over his thinking from racing to general riding duties. That means that you'll require the services of a good trainer. And without one and the training ability yourself, you could be risking your safety and life to an out-of-control horse.

So on balance, I wouldn't recommend someone without proper experience taking on this project. While the horses themselves may be lovely and fine, you sound a little too inexperienced to manage this without problems. I understand the appeal of a beautiful horse for free, but in reality, it's true that there generally is no "free lunch". Off track horses are given away for a reason, and that reason is that it takes work to retrain them (if that can be done — it doesn't always work with all ex-race horses), and you can't just make a quick, easy buck by taking such horses and then auctioning them off. If that were possible, then that's exactly what the original owners would do rather than giving the horse away for free.


September 4, 2013 – Why would you ever use a double bridle?

A double bridle has both a curb (leverage) bit AND a snaffle bit attached to the same headstall. You would use this, as an expert rider, to enjoy the action of the snaffle with the action of a curb at the appropriate times while riding. This of course takes superlative rein skills to do correctly. Double bridles are used mostly in dressage and some of the more demanding disciplines, such as polo.

Used well, a double bridle is very effective. But because of the leveraging action and the possibility of applying too much force with potential for hurting (or at least really annoying) the horse, double bridles should be used only by trained riders with a light touch and on appropriately trained horses.


September 3, 2013 – What is a park trot?

A park trot is one employed by a gaited horse that has both high collection and high action. The horse snaps his forelegs even higher than the horizontal plane and brings his hind legs up almost as high as his belly. This maneuver is very showy indeed, and some horses manage this better than others. You've likely seen this performed if you've ever seen Fine Harness Saddlebreds, such as the one named "The Davinci Code".


August 30, 2013 – How long do horses live?

Well, horses in the wild can die from diseases or accidents as you might expect. But many seem to die from problems related to tooth wear that prevents them from eating, and usually not much past seventeen or eighteen years old. However, domesticated horses provided with dental care and good food can last until forty or so in extreme cases. Most manage at least twenty plus in a domestic setting.

Horses are generally not insurable past age fifteen because of the colic issue, which as horses age, gets to be more and more of a risk as their digestive system gets more finicky. Interestingly, I've noticed something similar with people, which is that ads for digestive aids seem to be targeted at folks fifty and above. Have you ever noticed that? Fortunately, at least people rarely get a form of colic that's fatal.


August 29, 2013 – This is a continuation of the question of August 28th.

Yesterday, I spoke about horse intelligence from the perspective of horse capabilities that I've seen myself, so I know that they can perform those actions. Now, I'm going to talk about what I feel horses cannot do. For example, I don't believe they can count, or add, or read, or any number of things that we take for granted. For instance, I don't think they recognize themselves in a mirror, which is one of the milestones of intelligence in children as they mature in their first few years. I do know that horse intelligence is difficult to quantify, and that those who try generally get themselves into trouble.

I'm reminded of the horse "Clever Hans" in 1904, who appeared to be able to count, to read, and so forth. But upon closer examination, he was in fact only reading minute, unconscious signals from his human questioner. Of course, now this begs the question as to who was really the smart one in this scenario, but I'll leave that for you to consider.


August 28, 2013 – How smart are horses anyway? Some people say they are really stupid, and others really smart. What do you think?

They are not as smart as some people think, nor are they stupid. After all, they've been around for many thousands of years and that does take some smarts to avoid predators and some dangerous and stupid humans. I prefer to think in terms of what I've seen horses do and their capabilities.

First, they have huge, prodigious memories. Like elephants, they seem to remember almost everything and never forget. That means, if they meet you once, they always remember YOU and your particulars. That doesn't mean that they won't change their minds about you over time with your interactions, but it does mean that you do have to be careful at introductions to a horse. They will be watching you to see if they can get your measure.

Second, they do have emotions such as boredom, dislike, disgust, love, mild annoyance, petulance, fear, bravery, courage, bullying, brown nosing, flattery, good will, indifference…..well I could go on and on, but you get the point. I don't know if that means that they're truly smart, I just think it means that you shouldn't underestimate their capacity for thinking.

Third, what some people believe is stupidity, is really just the horse testing whether you really mean something or not. For example, if you don't display clear and unmistakable signs of what you want a horse to do consistently, you have to forgive a failure to follow through on the horses part when they don't understand. Horses are pretty clear in their communications with each other and even with us. We just need to learn their language.

Fourth, horses are quite capable of long-range planning. (I know this one will get me in the dutch with some people, but I'm just reporting what I've seen.) For instance, polo ponies are trained in herds, and well, the boss mares of the particular set will demand good behavior in say, trailering. If a glare from a lead mare doesn't change a badly behaving horse's actions, then serial biting occurs. This is where the boss mare bites the unoffending horse next to her who then slams into the offender. A few rounds of this and the offender gets the picture.

There's so much more to share that I'll continue this thread tomorrow. Good luck!


August 27, 2013 – I do not have enough money to buy this horse in full, so the trainer offered some very appealing installment terms. Should I do this or not? This seems a good way but I thought I would ask you first.

Since I don't know the terms nor the horse and cannot offer legal advice over the internet, I'm afraid I'll be reduced to talking instead about how installment sales make no sense for either party UNLESS the legally proper procedures are followed. What procedures are those, you may ask. Think house. Think mortgage, and note and security agreement allowing title to pass, yet giving a right to recover the property if certain conditions are not met. This means that you could very well be likely to lose the horse and all the monies paid for him if you become unable to finish making every one of the installment payments (and paying them each on time) right up until completion. If that happens, you'd lose all the money you paid for the horse AND the horse itself.

