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"Horse Guy" Archive 2008

DISCLAIMER: Any information provided via the "QueryHorse" Website is for entertainment purposes only and represents an opinion. It is not intended for nor can it be relied upon for product review, training, endorsements, or expert advice of any kind. All readers are warned they bear the burden of seeking out expert advice (i.e. not QueryHorse) for their specific situations, and by accessing the "QueryHorse" Website, they hereby affirm their understanding of these conditions.

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December 31 2008 – VARIABLE HEIGHT MOUNTING BLOCKS?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Are there any variable height mounting blocks manufactured that I can buy?

There may be, but I've never seen or heard of one. However, you could try looking at solving this problem in another way.

In looking through catalogs or shopping online, I've seen 2, 3, and 4 four step mounting blocks. Why not just buy yourself a 3 or 4 step block and then shorter people can use the top step while taller people mount from a lower step? Doesn't that effectively make the taller block one of varying height?

Doing a search, I quickly found that Horseman's Depot in the USA and JSW Coachbuilders in the UK each sell mounting blocks with up to 4 steps. I'm sure you'll find such taller blocks are available from other sources also.


December 30 2008 – TRAILERING DRAFT HORSES

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Are there any special considerations for trailering draft horses?

Wow! A lot of trailering questions recently!

Obviously, full-grown drafts are bigger horses, so you need to assure that your trailer can accommodate your draft horses. Is the trailer wide enough? Is it high enough? Most average size horses can fit in a 6' wide trailer that's about 7' 6" high. But for hauling drafts and larger horses, most manufacturers make one or more larger size trailers. You need to assure that the trailer you plan to use will comfortably fit the horses you plan to move.

Second, assure that your hitch and tow vehicle can handle the combined weight of a larger trailer and the heavier horses.


December 29 2008 – HORSE TRAILER HITCH HEIGHT

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

What is the proper height for a horse trailer hitch?

That depends on the horse trailer. I presume you're referring to a bumper-pull hitch? This term can mean that the hitch ball is actually attached to the truck's bumper or that it is connected to a drawbar that slides into a frame-mounted receiver. For the purpose of this discussion, let's assume the latter, because except for the biggest trucks, you SHOULD NOT attempt to pull a horse trailer with a bumper hitch; most are rated only for a 2,000 pound tow-load of trailer and payload COMBINED.

The receiver mounted on your tow vehicle can take any 2" x 2" drawbar. Drawbars come in different styles called "drops". The drop is a bend in the drawbar that places the hitch ball at higher or lower height above the ground. The proper height is that which allows the trailer to be level when coupled to the hitch ball.

Below is a photo of several drawbars of different "drops":

Drawbars Depicting Some of the Various Drops Available

Drawbars Depicting Some of the Various Drops Available

You may also want to read an article I wrote for Perfect Horse magazine entitled: Getting Properly Hitched that was published in the October 2008 issue as well as checking out the Trucks & Trailering section of our articles page.


December 26 2008 – DIM LIGHTS WHEN TRAILERING

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Why do my lights dim when hauling my horse trailer?

There are several reasons this could happen, and none of them are good. It could be because of a corroded connection, an overheated wire, or many other reasons. Regardless, you need to have a professional examine your tow vehicle and trailer electrical systems for the problem. If you do nothing, in the best case, you'll continue to drive around with dim lights. In the worst case, you may be stranded somewhere when something important burns out and your tow vehicle won't even run, or you could have an electrical fire in your tow vehicle or trailer.

You should definitely have it checked before you use your trailer again.


December 24 2008 – TOO STEEP A HILL?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

When riding down steep hills, my horse often slides and can't stop till we get to the bottom. How do I stop this behavior?

Is this a trick question?


December 23 2008 – HORSE INSURANCE?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I don't have any horse insurance. Should I get major medical insurance on my horse?

If you have no horse-related insurance, you should get liability insurance first. This is insurance that would protect you from legal exposure should your horse injure others and they sue you.

Equine major medical insurance is often tied to equine mortality insurance (think equine life insurance). Both are usually tied to the value of your horse and both are usually unavailable for horses fifteen years or older except at excessively high premiums. Mortality insurance is typically considered more important if you own a very valuable horse, whereas medical insurance is harder to weigh. Some people place a value on their horse and make a business decision because they don't want to insure their horse for more than they feel it's worth. But for some of us, it's harder because we get attached to our horse(s) and would like the option of having thousands of dollars available for medical care in case it becomes sick or injured. Please realize that the insurance company is going to want to know what the horse is worth before agreeing to insure it for mortality or for medical insurance. Plus, they will set the policy limit based upon the horse's value. Any deviations from that value will require negotiations with the insurance company and possibly higher premiums if you want to insure for a higher value than the insurance company feels the horse is worth.

The Horse Girl wrote an insurance primer that you may want to read for more information. It's entitled: Equine Insurance and Why it Matters.

Regardless of whether or not you purchase mortality insurance, major medical, or both, make sure you definitely purchase liability insurance to protect yourself in the event your horse should harm someone.


December 22 2008 – LEAVE THE BARN LIGHTS ON?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Is it bad to leave the lights on in my barn?

Are you asking about leaving them on 24 hours a day? If so, yes, that would not be good for a couple of reasons.

Your horses will rest better if you leave the lights off for normal sleeping hours, such as between 9:00 pm to 6:00 am. Most barn owners I know have rules prohibiting their boarders from visiting the barn during such times just to give the horses a peaceful rest. Of course, if a horse has a problem requiring the presence of someone, such as a colic condition with the owner needing to stay nearby, they'll make an exception. Otherwise, no one needs to be in the barn overnight, especially with the lights on.

Another reason to not leave your lights on all the time is the cost of electricity. Why keep lights on when you and your horses aren't even in the barn? Or why leave them on during a stormy day with the horses in the barn if there is no person there needing the light?

All in all, I would just turn the lights on when you need them and leave them off at all other times.


December 19 2008 – MAKING MONEY IN A HORSE FARM BUSINESS

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

How does one make money in the horse farm business?

This is a pretty open-ended question and a complete answer requires far more space than we can allocate for a daily posting. In addition, you haven't identified the particular horse business you want to start. The easy answer, is to say: "assure that your revenues exceed your costs". Making that happen requires some work:

  1. First, define your business. Do you want to provide a boarding service, riding instruction, horse training, a rehab farm, a riding therapy farm, some combination of the foregoing, etc. — the list is long and you need to define your business goals.
  2. Second, determine current prices of the consumables needed for your business and try to ascertain what you feel you'll be able to charge and how many customers you can expect to see each month.
  3. Finally, do the math and see if you come out with a net positive or negative cash flow.
Any more advice than the foregoing requires specificity to the horse business you want to start. A good example is to read some of our articles about farm businesses. You can find them at this link:

Barns, Farms, & Business

I suggest that you start with Buying A Horse Farm - Part 1. The advice given in the article should give you a basic understanding and a pretty good idea of the issues involved. Part 2 will explain how to perform the financial analysis.

Good luck pursuing and achieving in your business dreams!


December 18 2008 – CAN SADDLE STAY IN BARN DURING WINTER MONTHS?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Can I leave my saddle in the barn's tack room throughout the winter? Or will something bad happen to it?

You didn't mention whether or not your saddle is leather or synthetic. If synthetic, it's likely designed so that neither temperature changes nor moisture (or even rain) will affect it.

But, if it's leather, make sure the saddle doesn't get wet either by something dripping on it or by condensation when a cold saddle is brought into warm, humid air. If that should happen, wipe it dry and immediately put on a fresh coat of a good-quality, protective saddle oil. Don't drown the saddle, but oil it enough so the saddle is soft and supple.

If you live in northern states, the winter air is cold and much drier than during the warmer months. It's still ok to leave your saddle in the barn in cold, dry air, but it's more important to keep aware of its condition and assure it stays adequately oiled. Otherwise, it might dry and crack. Of course, remember this advice for other leather tack also, like bridles, reins, halters, breastplates, riding boots, chaps, etc.


December 17 2008 – WINTER WEATHER DANGERS

I recently wrote an article on the benefits of winter riding for you and your horse, and how to keep warm. Now we're adding a companion article that talks about possible winter hazards and how to deal with them safely.

Obviously, there are hazards to all activities and trail riding is no different. But some of the hazards change with the seasons. This article aims at alerting you to those more common in colder months so you can ride more safely. It's entitled: Winter Riding Dangers & Staying Safe.


December 16 2008 – A HEALTHY HORSE WHEN OUTSIDE ON COLD, WET DAYS

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

The barn where I board likes to turn out the horses regardless of the weather. I'm concerned about my horse being outside in the cold when it rains. What can I do?

You have several options, the most obvious being just to move your horse to another barn. But I presume you know that, so save this option as a last resort.

Another option is to talk to the barn owner and give her/him some guidance about when you'd like your horse left in his stall, such as whenever it's below 45 °F and raining, or some such. Most barn owners will accommodate their boarder's request; after all, it's YOUR horse!

A third option is to purchase a waterproof sheet or blanket. If you live in a northern state and keep your horse clipped for showing, even in the winter, you're likely already blanketing your horse during the colder months to keep him warn when turned out. Just make sure that blanket is also waterproof so he stays dry on wet days.

If you allow your horse to grow his winter coat, use a waterproof sheet instead. This is like a blanket, but much thinner because it has no insulation. But because it's waterproof, it still won't allow rain and drizzle to pass through. Your horse will remain adequately warm by virtue of his own winter coat, but the sheet will keep him dry.

Special Note: Be careful about using a blanket on your horse if he also has his winter coat. You may want to put it on him on the coldest of days, but you don't want to do so on normal winter days. Remember, a healthy horse with his own winter coat is designed by nature to safely get him through the winter and you don't want to pile too much additional insulation on top of that which will make him perspire underneath.

Finally, remember that the foregoing is merely common sense advice. If you horse has any special physical needs or doesn't generate adequate heat, you may have to use a modified approach. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian and follow her/his advice on how to properly maintain your horse's warmth in the winter months.


December 15 2008 – GOING PERMANENTLY BAREFOOT?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Is there any reason that I shouldn't convert my horse to barefoot, permanently?

There could be depending upon your particular horse, but most horses seem to handle the conversion ok. And there's more and more evidence being published that most horses have healthier feet if kept barefoot. But because some horses don't convert well, it's not a guarantee that this is a good approach for your specific horse. Regardless, you'll never know for sure until you try it.

For starters, this is a good time to do it because you're likely riding less in this colder season and if your horse gets regular turnout and you live in a northern state, you don't want to have problems with snow and ice freezing to the bottoms of his feet because of the metal shoes. Pulling his shoes off will eliminate that problem.

