Leather Tack: Knowing Higher Quality and How To Clean, Condition And Care For Your Horse Equipment

Caring for your tack is a duty you cannot escape. Cleaning and conditioning your equipment is just as important as any other duty related to horses. Because horses like to roll in the dirt, and as they sweat, the salt from their bodies and dirt are going to be absorbed by the leather. Neglecting leather will eventually cause it to rot and break. When cared for properly, leather equipment can last for years and years, especially if it is of high quality. The sight of a well groomed horse wearing impeccably clean tack is a beautiful thing to behold. But there is a price to pay. Not only is leather equipment expensive, the products necessary to keep your leather in top condition can also add onto the cost.

Even though there are other alternatives to leather, in my opinion, they cannot compare. Just walking into the barn and smelling the leather takes me back to that familiar comfort zone. First, if you are going to use leather halters on your horses, you may want to invest in triple stitch leather halters. They hold up much longer, usually are heavier in weight and look very attractive and classy on your horse’s head. Try to avoid too thin or light weighted halters and ones that are adjustable on the under side down by the chin. Other horses may start to pull on these adjustable straps, breaking them and making the halter very tight around the horse’s face. If this were to occur and you do not notice it, it could stop your horse from eating or drinking. The price of leather equipment usually will tell the tale. If it is inexpensive, you will get what you pay for and it will probably not last very long. Be prepared to spend more money compared to nylon products. Keep in mind that this is an investment, taking care of it will give you many long years of service. When picking out a bridle, and it is a personal preference, it seems that the lighter colored or natural colored bridles are the best. These are usually void of dyes that can either come off onto your horse’s face or onto your hands as you hold the reigns. The leather should not be too shiny, feel good and be very supple in your hands. Pick up several bridles and feel their weight in your hands and see how soft they feel. If you hold enough of them, then you will have something to compare to and you can decide and go with your instincts. Remember, this is a piece of equipment that with the right care, is going to be with you and your horse for a long time. There is another reason that you want to keep your leather equipment well conditioned, and that is, you do not want to be riding your horse and have a reign break or the bridle fall off of your horse’s head. Things such as this are more likely to happen when your horse decides to be playful or if he or she is having a bad day and starts misbehaving. If this happens and a reign breaks you will lose control of your horse.

Your biggest leather investment will be your saddle and prices can go through the roof. My suggestion is to consider the cost to the actual amount of time you will be spending in a particular saddle. It does not make much sense to spend thousands of dollars on a saddle that is hardly going to be used. Make sure that you have a proper fit of saddle to horse and rider to saddle. English saddles are much easier to break in. You may even consider a saddle that is used that has been well oiled and was taken care of. This way you do not have to take the time to break in a new saddle. Even leather saddles of high quality will need time to form to your body and be more comfortable. The more expensive the saddle is, the more soft and supple the leather will be because of the type of hide used and the curing process used. If you are spending many thousands of dollars on a saddle, you may want to check with the manufacturer for their recommendations on the leather conditioning product that they prefer in order to get the longest life expectancy from the leather.

If you are going to clean your tack, you will need a bucket of water and a small tack sponge. You will first need to squeeze as much water as possible out of the sponge. Hang your bridle on a tack hook hanging from the ceiling in the barn. Using your barely damp sponge, stroke the leather while pulling down away from the hook. The idea is to take off as much dirt and sweat from the leather without putting too much water into the leather. As you know, leather will absorb whatever you put on it. A small amount of water for cleaning is ok, too much is not good. Allow the leather time to dry, and use a leather conditioner of your choice. I always liked a glycerine bar. It conditions the leather very lightly but you will have to use some elbow grease as you will need to rub it into the leather. Do the same with your halters but be careful with the piece that goes over the crown of the horse which is behind the ears. Some horses are sensitive to certain products and may start loosing their hair behind their ears. There is a barage of leather conditioning products on the market. If you have a new Western saddle, you may want to use a conditioning oil to start as these saddles have a tendency to be stiff before they are broken in. There is nothing wrong with using several different conditioning products as they all have something different to bring to the table. Look for products that leave your leather looking clean not sticky or gummy. Whether it be American, English, or German leathers just to mention a few, all have very good leather products to offer, being smart in our choices may bring us many, many years of a wonderful products that not only serves us well but can become sentimental and endearing.