Since most people don't want to go through all the abovementioned legal checks with an attorney just for a horse, most people embark on such installment sales WITHOUT those legal protections — BAD MISTAKE! The more expensive the horse is, the larger the problems that will arise. Since this is essentially a risk analysis, that's the kind of judgment you're making. If you don't understand any part or have any concerns at all, you should contact an equine attorney. Once you've signed any kind of agreement, you're going to be legally bound by that agreement. A thorough legal consultation could help you either negotiate with the trainer and come to a more equitable arrangement if the one offered isn't such a thing, or could help you avoid a problem agreement if there's no room for discussion and modification. Right now, you don't really know what you've got or you wouldn't have written to me.

Avoiding legal help when you don't understand some arrangement and/or it's implications is a very dangerous way to proceed. Please get help before signing any such installment agreement. Good luck!


August 26, 2013 – How can you tell if a barn has a good atmosphere or not? That is, before spending a bunch of money on the place?

Well, there is no sure fire way, but a good tip would be to visit the barn and spend some time there as an observer. Then, actually observe and make note of any tension points. The best time would likely be a weekend when you can see the happy or miserable riders, and perhaps even speak with some oif them. In the hierarchy of things, I would pick a barn that has happy horses over anything else. In other words, fat, glossy, happy horses definitely beats fat, glossy, happy horse owners any day. Now, this might sound a little anti-social, but it's the truth!


August 23, 2013 – I was looking at horse ads and saw a word I never saw before related to horses. It said the horse was "a rig." What is that?

This is a stallion with a genetic defect that causes him to have only one testicle. Or, he might have two testicles but the other remains up in the body of the horse and never came down. Such a horse is also known as a "chryptorchid" or a "risling". These horses can be infertile, though not always. The cause is a genetic defect, so in most cases, the horse should not be bred so as to not perpetuate the defect. However, the horse should be gelded. It will prevent unintentional breeding (e.g. the stallion finds a willing mare in heat in a nearby paddock) and also makes for a better-mannered horse.


August 22, 2013 – NOT HAPPY WITH BOARDING SITUATION. I'm 20 yrs and very shy, and also a bit timid especially when I ride. Where I currently board, there is no one really around my ago except a 17 yr old girl, but we don't talk much. The owner seems to favor a 13 yr old girl and ignores me when I ask questions. Basically, the barn owner seems to favor her clients/boarders with money and ignore low level riders like me and another boarder that moved. My mom keeps arguing that the $150 a month is cheap and worth me being unhappy, but there's a bigger barn with an indoor arena that cost $175 a month with a kind staff that seems much more appealing. I also bought my current horse from my current barn owner, so I'm worried about awkwardness. I'm letting my mom read your response so I hope you agree with me.

Thank you for a great question! It is amazing how much the atmosphere of a barn will differ depending on where you are and the people you surround yourself with. Now, I'm going to support YOU on the one hand, and your MOM on the other, because you're really talking apples and oranges. I know you see this as all one thing, but it's really two separate things, and let's hope you both can come to an understanding based on some of the observations I'll share.

First, the facts: A barn owner is in no way, shape, or form, required to entertain the boarders. A barn owner who boards horses has one primary duty only: to maintain those horses in good condition using reasonable care per month, for which you pay them. If the barn owner fails to provide reasonable care, you can sue them. Conversely, if you fail to pay the negotiated rate after the barn owner provides the care, they can sue you. Since it's fairly easy to decide whether the barn is providing good enough care for your horse to stay there or not, I don't think you need to overly think that part. If the barn is providing good care and the price is right, that's pretty much why you board a horse.

As to your point about the barn's atmosphere: It is important and many a boarder has left a barn at which they were uncomfortable. After all, for most of us, riding is supposed to be a pleasure and staying at a barn you dislike is not pleasurable. A poor barn atmosphere might be a good reason to leave, but it's separate and entirely apart from the care obligation.

Finally, on to your Mother's point: If she's paying for the care of the horse, and the horse is otherwise being cared for well, your request to leave is because of you, not because of the horse. At age twenty, if you have no intention of paying any part of the board costs, I might think (as a Mom) that I was being unfairly taken advantage of since the horse is for your pleasure and you're an adult. You could at least offer to absorb the additional cost ($25/mth) of boarding at the new barn. That way, your mom's costs don't increase. If you're not going to help with the costs, well, horse ownership and riding are a privilege, not a right — sorry.


August 21, 2013 – What exactly is haylage? Is it just a long uppity word for hay to make someone sound important?

No. "Haylage" is hay that is immediately vacuum-packed right after cutting and drying. It's quite helpful for horses that have allergies or are sensitive to the dust that is found in regular hay. Haylage can be pricey, but in certain circumstances with such sensitive horses, it's a lifesaver!


August 20, 2013 – Why are there so many kinds of wormers on the market?

Wormers come in different types because there are different parasites that cause problems for horses at different times in the season. So, if you only provide one kind of wormer, you'll not be providing good coverage for your horse. Veterinarians recommend de-worming every eight weeks on a rotating schedule of medication to provide full coverage. This also reduces the chances of any particular specie of worm from developing a tolerance to any one type of worming medication.