Pulling his shoes will also likely make his feet "ouchy" for several weeks, but that will subside as his feet toughen up. If you should ride him during this period, you probably should consider putting boots on his front feet while riding. After a couple of months or so, you may not need them to ride any more once his feet have toughened. But be aware, some horses will always require either the boots or horseshoes when ridden.

Speak to your farrier about all this. He not only has experience on these issues with other horses that he's had to deal with, he also specifically knows the feet of your horse and can provide much more pertinent information to help you with your decision and how to best proceed.


December 12 2008 – FLUORESCENT LAMPS FLICKER IN COLD WEATHER

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Every winter I fight a problem with difficulty seeing in my barn because the fluorescent lights flicker. Is there any way to fix this problem?

Yes, there is. First, most fluorescent lights will eventually come on once they get warm enough. Until then, they'll usually flutter, as you're seeing, and then come on dimly. As they warm up, they'll keep getting brighter until they reach normal output. So, turning them on about 10 or 15 minutes before you start working is one option. The other way to solve your problem is to replace your fixtures with those specified as "cold weather" fluorescents.

If you're handy with tools, you can take the cheaper route of replacing just the ballast inside each fixture with a cold weather ballast — that's really the only difference between the fixtures. Such ballasts are rated to operate at temperatures down to -20 °F.


December 11 2008 – VOLTAGE NEEDED FOR A METAL HALIDE LIGHT FIXTURE

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

A couple of days ago, you posted about metal halide fixtures being good for the arena. Do I need 240 volts for that kind of light?

No. You can power almost any light fixture on standard 120 volt power. However, many gas-discharge lights (metal halide, high pressure sodium, low pressure sodium, mercury vapor, etc.) are designed to be powered by multiple voltages. Usually, they require a wiring change to allow them to work on another voltage. Common voltage options are 120V, 240V, or 277V. The diagram and instructions to make the change are usually on a label attached to the inside or outside of the fixture.


December 10 2008 – CAN HORSES STAY OUTSIDE IN THE RAIN?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Should I bring my horse into the barn when it rains?

That depends on the temperature and on the health of your horse. I also want to state that this is my opinion and that I'm not a veterinarian. But like most things about horses, I feel a little common sense can go a long way.

Most healthy horses with their winter fur do best when they spend a lot of time outside. Here in New England, many of us like to leave our horses outdoors during the daylight hours if it remains dry, even in the winter. But if it rains and the temperature is below the mid 45 - 50 °F, I like to bring my horse inside. While horses can take much colder temperatures when dry, once wet, they lose their body heat rapidly and hypothermia becomes a risk. Of course, if your horse isn't feeling well, you don't want to stress his body more by letting him get too cold. So err on the side of caution and keep him inside on the colder days, whether wet or dry when he's sick, until he gets healthy again. And in severe cold and wind, it might be a good idea to bring him inside even on dry days, or let him outside for a few hours, but not too many.

In warm weather, horses are usually fine outside rain or shine, even when sick. Check with your vet if you ever have concerns.


December 9 2008 – METAL HALIDE FOR THE ARENA

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Are metal halide light fixtures ok to use for an arena?

Metal Halide lighting is an excellent choice for lighting an arena, whether small or large. I've spoken about this lighting type in response to questions several times in the last few months. Take a look below at my posts for:

  • October 27, 2008 - ENERGY SAVING OUTDOOR RIDING LIGHTS
  • September 9, 2008 - ARENA LIGHTING
There's a little more discussion mentioning metal halide lighting on the August 29th post, but it focuses more on cost-efficient barn lighting.


December 8 2008 – SPLIT OR CONTINUOUS REINS?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

What's better, split reins or continuous?

I'm suspecting this question is to settle a difference of opinion? I hate to disappoint, but I don't feel there's any right answer; it's really a matter of personal taste. Both do the same job, do it well, and have been doing so for over a hundred years, likely for much longer.

As for me, my preference is for continuous reins. I worry that if I were ever to drop a split rein at speed for some reason, my horse could step on it and injure his mouth while running. With a continuous rein, it would drop on his neck and is not likely to slide forward and over his head — at least not quickly. In such a situation, I'd likely be cursing my lack of adequate attention and would quickly grab the reins again with either hand. For someone that's always ridden with split reins, they likely feel more comfortable with them for their own reasons. If anyone one of them wants to post as to why, I'm happy to publish it here.


December 5 2008 – CELL PHONE USE WHILE RIDING

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

A friend of mine tells me I shouldn't use my cell phone while I ride. I think it's ok because we're going a lot slower than in a car. Isn't this correct?

Yes! You are correct that riding a horse is slower than driving a car. BUT, that doesn't mean it's completely safe to use your cell phone while riding. Even at a walk, a horse has its own brain that may decide to do something you'd rather he not, such as bolt or rear because of a surprise. Would you be ready if that happened while you were focused on your call? What if a bee stung him as you walked by or over a nest? And if you use your phone at the trot, canter, or gallop, you really are taking chances with your health and life that could be avoided — why do that?

I've written several times about "being in the moment" while riding. One of the reasons I make that suggestion is because we miss a lot of the wonder going on around us if we're chatting away with other riders all the time. I think it's great being with our horse and seeing the vistas around us and all the other wildlife our four-legged friends can alert us to. It's the main reason I like to occasionally ride alone.

Don't get me wrong, I like riding with other horse people and chatting as we go. I also have taken a call or two on my cell phone while mounted whether in a ring or out on the trail. But I try to keep those calls short and rare — there is danger when we're doing something other than being focused on our horse and riding.

Carry your phone in case of an emergency, but keep calls short and rare while riding.


December 4, 2008 – MOLDY GRAIN

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

How dangerous is moldy grain?

It can be very dangerous!

Moldy grain is not hard to identify. It can be of many colors including red, white, pink, black, brown, blue, gray, and other colors. The color depends on the type of mold. The mold looks like little clumps on the grain pieces. You may also see fine filaments called "hyphae" that look like single strands of a spider web. The hyphae filaments is how the fungus grows and spreads.

Many of the fungi that can grow on grain produce chemical compounds called mycotoxins. A small amount of a mild toxin may just cause your horse to have diarrhea, but a larger amount or a more potent toxin can be much worse. Some of these toxins may be innocuous to some species, such as cattle. But for another species, such as horses, it can make them very ill or dead.

You don't want to mess around with moldy grain; don't even try to use it until you can get more grain. If you find mold in your grain, get rid of that grain and replace it with fresh grain immediately.


December 3, 2008 – HOW BIG A SADDLE FOR A BIG RIDER?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

What size saddle should I get for a 300 pound man?

Saddle size is dependent on several factors:

  • The size and roundness of the horse;
  • The size of the rider in terms of waistline.
The size and roundness of the horse will determine the size and shape of the saddle's tree. It is very important to make sure the saddle tree is the proper one for your horse or you can hurt him. To determine the proper size, speak with your tack dealer or your barn owner. At least one should know enough to help you or to direct you to someone who can.

The other aspect of the saddle is it's size for the rider, normally given in inches between the pommel and cantle. The proper size is determined by the rider's waistline. Believe it or not, the actual weight of the rider doesn't affect the saddle size, BUT, IT MAY AFFECT the horse. A 300 pound rider is not small. Make sure the horse can carry the rider's weight as well as having a saddle that will fit him/her and the horse.

Most typical horses range in height from 14-3 - 16 hands and weigh between 850 - 1,200 pounds — they generally can carry up to about a 230 pound rider. A 300 pound rider needs a bigger horse, perhaps even a draft horse. Remember that the rider's weight is only part of the horse's payload. Most people weigh themselves in the morning in their underwear (if not, they should do it this way to measure their actual weight). Then you have to add the weight of their clothes (which is both thicker and more of it in colder weather) and boots. Finally, you then have to add the weight of the horse's tack which includes bridle and reins as well as the saddle. If you have saddle bags, cantle, pommel, or wither bags, you have to add them plus their payload also.

So, depending on the tack, you've got another 25 - 70 pounds plus up to that 230 pound man for a typical horse, even more for a heavier person. Don't overload your horse, you could seriously and permanently injure him, or worse.


December 2, 2008 – HOW BIG A TRUCK TO HAUL A HORSE TRAILER?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

How big a truck should I get for towing a horse trailer?

This is an excellent question that requires more information. Are you hauling a single, two, or three horse trailer? Or are you hauling six, eight, or even ten horses at a time? Is it a stock (open) trailer or a closed one? Does it have living quarters?

Your response to each of the above questions determines the trailer's weight and the towing capacity needed by your tow vehicle. The problem is that there are even more questions that also need to be answered. Therefore, the best idea is to discuss your needs with your trailer dealer. But before you do, you may want to also read one of our articles entitled: Tow Vehicles to better understand some of the issues involved.


December 1, 2008 – A HORSE BUSINESS PLAN

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

How does one put together a business plan for a horse business?

Believe it or not, a business plan is a business plan and it's no different putting one together for a horse business than any other. Of course, the particulars will vary, but that is true of every business. For some reason, a business plan is an enigma for many people. In reality, it's not difficult.

A business plan is nothing more than a preliminary analysis of your expected costs and revenues. You don't specify what horse business you're considering, but for the sake of discussion, let's consider the most common horse business: that you want to start a horse farm to offer board and training services to customers. You need to get current prices for those items you'll need to regularly buy, such as grain, hay, shavings, etc., You'll also add in any other recurring costs, such as the barn/land mortgage payment costs, the monthly costs of any hired help, insurance, taxes, etc. Then, consider what you'll charge — you're doing all this to assure that your revenues will exceed your costs and still make you an adequate profit to justify the work and risk.

This is also why a bank or any investor will want to see your business plan. It shows them that you've thought through the costs and revenues that prove you can start and run a viable business if they lend you money — you'd want the same comfort if you were lending the money to someone else. If you're using your own money, you should want to do this analysis to convince yourself that your plan is financially sound.

One of our regular writers, Jennifer Goddard, has already written a two-part article entitled: Buying a Horse Farm that goes further into depth about equine related business plans. She also provides consulting services for starting and running equine businesses at Equine Business Solutions.


November 28, 2008 – BEST FENCING FOR CRIBBERS

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

My horse cribs and is destroying my new wooden fence. Would a steel fence work better?

I suggest you treat this as a multipart approach:

First, I would try to get the amount of cribbing down. While recent studies indicate that cribbers crib because they have a genetic predisposition to do so, the biggest contributing factor is stress. If you can reduce your horse's stress level, he will crib less.