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Crucial Details In Determining If Your Horse Is Underweight, Overweight Or Just Right

As time goes on and more people are entering into the world of horses, unfortunately the issue of how much feed does a horse actually need to maintain the proper weight seems to be under estimated. Feeding horses can become quite expensive especially if you delve into feeding high nutritional feed products and supplements. Learning how to feed horses properly is something that takes more than just a few weeks or months to learn. There are guidelines on each bag of feed, but they are basic. Some horses need more food to maintain the proper weight due to a high metabolism or genetics, and some horses need much less food in order to be healthy, hold a good weight and have a normal amount of energy. Every time you look at a horse that is at a healthy weight, you should see an animal that is not showing ribs, no hips sticking out, or pointy shoulders or a neck that looks skinny and smaller than the horses head.

Learning how to feed your horse involves more than just throwing some feed into a feed tub and hoping for the best. Young horses as a general rule are going to need more feed because of their growing needs. Horses bones do not start to harden until the age of four. At the age of five they are considered full mouthed. This means that they have lost all of their baby teeth including their caps and all of their adult teeth have grown in and are in use. They now are considered an adult. The amount of feed necessary for them to hold a healthy weight will more than likely lessen as they mature, unless theey are working very hard. Different breeds require different base amounts of quarts per day. For instance, Thoroughbreds base feed is about eight quarts per day. Quarter Horses probably need about half of that amount. Surprisingly the Draft breed does not require large amounts of feed. Now you also must consider the amount of hay you are feeding, what kind of hay you are feeding and how much pasture comes into play. Feeding alfalfa hay on a regular basis may make a difference on the amount of feed that you give per day. It will be up to you to decide how much feed or how little is necessary. How much hay is necessary and what kind of hay is the best kind for your horse. If you are feeding a considerable amount of feed in the winter and feeding mediocre hay, when the grass comes into play and your horse is grazing either all night or all day you may have to adjust the amount of feed to compensate. If your horse is starting to have his or her ribs showing at a stand still, then you need more feed or more hay or even a much better quality of hay. If you notice that the weight on the back of the horse and their rump (known as the top line of the horse) is dropping off, well time to up their rations. If you take a good look at your horse everyday, you will see all you need to see. If your horses hips and shoulders are starting to become pointed instead of rounded, then your horse is underweight and needs either more feed or more hay. Always keep in mind that a strict worming program and having your horses teeth floated on a regular basis is imperative in keeping a horse in good flesh. A well fed horse should be pleasing to the eye, smooth lines throughout their body, and round on the corners.

Now on the other side of the spectrum, over feeding your horse is a big mistake. Not to mention that you risk colic and laminitis, your horses’ performance will diminish. Allowing a horse to become obese is probably the most unhealthy thing you can do for them. Horses in the wild become fat in the summer months in order for survival in the long winter months and scarcity of food. Horses were not designed to carry large amounts of weight all of the time. If your horse is walking toward you and their stomach is sticking out on both sides and their belly is swaying as they walk then it is time to take action. Cutting back on your horses food intake sometimes is hard especially if he or she gives you that look. Just remember that you are doing it in their best interest. If your horse is overweight, changing feed and maybe going to a hay that is of lesser quality just until your horse has lost the weight is an option. Investigating the fat content in the feed that you are using and going to a lesser amount of fat content is one step to take, as well as cutting back on the amount, is a starting point.

Feeding horses is not rocket science. It is something that you sometimes have to work at in order to get it right. If you have a horse that you cannot get weight on, even with regular worming and dental work being done, you may have to take notes on their daily behavior and if they are very nervous or too active you may want to consider herbs to calm them down or consult your veterinarian and come up with a plan. You may need to have a blood test taken or do a chemistry on them. Could be as simple as a low thyroid. If you are not sure, ask a competent horseman to evaluate your horses condition or go to a quality rated show and study the horses there. Taking the time and making an honest effort to achieve a well rounded and well fed horse is worth every moment. Keeping your horse happy is important because a happy horse is a good horse.