For more information on this topic, check out the Website: valleyvet.com. This site has a full description of many such pests as well as photos (yick), medications, and even full-year supply packs so you don't really have to think about it. Believe me, your horse will not do well if you don't de-worm him because parasites easily infest domestic horse just because of the close contact that the horses have while being confined in one spot (in paddocks, stalls, etc.) over time.

So, do your horse a favor and religiously deworm. You can tell when your horse is suffering from worms by a dull coat, failure to thrive, weight loss, and overall lack of good health and interest in life.


August 19, 2013 – I read somewhere that Standardbreds are getting very inbred. Is this so?

Unfortunately, the racing upper strata is, in fact, getting a bit close in family lines. Some of this is due to the fact that Standardbreds allow for artificial insemination, which allows a dominant or popular stallion to really overwhelm the market of racing mares that are bred each year. Conversely, the Jockey Club requires live cover for Thoroughbred horses to be registered, and so, are more limited.

To make matters worse, Standardbreds started out pretty closely tied through the founding stock, which was from an overwhelming sire named Messenger. Messenger was an English horse that was imported to the United States in 1788, of which over 90% of Standardbreds are related. The breed itself is hardy and well suited to the rigors of racing, but if this inbreeding trend continues, well, let's say, it is a concern.


August 16, 2013 – What is a "blacktype" thoroughbred? I saw this description and I don't know what it means.

Such a description usually appears about a horse's racing record in sales catalogues and the Daily Racing Form. It refers to a race that the horse (or its ancestors) won or placed in a "stakes race", that is, a race that would be reported in heavier black type. So, a thoroughbred of that caliber presumably would have ancestors that have proved themselves in good racing competition in their history. This is a valuable thing to racing fans, so, hence, the name.


August 15, 2013 – When do horses get all their adult teeth?

Usually, by age five, a horse will be "fully mouthed" as we say. I've read that mares have four less teeth than male horses, that is, mares have 36 teeth and male horses have 40 when all the adult teeth are in. This is something I DID NOT know. You learn something new every day!


August 14, 2013 – Can I cut grass and then give it my horse? Like if I mow my front yard, can I take the green cuttings and take it to the stable?

This practice is VERY DANGEROUS, and can lead to colic, choke, and possibly other serious problems. I'm not saying that you can't grab a handful of grass after cutting it and immediately give it to the horse, but what you describe is different. If you let cut grass lie on the ground for any length of time, there's a period of time where the grass quickly begins to decompose, especially if wet. If it has decomposed at all and is then given to the horse, colic will often ensue. Even if the grass was cut seconds before and you let a horse have access to the clippings, they can grab such large clumps as they eat that they can choke.

Comparing hay, it is cured by drying in the sun first. If the hay dries properly, it can be fed. If not, it is ruined and will mold — that should also DEFINITELY NOT be given to a horse. You can tell a bad batch of hay by the existence of mold.

I hope this helps.


August 13, 2013 – What is a "cutback saddle?"

A cutback saddle is used for gaited horse classes and it's a long, low saddle that allows the rider to sit further back over the horse's loins. This allows greater movement of the horse's shoulder. The "cutback" term describes the saddle area over the horse's wither. That saddle area does not protrude forward on this saddle, but is instead cut back. It's a little different than say, a jump saddle, or a polo saddle, for sure!


August 12, 2013 – I wonder that the sport of fox hunting has not been banned. Isn't it cruel? Do folks in the US fox hunt?

There is lots of fox hunting in the U.S. In fact, there are many U.S. foxhunting clubs, and if you want to know more, check out this website, www.mfha.com. This is the Master of Fox Hounds Association, which has a good history of the sport and some good descriptions.

This sport is popular because of its pageantry and close association with horses, as well as its social aspects. In more urban areas lacking foxes, the clubs use a "drag hunt" process where a course is laid out using scent. In rural areas where foxes are a pest to livestock and poultry, there are still live hunts. And to answer your question, it might be cruel to the fox, but the fox is no less cruel to the domestic animals it eats. So, I guess we're back to the great circle of life.

I do know the sport has had occasional difficulty in Great Britain because of some protesting from animal rights activists, but it continues there and elsewhere, including here. As with most activities, it has its detractors and supporters.


August 9, 2013 – My horse has really big chestnuts on his legs. Is this something I should be worried about?

Well, unless you tell me that there's an inflammation or the horse is sore or bleeding on these horn growths, I would say no. Chestnuts are located on all four legs, above the knees on the forelegs and below the hocks on the hind legs. These growths are apparently the remnants of a toe and serve no purpose that anyone can tell. They're usually also inert and don't grow, don't usually become inflamed, and don't usually change. However, if do you notice any changes in them, you should call your vet and report what you've observed. Largeness by itself though, is not a concern.


August 8, 2013 – I am having difficulty with a state inspector for the Department of Agriculture who is threatening to "quarantine" a horse that I brought into the state. I don't own the horse and the owner was the one who got the health certificate in the other state which is pretty far distant. I had the horse examined by the in-state veterinarian and the results are all negative. At this point, I feel that the quarantine threat is one that the inspector is using to try to investigate the owner and particulars related to the owner. The inspector has demanded all kinds of information about the owner such as email address and cell phone and home phone and mailing address. There is no space on the certificate for this information and the out of state vet says they don't have authorization to release that information. I have asked the owner directly and he also tells me that I don't have authority to pass that information along.