He could be stressed from many causes. Some things to investigate include:

  1. Does he spend too much time in his stall and have too little turnout? More turnout will help to reduce boredom and cribbing; it's also much healthier for your horse. And when in his stall, the availability of free-choice hay will further reduce his cribbing.
  2. Is he paddocked with a bully that chases him around, won't let him eat, and generally just makes his life miserable? If so, put the bully or your horse in another paddock so the bully can't harass him.
  3. Conversely, maybe the problem is that there isn't another horse close enough for your horse to feel comfortable. Can you provide a pal for him either in the same paddock or an adjoining one?
  4. Is the barn owner or the help where he's boarded too harsh? If so, another barn could greatly reduce his stress level.
There are many other potential stressors, but you get the idea.

Second, does he have a cribbing collar? It won't eliminate cribbing, but it will reduce it and you'll likely want it on him when in his stall.

Finally, as to fencing, steel may reduce his cribbing, or it just may wear down his teeth faster — I don't like it as an approach and I don't feel it works well as a solution. An electric fence is better in that it won't give your horse anything upon which to chew. You can even leave his cribbing collar off (a good thing) when within the electric fence area. That will reduce the wear spots that such a collar can place on the head above the eyes.

But I'd start with reducing stressors first. Addressing the aggravators of cribbing likely won't eliminate it, but it will be reduced, often, significantly. And the reduced stress level will mean fewer health problems and a longer life for your horse (and maybe you, too).


November 26, 2008 – NIGHT RIDING SAFETY

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Is it safe to ride at night?

Safety is a relative term. What might be safe for one individual won't necessarily be safe for another. So the proper answer is: it depends.

Horses can see much better at night than we, more like a cat. They can't see in total darkness, but their eyes can see much more with the available light than we humans can. But there's another issue to consider, and that is how well you know your horse and he knows you. If he truly trusts you, he'll feel safer in any situation with you on his back. Then the question becomes: how well do you trust him? That's because you need to depend on his eyesight, his hearing, and his sense of smell to get you through areas in which you can't see.

I've ridden at night with too little light for me to see. My horse negotiated a trail with large rocks and logs across the trail without stumbling once (much better than he does during the day — go figure). It was surprising to me how much I didn't like not being in more control and having to put my trust in him. But after getting back to the barn safely, I felt really good that my best equine friend had gotten me back through a dark forest that I would never have attempted on foot without a flashlight.

So, to recap the answer, I feel that a decent rider on a trusted steed can generally safely ride at night. Of course, it's even better to have other riders along. But a beginner should not venture out at night alone, especially on an unfamiliar or spooky horse — too much can go wrong. In fact, such a combination should probably not venture out in the daylight alone either.


November 25, 2008 – MINIMAL STALL SIZE

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

What is too small for a horse stall?

Probably anything smaller than 10' x 10'. To my way of thinking, even that is a little tight for the average sized horse. The barn where I board my horse has 10' x 14' stalls, and that's one of the reasons I board there. The larger stall allows him to keep his wastes at the far end and to eat near the stall door. That not only keeps the two from mingling (which will waste food), it also makes for ease of mucking because those wastes are not spread about and trampled all over the stall — they're all in the same place. That also tells me that most horses will keep their waste in one place if they've got the space to do so.

Of course, if you have miniatures, they could get by with less space. Conversely, a large draft could use more and a 10' x 10' stall can be really tight.


November 24, 2008 – WINTER WEATHER RIDING

With winter right around the corner, there's been lots of discussions about riding or not in the winter and how to deal with the cold. To address those issues, I've written a comprehensive treatment of what I wear to stay warm while riding all winter in the hopes it will be of help to those of you who, like me, want to ride during the winter and keep our horses and ourselves in good shape regardless of the season. It's entitled: Winter Riding & Staying Warm .


November 21, 2008 – THE LIFESPAN OF A BARN

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

How long does the average barn last?

This is a question no one's ever asked before. I presume you mean the building itself and not a "barn business", meaning a horse farm?

The lifespan of barns, like houses and all other buildings, is determined by the very same factors of quality of building materials, construction workmanship, and degree and quality of periodic maintenance. I've seen many barns who's upkeep is ignored and they show the wear and tear in just a few years. Conversely, I've seen barns that are kept in very good condition by attentively repairing those parts that have broken and periodically receiving a coat or two of quality paint. The latter structures are going to be around for a very long time, and in very good condition.

Similarly, I've seen many barnyards that are a real mess with not only dilapidated structures, but also all manner of trash, old vehicles, bungee-cord and bailing-twine fence repairs, and more, hanging around the place — which do think are more appealing? Which do you think are a lot safer for people and horses? And which do you think are actually more economical for the owner in the long run? (Hint: all these descriptions apply to the same level of care barns. And believe it or not, it's actually more expensive, not less, to let them fall into desuetude.)


November 20, 2008 – FORCE OF A HORSE KICK?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Do you know the force of a horse kick?

No, I don't; I've not seen a measurement or even an estimate for the "kick force" of a typical horse. But the fact that a 1,000 pound horse can not only rear and lift his/her entire weight up into the air, but also actually jump with a rider atop, and high, leads me to conclude that the force generated by such a typical horse is at least 1,000 pounds. I would not want to be on the end of a half-ton kick, and it could be even more.

I have read reports of humans receiving a kick to the head that completely shatters their skull resulting in death. I apologize for the gruesome image this response can conjure up in the mind, but it certainly makes a case for being very aware when around horses and also to assuring they're aware of us. I will not go behind a horse without dragging my hand along and around his rump as I go and have never been kicked. That said, I still avoid the back-ends of horses that are known to be kickers. And I pass very close to those that are not kickers (while dragging my hand) in case they ever did so. Being very close when kicked would be far less severe than at the end of his hind-leg reach where the horse has been able to build speed and force.

In addition, heavier horses can almost certainly kick with much more force. Thankfully, most drafts are gentle giants. But I still highly suggest keeping alert and assuring a horse knows where you are when you're near him.


November 19, 2008 – WHICH LEGS HAVE MORE WEIGHT WHEN GOING DOWNHILL?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Is it harder on the horse's front or back legs when going downhill?

It's harder on the front legs. In all cases, there is more weight on whatever legs are on the downhill side. Similarly, if you and a friend were carrying a heavy TV set upstairs (or downstairs), the person at the lower end would carry more than half the weight.

Think about it this way: as the load, whatever it is, becomes more and more vertical, the weight shifts more and more to the lower side. Using the TV as an example, when the angle is so steep that the TV becomes vertical, the lower person is carrying all the weight. It's the same on the horse's legs. If the hill becomes so steep as to be vertical, the lower legs would have to support all the weight. Of course, no horse or person could traverse a vertical slope, but you get the idea and the physics behind this.

So, going downhill, more weight is on the forehand; going uphill, more weight is on the rear legs.


November 18, 2008 – CLARIFYING TRAILER WEIGHT TERMS

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

What is the towing capacity of a horse trailer?

There is no "towing capacity" of a trailer; Towing Capacity is a rating ascribed to the tow vehicle and specifies the maximum amount of weight the vehicle can pull. You might be asking about the "Cargo Weight" of a horse trailer. Cargo Weight is the greatest amount of weight you can place into and on the trailer itself. That rating is set by the trailer manufacturer. All you need do is to look it up in the trailer owner's manual or contact the manufacturer or one of their dealers directly.

If it is not explicitly specified in the manual, you can also calculate it by subtracting the Curb Weight (the weight of the trailer when empty) from the Gross Trailer Weight (the weight of the trailer when full). The Gross Trailer Weight is the greatest amount of weight for which the trailer is designed. In other words, when weighing a trailer with cargo, the combined weight cannot exceed the Gross Trailer Weight or it will be unsafe to tow. And that weight must NEVER exceed the towing capacity of your tow vehicle.

The different weight ratings of trailers can be a confusing topic. Therefore, you may also want to read Getting Properly Hitched that was published in the October 2008 issue of Perfect Horse magazine as well as checking out the Trucks & Trailering section of our ever-growing articles page.


November 17, 2008 – BACK FROM THE SHOW

Well, the 2008 Equine Affaire was a great show and well attended. There's just something really fun about spending a few days immersed in the world of horses and surrounded by other people just as crazy about horses as some of us are (I've never mentioned that the "Horse Girl" was crazy???) Almost every conversation is about horses, keeping them, training them, and riding. And I'm always surprised at how someone that doesn't seem to know much about one aspect is an expert and able to teach the rest of us something about some other aspect of horses.

I spent some time away from our booth looking at trailers (don't tell the "Horse Girl"). I'm in the market for a trailer right now, though, in this economy, I'd really rather buy used. Still, it was great to be able to see and compare them all in one spot.

The show is huge with something like 30,000 - 40,000 people each day and 110,000 unique individuals coming through. There is a bigger convention or two in the country each year, but not with so many people and vendors in one spot over just four days.


Unfortunately, I was saddened to learn today that Bandito, owned by my close friend and partner, the "Horse Girl", is not doing well. He was improving while we attended the show and Kathleen was able to spend some time with him (the rehabilitation farm was fortuitously close to the show). But this morning, things worsened and the prognosis is not good. You can learn more from her "Horse Girl" post today.

I'm saying a little prayer for Bandito. He's a wonderfully gentle and loving horse that has always given his "all" when playing polo, general riding, and now losing a fight for his life. He has a special place in my heart.


November 12, 2008 – OUT AT THE SHOW — BACK ON MONDAY

Due to their participation in the big EQUINE AFFAIRE! horse show in Massachusetts from Thursday, November 13th to Sunday November 16th, there will be no further posts from the "Horse Girl" or "Horse Guy" again until Monday, November 17th — SEE YOU THERE!!!


November 11, 2008 – REINS WITHOUT A BUCKLE?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I sometimes scrape my hands on the buckle that connects the left and right reins. Isn't there anything better?

Tack is a very personal set of items. Some people stick closely to the tack specifically targeted to their discipline while others mix and match as they see fit. Clearly, if you show, you need to use the tack for your discipline, but if you just practice in the ring or ride the trails, it really doesn't matter except to assure your tack is appropriate to the task you're doing.

For example, while I'm primarily a trail rider, when practicing jumping, I use an equitation saddle in the ring. I don't want a horn to interfere with my jumping (or worse). But on the trail, I prefer a saddle with a deeper cantle to provide more support if a surprise should spook my horse. My current saddle of choice is an Australian saddle because it provides the most support I've found AND has no horn, so I can still do the low-level jumps I might need to traverse an obstacle, such as a fallen tree across the trail.

Then, I mix in a halter/bridle to offer my horse and me more options, like being able to simply pull his bit to let him graze while I eat a sandwich out on the trail — I don't have to carry a halter with me. So I don't stick to any one style for any part of tack. Instead, I use what works best, provides the most comfort and safety, and also meets my preferences regardless of tradition.