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The Correct Way to Mount and Dismount Your Horse While Teaching Them to Stand Quietly

When it comes to most things in life, there is a right way to do things and of course the wrong way, which is usually the easy way. There is much more to this exercise than the obvious. If you are at a show and the judge asks you to dismount and remount, if your horse takes as much as one step forward, you could lose the class. If you are a cowboy or cowgirl out on a range herding cattle, or horses, and you have to dismount for a moment, if your horse takes off with you as you are mounting, especially if you are in mid-air and end up behind the saddle, there could be some serious injuries incurred not to mention bruising your ego, and listening to the razzing of your fellow horsemen.
As I am trying to convey in all articles that I compose, this has every thing to do with respect. Being a successful horseman involves the constant demand of respect from your horses as well as the constant giving of respect to them, from you. Boundaries must be set at all times and if those boundaries are disregarded there will be consequences. There are many ways that you can help your horse understand that a certain behavior is not acceptable. Always keep in mind that even though they are very strong animals, we are smarter in many ways and have the ability to outwit them on a moment to moment basis.
After your horse has had all the necessary grooming, feet picking and proper saddle and bridling, bring your horse outside to a neutral, non-intrusive area to be mounted. Go to the left side of your horse, reach up gathering your reigns and put them into your left hand, holding the reigns in front of the saddle. It may be to your advantage if you are fairly new at this, to also grab a handful of mane while holding the reigns. Now, while holding the reigns, turn your left side into the horse, facing the back of the horse. With your right hand, turn the stirrup around toward you placing your left foot into the stirrup. Slowly turn your body facing the horse with your left foot turning also while in the stirrup, with your right hand either on the back of the saddle seat or the pommel, pull yourself up onto the saddle as quickly and easily as possible swinging your right leg onto the other side of the saddle. You can try to spring up and pull yourself up at the same time or you can take one or two little bouncy hops to give you a little spring. If you are riding English, more than likely it will be easier to grab the back of the saddle seat as well as holding onto the mane with your left hand to help bring your body up into the saddle. You of course must make sure that your girth is tight enough to support your weight. Also if you are riding English, you can just let someone give you a leg up. This is where you grab the reigns in a way that you have very light contact with your horses mouth, face your horse back by the saddle, left hand with reigns and some mane, right hand at the back of the saddle, bend your left leg in the shape of an “L”, the other person can use one or two hands holding your left leg, get synchronized usually with a count of one, two, three, jumping easily up into the saddle but it is VERY IMPORTANT NOT TO FLOP DOWN ONTO THE HORSES BACK.
Your horse should stand quietly as you mount. There are exceptions such as race horses as you want them to walk on as soon as the rider is up and you usually will have someone at the horses head so they will not walk off too quickly. If your horse is being stubborn about standing, you can have someone stand in front of them, they would need to hold the reigns behind the bit so they can have control in case the horse wants to go forward or sideways or even backwards. If this still is not working, try mounting your horse inside of the stall, preferably with someone at their head until they understand that you want them to stand as you mount. If this is not possible, take your horse to a corner of a paddock, place their head right in the corner making it harder for them to go forward. Sometimes you will encounter a horse that is insistent on moving as you mount. Well my friends, you are probably going to be spending a large amount of time mounting and dismounting. If you are consistent and practice many times during schooling, eventually, your horse will get the message and comply making life a lot easier for both of you. Remember that when you mount your horse that you do not want to take too much time mounting and hanging on the side of the horse. This is not the best scenario for their back and withers, not to mention that it is probably not very comfortable for them.
Always, always try to make every experience with your horse a positive one. Positive interaction makes for a strong bonding and willingness from your horse. Horses are loving caring individuals that deserve our respect and understanding. Kindness and patience in teaching them will go a very long way. After your horse does a good job, tell them, get excited when you let them know, and rewarding them with a carrot or two after cooling them out is not a bad idea either.
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Cleaning Straw Stalls and Knowing the Best Kind To Use

The basics for cleaning stalls regardless of what type of bedding you choose, is pretty much the same. You start by taking out the water buckets, cleaning them and getting your tools. For straw stalls, you will need a pitch fork that has only three or four prongs. These are usually made of metal and are a bit heavier than the new plastic shavings forks available. The straw pitch forks are designed to be able to pick through the straw as there will be manure biscuits spread throughout. When using straw bedding, you should have dirt floors in the stall, no cement or black top. If you have rubber horse mats in the stall, be prepared to bedding down these stalls very heavily as not to cause hock sores. If the stalls do not have a sufficient amount of straw, as the horse gets up from lying down, he or she will scrape their hocks on the mats, putting sores on them, sometimes, severe ones that are very prone to infection. You will also need a good strong metal rake as you will need to rake the stall each and every day after moving the bad straw out and the good straw will be piled up in the corners.