HELP! I am caught in the middle and I don't see what any of this has to do with quarantine law.

Well, although I usually say at this point that I have to know more before I can respond, I will say that the law about this kind of thing is not well defined. However, the power to quarantine is usually related to a health concern, which as you say, doesn't seem to be what's going on with your situation. I would call an equine attorney in your state and have them speak to the powers that be. Sometimes, the urge to do the right thing in government employees gets somehow translated into a belief that they have the power to do whatever they feel is right, whether or not they actually have that authority. You'll need an expert in the equine laws of your state to both inform you and to get this straightened out.


August 7, 2013 – My horse who never bucked before has been recently bucking like fire when I get on him. I thought maybe that the girth was too tight or that the saddle didn't fit, but I can't loosen the girth any more and still be safe, and the saddle is the same one he always used. There doesn't seem to be any fit issues. HELP! I don't want to think I have a bad horse. Should I take him to a trainer?

I hate to say this, but I don't think the issue is training. It sounds to me like a soreness issue related to an injury. The fact that he only bucks when you get on his back where he never used to buck says to me that he may have a sore back or a rib or tendon injury. You need to be safe, so don't ride him or take him to a trainer until you've thoroughly checked this issue out. You don't want to injure the trainer with an unsound horse, so please heed this advice.

Call your veterinarian and tell him/her what you told me. I've seen this issue more than a few times when the horse's behavior is injury driven, and owners and riders don't take appropriate screening measures to ensure safety. Don't take any chances.


August 6, 2013 – Can cats and horses be friends? Can I help them?

Most certainly they can be friends! But you're better off letting them work things out for themselves. This appears to happen most times for stalled horses where barn cats have occasion to meet them in the stall. Sometimes, the two find mutual solace in passing the time, especially in winter where the cat might like to keep warm by curling up on top of the horse's rump (quite common). That also keeps the horse's rump warmer.

Now, keep in mind that some horses don't like cats and will chase the cat out of the stall, especially if the cat is using the stall as a litter box (the stall is the horse's home, after all). But in many cases, the two animals do seem to be able to work out how to communicate their wishes, so I think this is one thing that you'll have to leave to the two participants.


August 5, 2013 – Legal Addendum to Horse Guy posting on paddock fence height.

I just read the Horse Guy's excellent post for August 2, and I wanted to add that some states actually require livestock (and they usually do specify what livestock) to be fenced in a certain manner and at a certain height. If you build a fence and don't take these fencing regulations into account, and the horse escapes, this may well allow a lawsuit to be brought against you for failure to abide by the law, which can be automatic negligence. If the fence's nature is derelict in a manner which was BOTH called for in the regulation AND is the cause of the escape, well, that is a slam dunk for a plaintiff's lawyer against you.

Each state is different in that regard, so you'll have to check your local state laws and regulations. This is just my lawyer's "two cents worth" on fencing that all horse farms should consider!


August 2, 2013 – I have had a horse farm for many years and am getting too old to manage the maintenance end of things. I would like to sell out but my dealings with real estate agents have left me uneasy. They don't seem to know the first thing about farms. HELP!

This is actually a big part of my practice: dealing with the issues surrounding horse farm sales. You'll need to do some research and find a real estate agent that specializes in moving agriculture property, and if possible, horse farm sales. You can find agents that deal with agricultural property by calling your local lender that lends to farms, which you can find by calling your state's farm bureau. Nearly all states have a means for its citizens to lobby state government about farm issues, so they set up farm bureaus for that purpose. An agent they identify or put you into contact with will know if there is anyone locally that deals with horse farms as a sub-specialty.

The knowledge imparted by an agent that deals with farms will save you big time in the long run. Here are some examples of matters that such an agent can help you with:

  1. How to structure responses to offers in a way that takes advantage of local laws and regulations designed to preserve open space and farms;
  2. How to design purchase and sales agreements that take into account farm equipment and farm equipment lending;
  3. How to manage the issue of neighbors or a new neighbor moving in with different plans for the land; and
  4. The agent will have ties to local boards that may have a say in zoning and variance issues, and many more issues too numerous to go into here.

You should find that an agricultural real estate agent will be of far more help in selling your property than if you try to use a traditional agent who's primary experience is selling houses. Good luck!


August 1, 2013 – I have some used tack and would like to sell it. What is the best way to do this?

Well at present, your options appear to be mostly limited to the consignment stores nearest you. Some tack shops will take used gear while others will not. Obviously, you can also try the online route by placing your ad on EBAY or Craig's List and sell it yourself that way.

Sorry I can't be of more help. Unfortunately, the used tack market is not well served in my opinion. This is largely because tack is very individual, and therefore, essentially falls into the category of specialty items. For example, usually, we don't just want a saddle, we want this kind of saddle from that manufacturer, etc., etc.

Good luck!


July 31, 2013 – Is it cruel to keep a herd-sour horse away from his friend? I'm keeping my gelding alone in a 2 acre pasture with a less herd-sour horse.

No! It's not cruel to keep a herd-bound horse with a less herd bound horse. In fact, it's to be recommended! Horses learn by watching the behavior of other horses. So the approach you've taken by keeping him with a horse that is, as we say, "sangfroid" (a cool customer) because he's comfortable leaving the paddock and the herd, is helping your horse to become less anxious.