As for reins, I worry about dropping one side if using split reins, and like you, dislike the thought of that buckle sliding through my hands if something happens quickly. The buckle is there because a leather rein cannot be made in lengths much longer than seven feet or so. That's because the maximum length of a leather rein is limited by the length of the cow's side from which it's cut (if we could breed longer cows, we could have a longer leather rein). If you like a 10-11 foot rein as I do, you need to connect two pieces of leather rein or use another rein material.

I like synthetic rope reins when on the trail. They avoid the buckle and can be ordered in any length you like. I'll ride one-handed when things are calm as western riders usually do, but will use two hands when galloping or to collect my horse when riding with large groups, especially if one or more riders can't adequately control their horses — I want to be ready and have my horse "on the bit" if something should happen quickly.


November 10, 2008 – SHORT WHEELBASE VEHICLES AND TOWING

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Is it safe to tow a horse trailer with a short wheelbase vehicle?

Reposted as part of a separate article. See: Common Trailering Questions article.


November 06, 2008 – NEW RIDER WANTS OWN SADDLE

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I am a new rider and want to buy a saddle that fits me. The one provided by the barn where I ride is not very comfortable. What kind should I get?

This is a difficult question under the best of circumstances and not the least of which is because you also didn't mention the kind of riding you do. For example, if you intend to take jumping lessons, you're going to want to use a jumping saddle, or at least a saddle without a horn that doesn't obstruct movement of you or your horse.

If you're a trail rider, you'll likely want to look at a Western, endurance, or an Australian saddle because they provide more support to keep you in the saddle if your horse gets spooked. Of course, you can still ride the trails in an English saddle, but because they're flatter, they just provide less support. And as a beginning rider, the extra support will reduce the chances of you leaving your saddle and falling to the ground unintended if your horse should quickly shy or turn because he's startled.

More importantly, no one saddle fits all horses. Not only are some horses thinner or rounder than others, the profile from withers to mid-body where a saddle normally ends will also be different from horse to horse. It's very important the saddle properly fit the horse you're riding, perhaps even more important than you being comfortable. If not, you could injure your horse's back, sometimes permanently. With all these variables, I suggest it could be premature for you to buy your own saddle at this time.

Please consider getting a little more experience first and also speak with your instructor. When you're ready to either lease (split or full) or buy a horse, getting your own saddle will make more sense. Your instructor should be a good individual from which to get saddle choosing and buying advice. Until then, share your concerns about the lack of comfort with your current saddle and it's likely they'll have one or more other saddles you can try that will still fit the horse you ride.


November 05, 2008 – VAPOR-TIGHT LIGHT FIXTURES IN THE BARN

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I was told I need vapor-tight light fixtures in my barn; is that true?

Vapor-tight light fixtures are usually required in wet or extremely dusty locations. So you don't usually need them in the aisles or in the stalls, but you do want one or more in your wash stall or any area that might get hit with a spray. If a spray of water was ever to hit a hot bulb, it would likely fracture and break from the thermal shock and shower glass down on you and your horse. Of course, if light fixtures in the aisles or stalls of your barn get occasionally exposed to liquids or high dust levels, you really do need vapor-tight fixtures there, but that would be unusual. And while compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) run much cooler, you still want them contained in a vapor-tight fixture to keep moisture away from power-line voltages.


November 04, 2008 – ARE TRAILER BRAKES ALWAYS NEEDED?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Do I still need electric brakes if I only haul a small horse in a one-horse trailer?

Reposted as part of a separate article. See: Common Trailering Questions article.


November 03, 2008 – A CAMERA TO TAKE ON RIDES?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I'd like to take photos of some of the places I visit when riding horseback. Can you make any suggestions? Should I get an SLR?

This has also been a dilemma for me. As a professional photographer, I would love to carry one of my SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras and several well-chosen lenses, but I dare not do so. I'm afraid of possible damage from the jostling while riding and the risk of dropping if I ever dared to shoot while mounted, which I might have to do if it's wildlife I'm trying to capture — they likely would scoot or fly off if I had to dismount to take the photo.

As a result, I've been looking at relatively inexpensive "point and shoot" cameras. Of course, you want to get a camera that takes quality photos and has a fairly wide zoom range, but I can't in good conscience recommend anything more expensive when I'm afraid of doing it myself. I feel that any quality "point and shoot" camera will work.

One other area I'm exploring is to find some decent saddlebags with foam padding. If I find such an accessory and they seem able to adequately protect a small SLR, I'll report it here. That still won't address the inherent risks of shooting from the saddle, but it would at least let us carry quality gear safely into the field.


October 30, 2008 – SELECTING A HOOF PICK

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I'm looking for a hoof pick and saw many different kinds at my tack shop. Is one any better than the others?

You're right — there are more kinds of picks than most of us would ever think. I've used several different kinds and they all worked fine. The only ones I would not use are those that are sharp. Sometimes, mud, or mud with stones can get really packed into a shoed hoof and it takes some real strength to break it loose. In such a case, a slip with a sharp pick could scrape or cut your horse's frog. Then, you've opened to door to all kinds of problems from a sore foot that your horse favors until it heals to something worse: the chance of an infection. And a horse with an infected foot is at risk of going lame, and we all know what that means.

Get a pick with a strong metal point with no sharp point or edges and you should be fine.


October 29, 2008 – SECURING A HORSE TRAILER FROM THEFT

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Lately, I've been hearing of people stealing horse trailers while the owners are out on a trail ride. What can I do to prevent theft of my trailer?

Reposted as part of a separate article. See: Common Trailering Questions article.


October 28, 2008 – GRAZING WITH BIT IN MOUTH?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Why can't a horse graze with a bit in his mouth?

Well, in fact he can, but you shouldn't let him. I've heard warnings that horses grazing with a bit may result in choking, but have never heard of it happening. And, in fact, almost every horse I've ever been around or ridden has certainly tried, and sometimes succeeded, in getting a bite of grass, weeds, or that scrumptious birch leaf, and all without problems. But the reason most of us are against it is because it comes down to control.

A bit in your horse's mouth should mean it's work time. That means he should be paying attention to you, not snacking. Yes, he will still try, and occasionally get a bite here and there, but that doesn't mean you should give in. The more consistent I hold to no grazing when a bit is in, the less my horse has tried to snag that bite.

When I go on a long trail ride, I will occasionally take a break, especially when I bring a lunch along. At those times, I just pull his bit and let him graze. I use a halter/bridle on him which makes removing and adding the bit a lot easier. But if using a bridle, you can just bring a halter along for those times when you plan to pull his bit, but not set him free.


October 27, 2008 – ENERGY SAVING OUTDOOR RIDING LIGHTS

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Can you suggest some energy saving outdoor riding lights?

Actually, I sort of addressed this last month when responding to a question about indoor arena lighting. The only real difference is to make sure you use weatherproof fixtures.

Outdoor riding lights need to be very bright and mounted high above the ground. Therefore, you want to get high-intensity, gas-discharge lights, such as metal halide, or high-pressure sodium. These lights will give you low-cost, high efficiency lighting with the higher intensity needed to light big spaces like arenas. These types of lighting are long-life bulbs lasting 8,000 - 12,000 hours.

The fixtures are going to be more expensive to buy initially, but because of their long life and efficient use of electricity per lumen of light output, they pay for themselves over and over again compared to the cost of incandescent lighting. Plus, with today's higher electric rates, that payback comes to you even more quickly.


October 23, 2008 – RADIO IN THE BARN?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

One of my boarders told me that I play the radio too loud in my barn and that the horse's don't like it. Is that possible?

To be honest, I have absolutely no expertise in this area. In fact, I don't even know anyone who does. But I'll offer an opinion.

I suspect that horse's don't mind a radio playing quietly anymore than they mind listening to us talk when around them. In fact, if their relationships with humans is a positive one, I believe it provides a some peace of mind. However, I do think that a radio played too loudly is annoying and also think it should also be off some of the time. I also suspect that some music might get them worked up, such as something harsh or constantly frenetic. I know that I truly enjoy quiet lots of times and prefer barns where there is no radio or one that is only played occasionally and with soothing music.

Hopefully, your horses are turned out during most days that the weather permits. That way, you can enjoy the radio and they won't be bothered by it at all. But it's likely alright to play it on rainy or really cold days when the horses are stall bound if it's not too loud and the music isn't harsh.

There are no medical reasons for my suggestions, just feelings I would have in the horse's place.


October 21, 2008 – WHAT GLOVES TO USE WHEN RIDING IN COLDER WEATHER

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

The weather is getting colder here and my hands are cold when I ride. What gloves should I buy?

This is a somewhat personal decision. I don't know if you're male or female, what you mean by "colder weather", nor how hard you typically ride in this weather. Women generally generate less heat than men performing the same task. One reason is that a man is generally moving more mass just because men are usually bigger than women, and therefore, burn more calories to do so, resulting in more body heat. And what's meant by "cold" in South Carolina is different than cold in Montana.

As for me, I ride in temperatures down to about 10 - 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Normally, besides lots of walking, I like to mix trotting, cantering, and even a little galloping into a typical ride. But, at the temperatures mentioned above, the ground is frozen and there may also be ice around, so my rides are limited primarily to walking. Maybe I'll find some soft, dry sand or evergreen droppings that will allow a slow trot in this weather, but that's all I'll do and not much of it because the hard ground can cause shin splints in your horse. So, I won't be generating much heat by myself with such mild riding which means I need warmer clothes.

As we get into this weather, I start wearing my winter riding coat that has a dozen pockets. In them, I carry a pair of thin riding gloves, a pair of heavy, thick riding gloves, hand warmers, a warm helmet cover, and more. If I start my ride in the morning, the air will warm and I'll be unzipping my coat and changing to the thinner gloves by midday. Conversely, it's wonderful to have heavy gloves "at the ready" in late afternoon as the sun is going down. This past weekend, I rode with friends at midday and went out wearing the thin gloves and returned with bare hands because I'd gotten quite warm during some cantering in 55 degree air, even though it was windy and made my hands cold when we left.

This is all a long way of saying that carrying two separate weights of gloves makes a lot of sense. And as often repeated, dress in layers so you can adjust your clothing with the changes in temperature — thats the key point I'm trying to make rather than just recommending some gloves to you..

I hope to write and post a comprehensive article about cold-weather riding in the next few weeks — stay tuned.


October 20, 2008 – FLUORESCENTS THAT WORK IN COLD WEATHER?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I have fluorescent lights (tubes, not CFLs) in my barn and they always flicker and stay dim in the colder months. Now that winter is coming, I'm depressed I'll again be working in cold, dim light. Any suggestions?