Keep up the good work!


July 30, 2013 – I saw advertised this horse show called "Cavalia". What is this all about? It looks like a circus with just horses from the ads I seen.

Well, I saw this show myself the last time it went through the New England area, and I was most impressed with the care taken with the horses in the show and the high level of training and showmanship displayed. It's more like Cirque Du Soleil than Ringling Brothers, and the entire point of it seems to be to showcase the beauty and athleticism of the horses involved. It also exemplifies the high degree of intelligence and trainability of these beautiful animals.

The horses seemed to be having fun, and to the Horse Girl's (discerning, she fancies) eye, this is the true test of any endeavor involving horses, and one impossible to fake out the Horse Girl (horses don't lie!) There are many scenes with horses at liberty in the ring, and lots with horses at liberty, both alone and in groups, and some with horses ridden with no tack or other aids. This show displays real horsemanship and I definitely give it props.

In my belief, it's certainly worth the ticket price!


July 29, 2013 – Is horseracing cruel? I know this is a loaded question but I wanted to see how you describe the problem because I want to have something to say back to a friend who is a PETA supporter. Sometimes her arguments seem extreme. Sorry to drag you into this but you do seem to have a handle on this stuff!

Thank you for the compliment! Here is my personal recap of this issue.

Horses are designed to run. Left to their own devices, they race each other in the wild and as domesticated animals, they do this for fun in play. They're smart enough to recognize racing as a job, and when properly trained and if they like the job, well, I can think of nothing better than to give a thinking animal a useful job that they like to do. The possible cruelty issues generally comes in one or more of three areas:

  1. Cruelty Issue 1: Risk of injuries – Any athletic endeavor, whether animal or human, can involves injuries. The same philosophical principle arises in youth sports, where children get injured at the behest of parents, coaches, leagues, and profit seeking entities that make money from showcasing the athletes. As stated, I think this uneasy feeling comes down to the notion that it seems unsavory to profit from an endeavor that seems to benefit others and not the athlete involved, and where the risk of injury falls most heavily on the athlete.

    I believe that the risk of injury alone should not prevent the sport of horseracing, as indeed, the risk of injury has not prevented youth sports. Instead, the industry should make greater efforts to police drug use, which leads to greater risk of injury, and to improving veterinary technologies, such as the Enduro Nest which allows a horse with a broken leg to be rehabilitated instead of euthanized. This is an ongoing effort and I know that industry stakeholders are cracking down on the drug issue, as I know personally from attending meetings on this very subject.

    As to the medical professionals, they too, are starting to look to new technologies, but in this conservative area, change happens slowly. I have hope though, since the proof speaks for itself, and Rood and Riddle, one of the premier veterinary hospitals in the world that also specializes in racing injuries, has a NEST and does use it.

  2. Cruelty Issue 2: Neglect of Retired Race Horses – There is the notion that Thoroughbreds are raced in an industry that doesn't provide any outlet for the retired race horses, leading to neglect. This was very true at one time, but it is much rarer today. There are just too many retired racehorse organizations to count. This has been a real push by the industry that has paid off.
  3. Cruely Issue 3: Racing Horses That are Too Young (e.g. 2 year olds) – On this issue, I think the jury is still out, but I do see signs of hope. First, I don't know whether racing a young, sound horse in a properly conducted race is truly a risk or not. There appears to be supporting evidence for both sides and the issue is being studied and investigated. I have seen studies that show that running young toughens the horses. Where the problems come in are when a young horse is drugged to achieve performance. This is usually self defeating however, since in that case, the horse usually doesn't achieve their economic potential. This causes the evil-doer to waste large sums of money on a horse that doesn't prove out. With horses, good care is its own reward for a performance based animal. Also, I see signs that holding horses out of long campaigns as two year olds is a trend that may be developing for the reason I mention.

So on balance, with good regulation of how drugs are used and pursuit of drug pushers and illegal users, and with support of equine after-care and retirement organizations, I see little evidence that horse racing is cruel to horses as an industry. Now, can any individual horse be cruelly treated? Of course. But that is unfortunately always a risk when people have animals (or even people) under their care and abuse their responsibilities. Fortunately, we have criminal statutes to deal with that. So on balance, I think you have enough information here to continue this discussion with your PETA friend.


July 26, 2013 – I just went on a carriage ride in Chicago in the Magnificent Mile. It was a great experience but after it I had some questions. Doesn't it hurt the horse to trot on pavement? It seems like it would hurt the horse.

Great question, and one I've pondered as well. The short answer is that if a horse is properly shod, trotting on pavement doesn't hurt the horse. The issue is one of concussion on the ground and a horse's hoof is designed to absorb concussion. The shoes keep the horn of the hoof from wearing down quickly, which otherwise could be an issue riding on the hard surface of pavement. Bear in mind though that wild horses have harder hooves than domestic horses. Therefore, a mustang could probably run on pavement much longer than any domestic horse just for this reason.

So, enjoy your ride in peace.


July 25, 2013 – What is "soring"? I read a headline about this and I can't figure out what this means or why people would do this to a horse.

Soring is a disgusting abuse of a horse's hooves or lower legs used as a means to get a horse to elevate his feet higher when he moves, exaggerating his "action" in a way attractive to gaited horse trainers. I've never seen it done nor talked to anyone who'll admit to having done it, but having had gaited horses in my youth, I can tell you that it does exist as a practice. It involves putting substances on the horse's coronet band where the hoof meets the skin, that irritates it and causes the horse to really lift up hard when he moves. Other methods are used to irritate the frog or lower leg.