You didn't mention where you live, so I have no idea what winter is like where you are. But, there are fluorescent fixtures made to work properly in cold air and they're called "cold weather fluorescent lamps". These fixtures are enclosed and have a ballast that provides a higher voltage specifically for starting in cold environments, down to –20°F. And the fixture enclosure allows the temperature to rise around the bulb fairly quickly so they achieve their full brightness even in the winter. Check with your local lighting or home improvement store.


October 16, 2008 – SADDLE CARE – CLEAN HARDWARE OR LEATHER FIRST?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

When cleaning up my saddle, does it matter if I oil the leather first and then clean the hardware or is it better to do it the other way around?

I don't know that it really matters, though I do follow my own approach for my own reasons. Here they are for your consideration:

I clean the hardware first and then oil the saddle. My reasoning is that I don't believe that saddle oil will have any deleterious effect on the hardware. But I don't know if the chemicals used to clean the hardware might breakdown the oil and cause the leather to deteriorate. So, I clean the hardware first and then oil the leather last in the belief it will displace any other chemicals with oil to to keep it supple and to help it reject moisture.


October 15, 2008 – DOORS ON A BARN?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I just built a new barn with doors to keep my horses warm and another horse owner told me I should not have installed doors. Is he right?

I like having doors on a barn, but they should normally be open. Even in the cold of winter, you should be judicious about closing them.

One big reason is because of horse wastes. Droppings and urine are broken down quickly by bacteria. And while that bacteria works slower in very cold weather, it still works and releases gases by the breakdown process. One of the breakdown products of the urea in the urine is ammonia. A closed barn will contain that ammonia as well as other byproducts and your horses will be forced to breath it — this is not healthy for them.

About the only time I would close the doors is on a very cold day or night with wind-driven rain. You want to keep your horses dry during the coldest months. When the air is dry, a horse's winter coat will keep a healthy horse warm. But when wet, they lose heat faster than they can generate it and are at risk of hypothermia. Most of the time, your doors should remain open. If you do close them because of a cold driven rain, open them as soon as the storm ends. Barns should generally be very well ventilated.


October 14, 2008 – ELECTRIC FENCE HEALTH RISKS?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I keep getting shocked by my horse's electric fence. Will this injure my heart or overall health if it keeps happening?

I'm not a doctor, but I doubt that multiple electric shocks will have any lasting effect on a healthy human being. These shocks are of high voltage, but very little current. Their main effect is to cause you to quickly contract your muscles.

However, there may be some people that should explicitly avoid such shocks, such as those with pace makers and any heart abnormalities. I also suspect that someone who fell against a fence and couldn't remove himself due to an injury or unconsciousness could also face some risk. Electric fence manufacturers have no doubt investigated this issue so as to avoid liability concerns. Contacting one of them should provide more accurate information based on their own studies.

I hate to come right out and say this, but the safest way to avoid this problem is just to avoid touching the fence. The horses and cattle can learn this pretty quickly; is there some reason we humans can't figure this out for ourselves?


October 10, 2008 – HITCH BALL SIZE

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I have a drawbar for my hitch receiver that currently has a 1 7/8-inch ball. Can't I just replace it with a 2 inch ball to pull my horse trailer?

Reposted as part of a separate article. See: Common Trailering Questions article.


October 7, 2008 – WHERE TO CARRY WEIGHT ON YOUR HORSE

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I'm trying to figure out how to divvy-up and carry camping gear items I need to haul on overnight rides. Any suggestions?

This is actually a very good question. The first thing to consider is whether you're asking your horse to carry too much weight. Without knowing your weight, the weight of your tack, the weight of your payload, and the breed and size of your horse, it's hard to offer suggestions. But you need to be sure that the combination of your weight, tack, and payload is not too much for your horse to carry. Besides his breed and size, his condition is important and a short-coupled horse can handle weight better than one with a long back.

As for weight distribution, your horse will be able to best handle weight that's over his center of gravity — that's usually just behind his front legs. It also means making use of wither and horn bags. Saddlebag payload should be relatively light by comparison.

If you're taking a considerable amount of weight on your ride, you're better off taking a packhorse. Or if your camping location is accessible via a vehicle, perhaps a friend can meet you at your camping site to deliver supplies and later pick them up, plus waste, when you leave. Either approach will provide you with gear that your own horse won't have to carry in or out from the trail.

Be very careful about loading your horse, both in terms of overall weight and where it's located, or you could really hurt him.


October 3, 2008 –VETTING AND WORKING WITH BOARDERS

Reposted as part of a separate article. See: Vetting and Working with Boarders article.


October 1, 2008 – ARENA LIGHTING REVISITED

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Your post about arena lighting on 9/9/08 said nothing about the LED form.

You're correct! While LED lighting is available, it's just starting to be implemented in standard line-voltage (120 volts) fixtures used in homes and barns. Over the next five years or so, we'll see more and more variations that will truly begin to replace, not only incandescent bulbs, but also compact fluorescent lights (CFL) that are currently replacing incandescent bulbs.

However, arena lighting requires high-intensity light from fixtures located fairly high above the ground. Currently, there are no good and cost-effective LED fixtures for this purpose. But I expect to start seeing such fixtures in the years to come.


September 30, 2008 – WHAT IS A CHEYENNE ROLL?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I'm looking at new saddles online and some say they have a cheyenne roll. I can't for the life of me figure out what that is; can you help?

A cheyenne roll is nothing more than an extension at the top of the saddle seat toward the back of the saddle (see drawings below). It's handy to grip when you turn around or want to have a solid place to grab behind you when mounted.

Straight and Cheyenne Roll

Cheyenne Roll Illustration

I hope this helps.


September 29, 2008 – MOUNTING FROM THE RIGHT SIDE?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Is it dangerous to mount a horse from the right side?

Dangerous is a relative word when it comes to horses — anything could be dangerous if done improperly or when your horse is not ready for it; conversely, almost anything, if done properly, could also be safe. In this case, if your horse is calm, trusts you, and you get him/her accustomed to being mounted from the right side, it's no more dangerous than mounting from the more typical, left side.

In my case, I try to use a mounting block or any elevated platform whenever possible. I actually prefer to mount from the ground using the stirrup — it helps keep me in shape. But recent studies are showing that our horse's spine receives a twisting shock whenever we lift ourselves up via the stirrup to mount. So I use a mounting block most of the time.

Occasionally, I mount using the stirrup so my horse remains comfortable with that approach and I mix it up using the left side sometimes and the right side at others. On the trail, there is often nothing to use for mounting and we have to use the stirrup. And sometimes, it's easier and safer to mount from the right side. For example, you might be on the side of a hill and the ground may fall off on the left side. In this case, mounting from the right side presents less of a risk to both of you.


September 26, 2008 – PROPER TRUCK/TRAILER WIRING CONNECTORS

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Can I use my own connectors on the wiring hookup for my trailer?

I don't know of any law prohibiting you from doing so, but why would you want to do it? Standard wiring connectors are designed specifically for this task and are built to take exposure to the elements and vehicle vibration over the long term. For the small additional expense, I would buy a standard connector and wiring harness to do the job right. Just talk to your nearest truck or trailer dealer and they'll have you select a proper connector/harness for your horse-towing rig.


September 23, 2008 – HOW OFTEN TO OIL A SADDLE

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

How often should I oil my saddle?

Believe it or not, it's better to oil it often, but lightly. Resist the temptation to do nothing and then "load on" the oil. Of course, if your saddle is already really dry, you'll need to add more leather oil until your saddle becomes supple. But the error made by many riders is to ignore their saddle until it really needs attention, and then they overdo it. That makes for leather that "bleeds" for a while until the rider's pants absorb enough over many rides to remove the excess oil. A much better approach is to oil lightly every few rides or to use the wipes sold by some saddleries. If you go with the wipes, you wipe your saddle lightly and quickly after every ride.

Whichever approach you take, don't ignore your saddle for an extended period, such as an entire riding season, and then try to refurbish your saddle all at once. While even sparse treatment is better than none, your saddle is slowly deteriorating in "bits and pieces" when you wait too long between treatments. The result will ultimately be a saddle who's life is significantly shortened from what it could have been. And if a very dry saddle gets wet, the water will go deep inside. When that happens, you must get it fully dry before applying oil or you'll seal the moisture inside — and that can cause rot.


September 19, 2008 – COMPREHENSIVE ARTICLE ABOUT TRAILER HITCHES

In the August 28 posting responding to a reader asking about hitch balls and couplers, I promised that a comprehensive article about trailer hitches for towing horses was coming. The finished article has been published in this month's Perfect Horse magazine and is also posted here for your convenience at Getting Properly Hitched.

"Perfect Horse" magazine also has articles about many other important aspects of horses, training, and their care — check them out!


September 17, 2008 – HOW OFTEN SHOULD I INFLATE TIRES?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

How often should I inflate my tow vehicle and horse trailer tires?

Reposted as part of a separate article. See: Common Trailering Questions article.


September 15, 2008 – FARM FENCING

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Is there one type of fence that's a lot better than the others for my horse farm?

I don't know what kind of farm you have. And there are many kinds of fencing used for horses from wood and various plastics (PVC, High Density Polyethylene Fencing (HDPE), etc.) to galvanized or powder-coated steel and several forms of electric fencing (electrified wires, tapes, ribbons, etc.) One form may also blend in better than another with your home, barn, and property.

Without getting into all the advantages and disadvantages of each kind, most of the time, the actual type of fencing is less important than its proper installation and maintenance. Some people undermine their entire fence by buying quality fencing, but then use as little as they can get away with and hope that other parts of their pasture will keep horses inside because of a tree line, hill, or some such — that's not a good idea. Good quality, properly installed fencing is much more reliable than depending on most natural barriers. For example, tree-lines, low rock walls, bushes, and such are usually porous at one or many points along their length. It's not worth risking a loose horse to save some money.

So, I don't think the type of fencing you select is half as important as buying a good product, getting enough of it to do the job, and then having it properly installed or doing it right yourself.


September 11, 2008 – USE A HOME SKYLIGHT IN A BARN?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Can I use a skylight made for a house on my barn?

You can, but you should ask yourself why you would. Skylights made for a home, business, or any other building inhabited by humans are made to high standards. It is imperative that they not leak and that they provide good thermal insulation characteristics so you don't lose too much heat in winter or gain too much in summer. Also, many of them are made to open and close so you can get good house ventilation. And if they do open, they must still assure that they don't leak when closed. The technology for all this is expensive and overkill for a barn installation.