Soring has been the bane of gaited horse shows, and the governing bodies of the discipline are going after it hard. Unfortunately, there have even been some situations where an inspector was found to have been "bought" by the horse owner or trainer to not report incidences. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has condemned soring and the federal government has banned the practice and made it illegal for over four decades. But, there are still some pockets of unscrupulous trainers that persist in the practice and attempt to hide it by use of additional harsh methods or by administering anesthetics prior to the show when the horses are inspected.

If you see it or hear of it being done, please report it immediately. There is no good reason to do this to a horse!


July 24, 2013 – I saw your answer about the free horse and wanted to know how difficult it would be to get breed registry information about a free horse.

Well, this presumes first that the horse was registered at some time in his/her past. If so, the difficulty you might expect will likely depend on whether you got a Bill of Sale from the previous owner. If you did, the breed registries will be easier to deal with. Some will not deal at all with anyone who is not in the chain of custody, so to speak. That is, where folks have sold the horse without notifying the registry. In such cases, you may have to go back down the chain of owners and get each of their signatures if you want an updated registration.


July 23, 2013 – My horse shows his butt to the stall door all the time. He keeps his head away from the aisle. What is going on with this?

Well, I must say that this body language is unmistakable, and it's just what you think it is: when your horse does this, he's saying that he doesn't want to interact with anyone at that time. Now, I don't think this is related to a health issue unless you also tell me that there are other signs, such as that he was a friendly sociable horse in the past and that this is a new behavior for him. Otherwise, he's saying that he wants to be left alone.

So, I'm afraid you have the horse equivalent of the old guy who sits on a chair on his lawn with black socks and mutters under his breath chasing away intruders. Horses don't have shorts they can hitch up to waist high, nor do they have fists with which to wave at passersby. If your horse likes treats, you can use them to change his mind about you. I don't think you'll be able to change his mind about people in general, but for you, he should develop a softer spot, at least as the provider of the treats.

Alternatively, if you're so inclined, you may be able to change your horse's attitude for the better by working with him. Horses will usually get excited when they see their owner approaching if the subsequent interaction is usually fun. Horses, like people, like to do fun activities. That can be various ring work that catches their attention, riding on the trails, getting a massage or a satisfying grooming, etc. Even just grazing on a lead line beside his owner can be immensely satisfying for a horse. Compare that to what some people put horses through: the same rote exercises in the ring day after day, and you can see why some horses get bored and try to signal boring humans to "STAY AWAY!"


July 22, 2013 – My horse is getting too old to work. I really hate to think about putting him down. Is there any way I can retire him to a shelter and still keep control over who he goes to later?

The short answer is, if you want to control your horse's destiny, you need to pay for his care. If you give him to a shelter, then the shelter will be responsible for his food, vet bills, and so forth. I think you're dodging your responsibilities on this one, sorry to say.

If I were you, I'd find a farmer within reasonable driving distance in your area and see if he'll accept your horse. If so, you should be able to board him at lower cost until he no longer enjoys his grass, hay, or oats, or becomes too debilitated in his joints to move around comfortably. At that point, I'd say that you, and no one else, should send him to his well deserved rest. That way, you'll return the favor of the years of service he gave you, and will ensure that his retirement is as comfy as a horse could reasonably want. Once he starts really deteriorating, keeping him in pain or suffering is not right, and so you'll need to step up to the plate and help him on his way.

This is just my opinion after seeing many situations come to grief for all parties. The way I outline is not too expensive overall. Good luck!


July 19, 2013 – I board my horse at a barn where I take lessons from a trainer who also boards there. The barn knows that I came to their barn JUST because of the trainer. So, when the barn threw the trainer out and told her she had to leave, I gave notice. I also moved my horse right away.

Now, they are coming after me for board for that last month. Not only did I give notice, but also, the barn knew that my staying was related to the trainer's presence. Can they do this?

Please contact an equine attorney in your area. The short answer is that it will depend on the particulars of YOUR situation and I cannot render legal advice in this forum. There are many possible responses and much will hinge on whether or not you signed a boarding agreement and what is says, your state laws, the detailed circumstances of what transpired, etc., etc. You can see why an attorney is necessary and how there is so much that needs to be known in order to determine your legal standing. You'll even need to assess whether this is a battle worth fighting when there's just one month of rent in the balance if the issue isn't clearly defined.

Contact an equine attorney and you'll better be able to determine where things stand.


July 18, 2013 – I own a 9 yr old TB gelding with sensitive feet and he needs to be shod ever 8 weeks. My question is, what is the best hoof pick to use on him?

Well, for me, this issue isn't so much a matter of the sharp end on your horse's foot. That pick part has to be somewhat pointed so as to accomplish the task of removing mud and rocks from your horse's feet. As long as the point is not so sharp that a forceful slip of your hand (e.g. such as when trying to remove a really wedged-in stone) could puncture your horse's leg or whatever else you might hit on your horse or yourself, it should be fine. Instead, I would focus on the handle, which should be of the right size and shape for your specific hand so that you can grip it with precision and control.

Now, there IS NOT a wide variation of the pick part for the reason I stated. But as to the handle part, there are MANY different handles to suit all sorts of variations of preference. I would go to a tack store and hold various picks until you find one that feels comfortable and manageable in your hand. And since that's a matter of personal preference, I would not try to advise you on that. You're the boss of you!


July 17, 2013 – I was just offered a horse for free. Is this something I should accept or not?

Great question, and one posed more often than you might think. The short answer is that it will depend on the circumstances and why the current horse's owner is willing to let the horse go for nothing. In my experience, there are typically two reasons this usually happens:

  1. First, the horse has a problem that the seller doesn't want to deal with, and so, is willing to charge nothing so as to unload the beast quickly. This is the reason for the vast majority of freebie horses. You really NEED TO UNDERSTAND what this horse's problems are before accepting such a Trojan horse. Like Troy, you don't want to wake up one morning and find your city state in flames from the contents of the horse; or
  2. The second reason is that the current owner is under some sort of difficulty that makes horse ownership no longer possible. For example, he/she may have lost their job and they now find they're in financial difficulty and need to severely cut their living costs. Horses aren't cheap to keep nor necessary for living (regardless of how we might feel about that necessity), so this is often one of the first ways a person in financial hardship will use to cut living expenses.

So, have a frank discussion with the owner and make sure you have them put in writing any assurances made by that owner BEFORE ACCEPTING such an animal. Also, consider having the horse vetted. I know, it might seem silly for a free horse, but if you're going to use the horse at all and take on the costs of his care and well being, you want to have some assurance that the horse's health is up to whatever task you have set for it.

These are my suggestions based on my own experiences over the years after seeing many free horses that came with major problems discovered AFTER the unwitting new owner took possession of and responsibility for the horse.


July 16, 2013 – This is a question related to horse sales. I bought a horse where there was no disclosure about past lameness issues. I stumbled upon the problem when I noticed that the right fetlock had an old injury that the seller did not reveal. What are my options?

I can't answer this question directly because I cannot dispense specific legal advice in this forum. You need to go to a local equine attorney and consult them. There may be something you can do or there may not be anything you can do. Much will depend on the type of evidence you can show to substantiate your version of the events.

You should copy emails, texts, letters, cancelled checks, contracts, and any other kind of correspondence documentation that you had with the seller. To pursue some legal remedy here, it'll be important to demonstrate your memories visually. Also, a timeline of events will be useful to your attorney in pursuing this case. So, think about that and document the timeline to the best of your ability. The dates on your correspondence (e.g. email sent and received times) will help a lot.

Good luck!


July 15, 2013 – I ride with 4 other women on most weekends. One of them is not actually my friend but is a friend of one of my friends. This woman is one of the stupidest people I've ever seen. She thinks she knows a lot about horses but does really stupid things. Like she will accidently surprise a horse by walking up to their back end and then they spook. Or she brings a bag of treats into the paddock field when there is a herd of ten or twelve horses there and tries to feed her horse while shoeing away the rest. They get pushy and try to get the treats. She doesn't seem to learn and ignores our advice. I'm afraid she is going to get bitten or kicked with her stupid antics and then my friends and I will get sued by her if it is our horse that does it. What can we do to avoid being sued from her stupidity?

You need to talk to the stable manager/owner or the person who has control of the property. This is the person who will be on the hook as well, and who has the power to prevent this woman's idiocy. The manager/owner needs to institute a rule that the crazy woman can only be on the property while being accompanied by the owner or the barn manager. That's probably the only way to limit the stupid and dangerous behavior that you've described. Have that talk soon before this woman or her estate sues for her injuries or death. She's not likely long for this world if she keeps her crazy antics up for very long.

Good luck!


July 12, 2013 – I have a boarder that irritates me and almost all the other boarders. She is a constant complainer and seems to talk about all of us behind our backs. A few of the other boarders have told me that I need to get rid of this boarder or they will find another barn. I must admit that I wouldn't miss this boarder and I would rather keep the rest. We have no boarding contract, though when I first met this boarder, I did say to this boarder that she can keep her horse at my barn for as long as she likes. Does that mean I can't make her leave now that I know what she is really like?

This sounds like a "boarder at will", not a "contract in perpetuity" to board her horse. That being the case, you need to notify this boarder in writing that you are ending your verbal contract of board with her at the end of the month and that she will need to move her horse to another barn by that time. You should be fine if you do that.

You should also work with an equine attorney to put together a reasonable boarding contract that explicitly provides you with the rights you need to deal with problem boarders in the future. Once you've done that, be sure to use that contract with all future boarders and also have your existing boarders sign the contract as a condition of staying at your barn.


July 11, 2013 – My horse runs to me when I visit him with carrots but runs away from me when I carry a halter. How can she tell the difference?

Come on now, your horse isn't blind! Horses can tell the difference between a carrot and a halter. And don't underestimate the power of that nose either. Horses have even more olfactory cells than a Bloodhound, so let me assure you that a horse usually figures out when a person is carrying a treat.

As to the fact that your horse runs from you when you carry a halter, we've written to that issue many times before. A lot has to do with whether the horse feels that your carrying of the halter usually turns out to be fun or not. If it is, she'll run to you when you carry the halter. Otherwise, she'd likely rather just be left alone to keep grazing and spend time with her friends. Making your time together fun for her would help a lot.

You may want to read a related article we have entitled: Alpha? It MUST be you! — IS IT?.