By comparison, skylights used for barns are much simpler, and therefore, cheaper. Their only real requirements are that they let in natural light and not leak water when it rains. As a result, they don't need to provide thermal insulation and don't need to be opened and closed because a barn is usually not heated and you want thorough ventilation year round to maintain fresh air for your horses. They're really just a piece of clear or frosted plastic sealed well enough to keep out rain and snow, and strong enough to support a snow load.

Now that you know this, if your home skylight is new, perhaps leftover from another project, I'd return it to the home store for a refund or sell it outright to another individual wanting one for his home or business. Then, take your proceeds and buy the much cheaper skylights made for a barn. Depending on how many you need and how big you want them, you may even get them all for the money you saved from returning or selling the one you have.


September 9, 2008 – ARENA LIGHTING

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

What's the best lighting for me to add to my new indoor arena?

I would install one of three types: high intensity fluorescent, metal halide, or high-pressure sodium. All of these lamp types are high-intensity, gas-discharge lights. That means they give you the lower-cost, but high efficiency of fluorescent lighting with the higher intensity needed (when mounted higher above the ground) to light big spaces, like arenas and auditoriums. They also are long-life bulbs on the order of 8,000 - 12,000 hours.

These lights more expensive to initially buy and install, but because of their long life and very efficient use of electricity per lumen of light output, they pay for themselves over and over again compared to the cost of incandescent lighting. And with today's higher electric rates, that payback comes to you more quickly than in the past, usually within the first year.


September 8, 2008 – WIRING IN A TRAILER CONNECTOR

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Can you help me with the electrical hookup for a horse trailer? I just bought a trailer and my truck has a hitch receiver, but no electrical connector.

Reposted as part of a separate article. See: Common Trailering Questions article.


September 5, 2008 – JUMPING IN A WESTERN SADDLE?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Can I go over a jump in a western saddle with a horn?

Posted as a separate article. See: Is it Safe to Jump in a Western Saddle? article.


September 2, 2008 – REDUCING STALL BOREDOM

Posted as a separate article. See: Reducing Stall Boredom article.


August 29, 2008 – BARN LIGHTING CHOICES

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I have 8 foot fluorescent tube lighting in my barn and have been told that gas discharge lights would be more efficient and use less electricity. Where can I get these lights?

The short answer is that you've already got some. Fluorescent bulbs are one form of gas discharge lighting. Other forms are mercury vapor, metal halide, high pressure sodium, and low-pressure sodium. You can find lamps of all these types at an electrical supplier.

The most efficient is low pressure sodium, but they emit a sickening, yellowish-green light that makes people look cadaverous. It's primarily used for outdoor security lighting where most of us don't care how people look, we just want to assure they're not trying to vandalize or steal something.

High pressure sodium lighting is the next most efficient and emits the more full spectrum, bright orange light you're seeing used more frequently for parking lots and utility poles. All of these lighting forms (mercury vapor, metal halide, and low and high pressure sodium) are much better used for outdoor lighting or an indoor arena than a barn. They are high-intensity, gas discharge lamps designed to flood a large area with light from a higher mounting point above the ground or floor. They take 5 - 15 minutes to get to full brightness from an initially very dim starting point — I would hate that in a barn.

In my opinion, you're best off with fluorescent lighting like you already have. It comes on instantly to about 70 - 90% brightness and hits full brightness in 30 - 60 seconds. It also works well from ceiling heights of 8 - 12 feet above the floor typical of barns.


August 28, 2008 – PROPER TRAILER HITCH BALLS AND COUPLERS

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

My brother gave me an old, small, two-horse trailer and I just finished refurbishing it. Does it matter what size ball and hitch I put on my truck and trailer or can I use a set that I already have.

IT DEFINITELY DOES MATTER! Hitch balls and couplers are graded into various sizes and weight classes. In addition, the diameter of the bolt affixing the ball to your truck hitch also matters. For example, you cannot use a ball diameter smaller than 2 inches for a two-horse trailer because it cannot pull the weight of the trailer and a horse.

Below is a table indicating weight limits of balls and bolts:

Ball Diameter (inches) Bolt Diameter (inches) Weight Rating
1 7/8 1 2,000 pounds
2 3/4 3,500 pounds
2 1 6,000 pounds
2 1 3/8 10,000 pounds

Select the size based upon the Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) rating of your trailer. This is the total weight of your trailer and everything it can carry from horses and tack to hay and water — DO NOT EXCEED THIS WEIGHT! Of course, you can always use a larger rated ball, bolt, and coupler than needed. Also, make sure your truck is rated to haul a trailer with this GTW or larger.

A comprehensive article about trailer hitches for towing horses is coming in the next few months. We will include photos of each of the different hitch types and more information on weight classes.


August 27, 2008 – SUGGESTIONS ON NEW STIRRUPS?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I'm looking to buy some new stirrups; any suggestions?

It really depends on what you're doing. Stirrups rarely break or wear out, so there's no need to periodically get a new set. But if you want a new set for a specific reason, that's fine.

I replaced mine last year for a set of endurance stirrups. The new stirrups have made my riding more comfortable by reducing ankle and knee pain I used to experience. I wrote an article on the switch several months ago for QueryHorse that you can read entitled A More Comfortable Stirrup.

The other point I'd like to make is that English stirrups are generally narrower than western or endurance stirrups. I cannot wear my usual Ariat riding shoes when on an English saddle. Instead, I wear standard paddock boots and they fit the English irons just fine. So, you may want to keep this in mind when selecting new riding boots or replacing stirrups.


August 26, 2008 – CAN I TOW A HORSE TRAILER WITH MY JEEP?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Can I tow a small two-horse trailer with my jeep.

Reposted as part of a separate article. See: Common Trailering Questions article.


August 25, 2008 – IS IT EASIER TO SEE ANIMALS ON FOOT OR HORSEBACK?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

My husband and I have a disagreement over whether or not it's easier to see wildlife on foot or on horseback. He says horses make too much noise and are so big that they're easily seen while a person presents a smaller visual profile and can sneak up quietly. But I've seen more wild animals on horseback than I ever did when hiking. Any comments?

Yes! But I should start by saying that I'm not an authority on this topic — a zoologist would likely know more. But I am happy to share my own experiences and they agree with you.

Without getting into my age (shudders), I have mostly lived in rural areas and have done a lot of hiking over the years, especially for my nature and landscape photography. I've seen a lot of wildlife over that time, but see more when on horseback; sometimes, much more.

First, my horse helps alert me to wildlife that I would never have seen, heard, or smelled, but he does. His senses far outdo mine, and likely any other human being. In fact, horses are being used more and more for search and rescue because they can see from a higher vantage point than a dog and actually have more olfactory cells in their noses than even a bloodhound.

Second, my horse and I have gotten a lot closer to many animals than I ever have been able to get on foot. I believe it's because the animal sees four hooves on the ground instead of two human feet and sees my horse and me together as some weird, two-headed, but non-threatening animal. Whatever the reason, animals don't run as soon and will sometimes approach us to satisfy their curiosity, even deer have done this.

Unfortunately, I never have either of my good cameras while on horseback for fear of dropping and breakage, so I can never take advantage of the opportunity; though I'm currently experimenting with wither bags to see if I can adequately protect and quickly access a good camera.

The foregoing doesn't definitively answer your question, but I hope it helps!


August 22, 2008 – CELL PHONE HOLDER

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

My cell phone has slipped out of my pocket to the ground several times while riding. Fortunately, either I or another rider noticed it. But one of these days I could lose it for real. I've heard of cell phone pouches that snap to a ring on the saddle. Can you suggest any?

Personally, I don't feel that's a good solution. I much prefer to see you keep your phone on your person. That way, if your horse ever spooks and surprises you, and you fall off, you can still call ahead if you have an idea of where your horse is likely to run (your barn or trailer?) so someone can catch him. You'll also be able to call a friend to come pick you up if you're far from your barn or trail head.

More importantly, if you fall and get seriously hurt, you don't want to have your phone up on your horse even if he stays nearby. And if he runs, you'd be in even more trouble. Keeping your phone with you is the only way to make sure you have your phone when you need it. At almost all phone stores and at some tack shops, you can get a cell phone holder through which you can loop your belt. It will protect your phone as well as keeping it on your body and making sure it doesn't slip away like it currently does from your pocket. In colder weather, some coats also have a cell phone pocket on the inside or outside that has a velcro or zippered cover to keep it captive.

My rides are almost always at least 90 minutes, most are 2 - 5 hours. So, I also carry a two-way radio in case my phone has no signal or is damaged in a fall. The radio is part of my GPS — it's on my belt on my other side so it, too, stays with me should I ever get separated from my horse.

You can get a set of FRS (Family Radio Service) walkie-talkies for as little as $15.00 for two. Most are not much bigger than a cell phone and also come with a belt holder. But unlike a cell phone, they don't need to communicate with a cell tower. Instead, they can communicate directly with any person having another one switched to your channel or scanning channels. These are carried by hunters, some police and park rangers, hikers, and more. And some people monitor their frequencies at home on scanners. You're not guaranteed that someone will have one and be within a few miles, but it does increase your odds of getting help in addition to your cell phone. A great idea is to get fellow riders at your barn to also carry one and agree on a channel to use when any of you are riding, but not together.


August 21, 2008 – THE SADDLEBAG SEARCH

Well, after the lengthy saddle search saga, you likely wouldn't have expected it from anyone else as much as me to now embark on another similar endeavor, namely, a search for "the perfect saddlebag". Finding a product that really works well for riding has sometimes proven elusive for me. For example, I don't just want a saddlebag that ties to my saddle; for starters, I want one that can be properly secured so it doesn't bounce against my horse's ribs or loins.

Then, there are the additional desires, such as:

  • Ample space
  • A quick release, but secure buckle
  • The ability to remove and carry the saddlebags with ease
  • Insulation so a lemonade or soda stays cold on a hot day
  • Enough of that insulation or padding so a camera or other sensitive electronic item will be adequately protected from damage during riding.
As you can see, and as is typical for the "Horse Guy", I don't want much. So my search is underway and I'll report progress as it occurs.

I think that the hardest goal to achieve will be the "non-bouncing" aspect. There are precious few places to secure the lower part of saddlebags to keep them down. The saddle tree doesn't extend down the sides of the horse and the only truly non-flapping part is the cinch, but it's too far forward. And a rear-cinch strap must be kept slightly loose and touches a more sensitive part — I don't think most horses would like a slight tug on their tummy at every bounce of a trot or canter. I tried last year to enlist the help of a saddle manufacturer in working this out and letting them market the final product, but they expressed disinterest in working with outsiders on products.

If any readers have suggestions, PLEASE SHARE THEM! I have no pride in solving this myself and just want to find a solution to this goal as quickly and easily as possible. Please provide any solutions, ideas, and feedback through the Horse Guy Comment Submission Form and I'll also post them.

Thanks!


August 20, 2008 – ESTIMATING MILEAGE ON TRAIL MAPS

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I ride the trails in state and national forests. Even though there's a "scale of miles" on most maps, I have a hard time trying to determine distance and the time to travel trails that curve all over the place. Is there any easy way to measure distances on a map?

Yes! I use a map gauge. It's a small, wheeled gauge that you roll on a map trail. You can also use it on an ordinary road map. The gauge has multiple scales on both sides so you can find one that matches the scale of your map. See below:

Map Measurer

Brunton Map Measurer

The one I use cost me less than $20. You can find it at most places that sell maps, or you can order it online. Here it is from a store on Amazon.com.

Have fun!


August 19, 2008 – SAFETY CHAINS — TO CROSS OR NOT TO CROSS — THAT IS THE QUESTION

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I have a 2-horse bumper-pull trailer. I have had different people tell me different things regarding the safety chains. Do you cross them when hooking up or not?

Reposted as part of a separate article. See: Common Trailering Questions article.


August 15, 2008 – LEANING WHEN GOING UP OR DOWNHILL

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

How far should I lean when riding up or down hills?

Posted as separate article. See: Leaning When on Hills article.


August 12, 2008 – THE MOUNTING BLOCK — DO I HAVE TO USE IT?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I dislike using a mounting block, but the owner of the barn where I board insists I use it when riding any of her horses. Is this really necessary?

Posted as separate article. See: The Lowly Mounting Block article.


August 8, 2008 – FINDING THE "RIGHT" BARN

Posted as separate article. See: Finding the "RIGHT" Barn article.


August 6, 2008 – FINDING STATE FOREST MAPS

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I occasionally get lost in the state forest where I ride. Where can I get maps?

Getting lost is no fun if you're truly lost. Fortunately, you've got several options.

First, your horse is a "living map". You may be lost, but it's doubtful he/she is. One option is just to let him return to the barn (or the trailhead if you trailered in). He'll get especially motivated as dinner time arrives and hunger sets in (well, they're always hungry, let's say "hungrier").

You mentioned wanting a map for your state forest; almost every state has maps that are available for a small fee. If your forest is large enough, there's likely an office in the forest and it will have maps. And whether there's an office or not, many states put maps online that you can download and print for free.

Also, the USGS creates topographical (topo) maps that can be purchased at many hardware, book, and outdoor sport stores as well as from USGS Topographic Maps Website online. These maps will have lots of detail that will include brooks, railroad tracks, dirt roads, elevation, and more. They will also provide high resolution useful to riders and hikers.

Finally, you can also purchase a GPS. An inexpensive one will cost between $100 - $200 plus the price for the maps (usually $50 - 70). As with the USGS maps just discussed, you can get topographical maps for your GPS. You can learn more about GPS purchase suggestions in prior posts below for the dates of June 2nd and 6th, 2008.


July 30, 2008 – PART 8 – SADDLE SEARCH

Reposted as separate article. See: Saddle Search Series article.


July 29, 2008 – HORSE KEEPS RUBBING BRIDLE OFF

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

My horse's single-ear bridle keeps coming off when she rubs her head against another object, like her leg, a post, a tree, etc. How can I stop this?

This kind of problem is not uncommon when using a simple headstall/bridle that has just one set of straps coming from the bit up and over the head. You can greatly reduce the chances of your horse "shedding" her bridle by using a more sophisticated headstall that includes a brow band, nose band, and throat-lash. These additional pieces of leather better secure the headstall to your horse's head and any amount of rubbing will likely not remove it.

Of course, make sure any bridle is not too tight for your horse. Especially make sure that you can fit at least four fingers of your hand between the throat-lash and your horse's throat. The throat-lash must NEVER interfere with your horse's breathing — its only purpose is to provide extra security so your horse can't rub her bridle off. Similarly, don't make the noseband too tight. It should be two fingers below the horse's cheekbone and you should also be able to place two fingers between it and your horse's face to assure it's not too tight.

Another alternative is a halter/bridle. It has all the security of a halter plus the ability to affix a bit. And on the trail, you can pull the bit and let your horse graze while taking a break without having to carry a separate halter or collar.


July 28, 2008 – BREAKAWAY BRAKE

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

What is a breakaway brake?

Reposted as part of a separate article. See: Common Trailering Questions article.


July 24, 2008 – SADDLE TECH

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

What is a knee poley?

A knee poley, knee pad, or just a "poley", is a pad on an Australian saddle that keeps the rider in his seat when the horse stumbles while running, shies quickly, or does a 180 degree " turn on a dime".. It sticks up from the saddle above the thigh so it can stop the rider from going up and over if the horse should stop fast. The photo below shows a poley on the off (right) side of the saddle.

Knee Poley

A Knee Poley on an Australian Saddle

It came to major attention of the horse world in the 80s in the film "The Man From Snowy River" when the star of the movie galloped and slid down a steep hill on horseback. I have them on my own saddle and really feel they make trail riding safer if a horse should make a quick unpredictable move when spooked.

Of course, that never really happens; right?


July 23, 2008 – HORSES & THUNDERSTORMS

Reposted as separate article. See: Horses & Thunderstorms article.


July 17, 2008 –ROMANCE & HORSE OWNERSHIP INJURY RISKS

Reposted as separate article. See: Romance & Horse Ownership Injury Risks article.


July 16, 2008 – FLY DEFENSES

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Should I use a fly spray with "natural" ingredients over a chemical spray?

That's a tough question and is better directed to your veterinarian. But I, too, have thought about this question and have adopted one approach.

Like you, I'm concerned about the repercussions of applying powerful chemicals to my horse to keep flies away. So at the beginning of fly season, I use fly sprays that contain "natural" extracts, such as from eucalyptus, geraniums, chrysanthemums, etc. I use them throughout the summer and into autumn unless they don't work, like on those warmer and humid days when the flies get vicious and the spray just doesn't seem to work anymore. At that point, I turn to a more powerful chemical spray and try to use it even more carefully.

I've discussed this with my vet and several very experienced riders and they all reason that having my horse stomp one or more feet against the ground every 15 seconds or going crazy because of flies causes it's own problems. They feel that fly sprays should be safe if used properly following the manufacturers directions. As soon the fly problem lessens, I go back to the natural sprays.

When about to ride, I never spray his back. I don't want any chemical, natural or otherwise, between his saddle pad and skin. So I tack him up first and then spray his legs, croup, belly, chest, and neck.

When applying any kind of spray, I never spray near my horse's face. Instead, I'll spray my fingers and rub it under his chin, on his ears, in them around the edges, etc. And yes, I do wonder if I'm taking a chance by touching the spray directly. I've tried using nitrile gloves, but it's not easy on warm humid days and my horse is not comfortable when I wear them around him. And I put a fly mask on him while riding of such days.

I still feel you should ask your own vet for his/her advice on this topic. But I hope the foregoing provides a starting point for consideration.


July 14, 2008 – MOUNTING PRESSURES

Reposted as separate article. See: Mounting Pressures article.


July 12, 2008 – THE BENEFITS OF VARIETY (NO! Not ABOUT DATING)

Reposted as separate article. See: The Benefits Of Variety (NO! Not About Dating) article.


July 7, 2008 – HOW TO CARRY DRINKING WATER – REVISITED

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

I don't know what kind of canteen to buy. There seem to be many styles.

Yes, there do seem to be many. I've seen one and two quart, round metal canteens, many styles of water bottles with sheaths, and soft, bladder-style water bags that collapse as you use up the water in many horse accessory catalogs.

I carry a military style canteen. It's thick plastic and holds a quart. Mine is made by the Richland Yellowstone Manufacturing company and sold through tack dealers across the U.S. It comes with a sheath that has a scissor snap at the top and a one inch, D-ring on the bottom. I'll be adding a second as soon as I receive my new saddle.

The key is to get the kind of canteen that is most appealing to you and that carries the amount of water you need.


July 3, 2008 – HOW TO CARRY DRINKING WATER
Reposted as separate article. See: Carrying & Managing Drinking Water on Rides article.


July 2, 2008 – MANAGING DRINKING WATER ON A RIDE
Reposted as separate article. See: Carrying & Managing Drinking Water on Rides article.


July 1, 2008 – THE BALANCE OF LIFE
Life is about balance — it always has been. There are good things, and there are bad things; and as the saying goes, "into everyone's life a little rain must fall" (sometimes more). Well, it's no different for me, and I, too, get good news and bad news, sometimes, at almost the very same time.

For example, I just learned that my saddle has shipped and I'll get it in a few days — that's the good news. And, my credit card statement came in today; it has a charge for the saddle and for gas purchased this month — that's the bad news. I'm hoping the quality of the saddle and its comfort for my horse and me will make me feel the cost is worth it.

As for the cost of the gas, I don't think there's anything that will make me feel better about that. I mean, my vehicle is not running any better. It's not quieter, smoother, faster, or more powerful. It's not prettier, shinier, or making other drivers pull over to let me by. So, I 'm having trouble figuring out what additional value I'm getting by purchasing this more expensive gasoline.

Perhaps I'm single-handedly saving the U.S. economy. Or my contribution is preserving worldwide trade until the economy can turn around and resurrect itself. Maybe, there's something happening on a cosmic scale and my sole purchases, like the "butterfly effect" in meteorology, form a seed of great importance that will bring about some critical event to save the universe.

WOW! I could be a nexus in the space-time continuum!!! That means I could play a major role in saving the universe…at least in this dimension. I had no idea of my place in the overall scheme of things.

Or maybe…just maybe…I'm rather unimportant in the big scheme of things and this is a message I should park the "gas eater" and ride my horse more…yeah…that must be it…SHEESH...


June 30, 2008 – KEEP YOUR HORSES SAFE AROUND THE FARM
Reposted as separate article. See: Keep Your Horses Safe Around the Farm article.


June 28, 2008 – A SMALL ACCIDENT – REVISITED

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

In ref to the "Small Accident" article - consider mentioning the mental state of the horse now. Anytime that saddle hits his back, or while taking it off etc. he may get a "flashback" of the time it tried to "eat him". His owner needs to re-introduce the saddle in a way that is sensitive to this accident to help him overcome any future apprehension towards it. Depending on the horse, this can be a total non-issue, or one that can persist with the possibility of having to re-train the horse to accept the saddle. As long as the owner is aware of this and is willing to approach the horse with patience, all should be well.