July 10, 2013 – My horse and I were kicked by another rider's horse while on a trail ride. I don't really know what happened. One minute we were at the walk and talking and the next the horse turned and kick me and my horse. My leg is sore and my horse has a gash. What are my rights?

If you or your horse have a serious injury, it's worth pursuing this question with an equine attorney. That person, licensed in and familiar with the laws of your state, will be able to ask the questions that would answer your legal needs in a way that I cannot do in a posting. If your injuries are just as you describe however, I would say that by the time you make the appointment with the attorney, your damages will likely have healed and ceased, in which case, it really won't be worth pursuing.

Just stay more alert on the trail is my advice, and don't get so close that you can get kicked! When around (or on) horses, things can happen pretty quickly as you have experienced for yourself.


July 9, 2013 – I have a boarder with a dangerous horse that sometimes attacks my help or other boarders when they go near. What legal rights does a stable owner have in forcing the boarder to remove such a horse?

It will depend on your contract with the boarder. If it's a contract payable on a month to month basis, which most of them are, you can give written notice that the horse must be removed at the start of the next month. If the horse is really aggressive, you can require in writing that the horse be removed within a shorter time frame, but you may face resistance. If you offer to pro-rate the board, you should be able to defend your actions of removal in court since you're acting to protect the tenants of the barn and the safety of all. However, if you did rent the stall month to month, which is typical, then you may at least face the argument that the horse can't be quickly moved because another home must first be found.

In order to save you from all this in the future, you should review your board contract with an equine attorney to allow you an "ejector" button. This would notify boarders that you have the right to send a written notice to remove a horse at your discretion with minimal notice. This will save you a lot of headaches in future!


July 8, 2013 – My horse won't eat or show interest in anything. He just stands in his stall with his head down. What is going on?

I hope you've called a veterinarian! Please get your horse evaluated right away because horses who refuse to eat are usually suffering a physical ailment, such as colic or a tongue abscess, dental ailment or an infection. You didn't mention if he was drinking water and I would be even MORE alarmed if you told me that he refuses water also — a horse cannot last long without water.

Now, let us further say that you've already had him evaluated medically and found nothing wrong and he still drinks water. In that case, he could be depressed about something. Have there been any changes in his environment lately? Believe it or not, horses are emotional beings and will mourn a friend's departure or a friend's death. When that happens, they'll indicate their unhappiness with their surroundings, sometimes in the way you indicate.

I would take him out of his stall on walks out on grass and let him eat some grass. Put him in with good horse friends in a paddock with hay and see what happens then. Hopefully, you'll see an uptick in interest. If not, then go to another vet and get a second opinion. Sometimes, it takes time and a different point of view to see what's really going on.

Good luck with this!


July 5, 2013 – My horse is an escape artist. I have tried every snap I can find to keep him in his stall. He unties ropes, he slides the latches, he opens latches, he needs to be on Stupid Pet Tricks. I would think it was funny except that he sometimes lets other horses out too and then it gets a bit dangerous for all concerned. Do you have any suggestions on a way to keep my artist safe?

There is a kind of snap out there that requires that the slide-down portion align with a groove before it will slide open. Try that first. If that doesn't work, I may put this question out for the general horse keeping public for their suggestions.

You have a very smart horse! They're not that common regardless of how we'd all like to think of our horses as smart. Based on what you've reported here, it wouldn't surprise me if your horse even figured out a way to beat the sliding snap I mention.


July 3, 2013 – Who would win a long jump contest, a horse or a human?

Well, my money would generally be on the horse since I think those steeple chasers at Aintree in the Grand National typically jump quite a distance, though not measured for posterity. There IS an official competition that we can measure. In the Paris Olympic Games of 1900, horses had a long jump contest. The winning jump was 6.10 meters. The world record for humans on the other hand was 8.95 meters in 2012. This seems strange to me, but, well, I have no way to dispute it. Perplexed; not surprised, just perplexed.


July 2, 2013 – My farrier friend was injured when a horse attacked him. I wonder, can farriers sue for damages?

Your farrier needs to contact his own attorney on this one. Generally speaking, although farriers, jockeys, and so forth, can be said to assume the risks of their profession, a question will arise as to whether this horse had a history of dangerousness behavior beyond the normal danger of horses generally. Horses that deliberately attack humans are rare, and so, I can't tell what the situation was with your friend. It'll depend on the horse's history, the facts of the case, and the particular law in the jurisdiction involved. Tell your friend to get moving and get an attorney quickly!


July 1, 2013 – In your opinion, what is the funniest looking horse breed out there?

What a loaded question! I know I'm going to offend a number of people when I answer — this is a lose/lose situation. Ok so, fairly warned out there, remember this is my own personal opinion ONLY!

I recently saw a number of Appendix Quarter Horses that were all legs, muscles, and short coupling. They looked like a cross between a mini cooper and a corvette. This looked a little strange to me, to say the least.

Along the same theme, I also once saw a cross between a Quarter Horse and a Shire. This horse was eighteen hands with a Quarter Horse head and body, on gigantic long, thick, and feathered legs; this also looked a bit strange. He was certainly going to be handy and probably could both run and jump, but, well, um…..

This is not to pick on Quarter Horses. They are my favorite breed for both temperament and general all around use and I've owned many. It just so happens though that these two outcrosses just didn't fare well in the conformation department. Go figure!


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