You are correct, of course. And his owner has discussed this already, in fact, with me as well as with the barn owner. We don't expect a problem because of her horse's normally very calm disposition and because the panic started once the saddle was under his belly — we're all hoping and expecting that he'll view them each differently. That said, his owner does intend to take that first saddling slowly and carefully to assure her horse is comfortable at each step. If he shows signs of concern, she'll stop the tacking process and spend more time getting him re-accustomed to having something on his back, starting with his saddle pad.

I particularly wanted to share this incident with our readership because loosening the girth/cinch once we dismount and don't intend to remount, but aren't yet at or inside the barn, is something many of us do for the comfort of our horses. It's not much different than a guy loosening his tie at the end of the day or taking off our shoes to relax after a hard day's work.

But it certainly does show how it's not enough just to be aware of our surroundings when with horses. They're big and powerful, and can easily spook. So being "in the moment" also means we must attempt to anticipate what might go wrong. Because if it does, unlike with a small pet, we may not be able to keep control over the situation, so proactive avoidance of problems becomes very important.


June 27, 2008 – RAISING AND LOWERING TRAILER GEAR

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

Last year I was camping next to someone who used a cordless drill to raise and lower his running gear on the horse trailer when hooking up and unhooking from his truck. Before I could get my horse taken care of and go talk to him, he left. Does anyone sell a cordless drill for this purpose?

The reason the trailer manufacturer provides a manual handle to raise and lower the gear is because they feel it should be done that way. But if you want to go this route, you need to be careful about several things. You don't want to round the head of the bolt that raises and lowers the gear, break something, nor hurt your wrists. I suggest you use a slow drill speed when moving the gear up or down and that you set the drill's clutch at a setting that will slip once the gear is mostly up or down, then finish the process with the manual handle. This will reduce the chance that you'll force or break something. You certainly don't want that to happen, especially when you're away from home.

To acquire the pieces you'll need, get the handle for your horse trailer that raises and lowers the gear and take it to your hardware store. Someone there will be able to tell you the size of the hex head socket you'll need to purchase. Also take your cordless drill so the hardware store can provide whatever size shaft you'll need to mate the socket and drill chuck. The socket will likely be 3/8 drive — I don't know whether you'll find a shaft with the proper square drive head at one end and nothing at the other so it will fit into a drill chuck — I've not seen that before. The man you saw may have cut the female end off a 3/8 drive extension.

If you still intend to go this way, please consider the cautions I've suggested so you don't break something or get hurt.


June 26, 2008 – MORE ADVANCED HORSE PHOTOGRAPHY
Combined with June 25th posting as a separate article. See: Horse Photography article.


June 25, 2008 – HORSE PHOTOGRAPHY
Reposted as separate article. See: Horse Photography article.


June 24, 2008 – A SMALL ACCIDENT
Reposted as part of separate article. See: A Small Accident — Being "In The Moment" article.


June 21, 2008 – BACKING A TRAILER

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

How the heck do you back a long trailer up? I am having a devil of a time doing it. Any tips?

Reposted as part of separate article. See: Learning to Back a Trailer article.


June 20, 2008 – HOW FAR OUT TO SET TRUCK MIRRORS

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

How can you tell if your mirrors on the truck are set far enough out when hauling?

Reposted as part of separate article. See: Setting Your Truck's Mirrors article.


June 19, 2008 – RINGS & CHEEK PIECES
Reposted as separate article. See: Understanding Bits article.


June 18, 2008 – BIT MOUTHPIECES
Reposted as separate article. See: Understanding Bits article.


June 17, 2008 – BIT PARTS (not to be confused with small movie roles)
Reposted as separate article. See: Understanding Bits article.


June 16, 2008 – A LITTLE BITTY INTRO TO BITS
It seems that many riders really don't understand much about bits — and it's easy to see why. Look in a catalog and you may see 80 - 100 or more bits from which to choose with little or no explanation as to the differences — no wonder many people are confused. But in reality, there are not that many components that are combined together in different configurations to provide those 80 or 100 variations we all see.

So, this column will present a small series explaining the more common bit components and what they do. When done, you should be able to understand what many bits are designed to do (I say "many bits" because I definitely don't know know every bit there is). However, I will "come clean" right now and mention that I'm not a proponent of harsh bits. I will explain what makes a bit harsh, but you'll definitely notice a bias for the gentler variations.


June 14, 2008 – WHAT'S SAFER? ON FOOT OR MOUNTED?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

"Is it safer to be on or off your horse if he gets surprised?"

Reposted as separate article. See: What's Safer? On Foot or Mounted? article.


June 13, 2008 – SAFETY AROUND HORSES
Reposted as separate article. See: Safety Around Horses article.


June 12, 2008 – CHOOSING A MOWER FOR A LARGE FIELD

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

"I've got 6 acres of event field to mow and don't know how to select the right mower for my filed."

This is an interesting question because there are so many variables to consider about the landscape and then match it to a large selection of mowers from the manufacturers. First, if you can let your horse(s) graze the field, that may be your solution. But if not, then consider the following questions:

  • The size of the field
    You've already answered this one. At 4MPH with some overlap, a 48" mower can cut an acre of grass in about 40 minutes. So 6 acres will take about 4 hours with a mower this size. A larger mower will shorten the time, or maybe you can mow faster if the field is flat and smooth.
  • The hillyness of the field
    Hills can slow you down. They require more power to climb a steep hill and a wider machine with a low center of gravity to maintain stability and not flip it. Fortunately, you have an event field and they're usually flat or just a mild slope. But if one or more sides of the field end in a steep hil, don't overlook stability as a safety factor.
  • The amount of obstacles and trees to mow around
    Event fields are usually clear, but if you have lots of trees or other obstacles to mow around on another part of your property and this mower will also be used for that area, a zero-turn mower will definitely speed up the process.
  • Amount of rocks in the field
    Mowing a field which includes rocks you must go over can be hard on your mower blades. A flail mower incorporates hardened steel pivoting blades that can strike a rock with minimal damage and keep on mowing.
There is no one mower that's best for all fields. Rather, you need to take an inventory of your own field and discuss it with a tractor/mower dealer to find the best product for you. Unfortunately, because of the size of your field, this is not a good application for an inexpensive home store tractor mower. You'll actually spend less over the long term and be much happier with the mower, (maybe even enjoy the job each week) if you look at a new or used commercial machine truly designed for the kind of mowing you need to do.


June 11, 2008 – CAN YOU CARE FOR YOUR OWN HORSE?

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

"I bought a horse about 4 years ago, he is my first and has been boarded at a stable. I now have the opportunity to pasture board him next door to my home. I am concerned and am not sure how or what to do to bring him home. "

Reposted as separate article. See: Can You Care For Your Own Horse? article.


June 10, 2008 – TIRE SAFETY WHEN TOWING HORSES
Reposted as separate article. See: Tire Safety When Towing Horses article.


June 9, 2008 – TRUCKS FOR TOWING HORSE TRAILERS
Reposted as part of separate article. See: Tow Vehicles article.


June 7, 2008 – EASY ACCESS SADDLE STORAGE WHILE RIDING
Reposted as separate article. See: Easy Access Saddle Storage While Riding article.


June 6, 2008 – CONSIDERING A GPS – REVISITED

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

"I'm looking to buy a GPS and really liked your suggestions about what to look for in a receiver. But there are so many units to choose from, even from just from one manufacturer. I'm somewhat confused and on a tight budget. What do I select?"

Combined with June 2nd posting as a separate article. See: A GPS for Trail Riding article.


June 5, 2008 – LEARNING FROM YOUR HORSE
Reposted as separate article. See: Learning From Your Horse article.


June 4, 2008 – SIGHTING OPPORTUNITIES ON TRAIL RIDES
Reposted as separate article. See: Sighting Opportunities On Trail Rides article.


June 3, 2008 – PART 7 – SADDLE SEARCH
Reposted as separate article. See: Saddle Search Series article.


June 2, 2008 – CONSIDERING A GPS FOR TRAIL RIDING?
Reposted as a separate article. See: A GPS for Trail Riding article.


May 31, 2008 – THE COMPLETE BODY SURVEY – REVISITED

"Horse Guy" question/feedback:

"You mentioned putting a finger into your horse's ear when you do your body survey of him, doesn't he hate that? My horse does!"

Posted as separate article. See: Conduct a Daily Horse Whole Body Survey article.


May 30, 2008 – STAYING DRY
Posted as separate article. See: Staying Dry article.


May 29, 2008 – CHEAPER BARN LIGHTING – SAVE MONEY!
It's been all over the news for the last year or so, but I'm surprised at how many barns I enter that still use traditional incandescent bulbs. Just replacing all those bulbs in your barn with their Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulb equivalents will drop your electricity costs to power them by about 73% — that's a lot of savings for the price of the replacement bulbs — you get those savings every month!

There will be one inconvenience, but in my opinion, it's a very small one. Depending on the CFL bulbs you get, you may have to wait a minute, maybe even two minutes, for full brightness. But when you consider that many barns leave these lights on much of the day, the only person that will notice is the person turning the lights on in the morning.

And they may take another minute or two more in the winter depending how far north you live. But you'll get even more savings because you leave those lights on much longer then because of the shorter, darker days of winter.

But don't stop there, change them in your house, basement, and garages, too. About the only place I've found that seems to make little sense is in closets, because we're in there for such a short time that the savings are small AND it makes little sense to wait for them to brighten up. Quite an easy way to save almost 75% of your lighting costs in these days of ever increasing energy prices!

I'll be posting a more comprehensive article on this topic during the summer that will actually quantify the costs and help you calculate your actual savings.


May 28, 2008 – A MORE COMFORTABLE STIRRUP
Posted as separate article. See: A More Comfortable Stirrup article.


May 27, 2008 – RIDING HELMETS – A RECENT "CLOSE CALL"
Reposted as separate article. See: Why I Wear a Riding Helmet article.


May 25 -26, 2008 – PART 6 – SADDLE SEARCH
Reposted as separate article. See: Saddle Search Series article.


May 23, 2008 – HYGIENE AROUND HORSES
Reposted as separate article. See: Hygiene Around Horses article.


May 22, 2008 – RIDING FOOTWEAR
Reposted as separate article. See: Riding Footwear article.


May 21, 2008 – COMPLETE HORSE BODY SURVEY
Posted as separate article. See: Conduct a Daily Horse Whole Body Survey article.


May 12 - 20, 2008 – PART 1 - 5 – SADDLE SEARCH
Reposted as separate article. See: Saddle Search Series article.


May 12, 2008 – BEGINNINGS
Welcome to our new "Horse Guy" column! This will be a regular posting of tips, suggestions, and relating of my experiences with horse activities and projects. We hope it provides great value and saves you time and headaches.


Back to Horse Guy

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