Bring your wheel barrel to the front of the stall with the handles facing in toward you. Start to the right or left, go all the way around the outside of the stall, picking through the straw and put the good straw in the first corner that you just passed. Keep going and keep piling the good straw up in the same corner. Some people will just take the whole middle out of the stall and throw it away. That is ok if you can afford it. I never could so I would pick through and save as much as possible. If your first corner is full of good straw that you are saving, choose another corner. The following day, use the other corner in order to allow you to rake the corners that you were not able to on this day. After getting all the bad straw out, really rake the stall well getting as much chafe and manure biscuits as possible. More than likely you will have one or more large wet spots in the stall. The old timers used dry lime and sprinkled a fairly generous amount over the wet spots. There are claims that the lime can produce breathing issues but there is no solid evidence to prove it. There are other products you can find that are a little more expensive but will kill the urine odor and absorb the moisture. Now, take all the good straw that you have saved and spread it evenly over the whole stall. Now take a bale of straw, put it in the entrance of your stall or in the middle of the stall and break it open. You can take your straw and shake it out in the middle of the stall or spread it as you go. I like to shake and pull the straw apart by hand instead of using the pitch fork. Level the stall out as much as you can. I like my stalls to be knee deep in bedding. Remember, it will reduce down to about half that size once the horse gets into it and walks around. I always say, the deeper, the better.

There are different types of straw. There is wheat straw, oat straw, and rye straw just to mention a few. You must take into consideration that there may be some wheat or oats still attached to the straw. If you have a horse that has an unusually strong appetite (piglet), there is a chance that your horse may get colic. This will sometimes interfere with them eating their grain or hay and they may not be getting the nutrition that you wish, or your horse may be consuming too much grain. Also, it will be hard to monitor the amount of grain that your horse is consuming. Personally, straw has not been my first choice but there are many horses today that are being bedded on straw. A horse lying on a very well bedded stall of beautiful yellow soft straw is a sight to behold. They look so comfortable. The truth is that the price of straw is very high and if it is not of high quality and has good volume, you will need between one and two bales of straw a day if your horse stays in most of the day. Straw has been around for a long time and will probably be used for centuries to come. Some of the greatest horses in history were bedded on straw their whole life. Personal choice, economics and location are all deciding factors in what bedding works the best for you, and your horse.

When purchasing straw, take a small handful from a bale and smell it. If it smells even a little moldy or mildewed, definitely pass. If the straw is very shiny and seems to have short pieces, more than likely it will not have much volume and will take a large amount of straw to fill the stall sufficiently. At the same time if the pieces of straw are too long, it will be hard to shake it out and will be slightly hard for your horse to move around in the stall without having large pieces of straw wrapping around their legs. Buying and using straw, learning the advantages and disadvantages is just another part of being a horse owner. My advice to you is to try it, you just might like it.

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Tacking Up Your Horse Properly Insures Comfort and Maximum Efficiency, Helping To Avoid Sores

Tacking up your horse is not just about throwing a saddle and bridle on your horse and jumping on. It is imperative to first groom your horse and clean his or her feet before tacking up. Putting a saddle pad and saddle on top of a very dirty or muddy horse could be asking for the beginning of annoying saddle sores. Also, you should pick out your horses feet in order to check and make sure that there is nothing stuck and held in by the shoe, and to check and make sure that their shoes are not loose or any clenches, (where the blacksmith has cut off the nail and clenched them down as they are sharp), are sticking out. Sharp clenches can cut your horses legs while in movement especially if they were to take a bad step or spook or shy from something.
It does not matter whether you ride English or Western, a saddle should sit in a specific way on a horse. Even though this seems to be so simple, it is very easy to set the saddle either too far forward, which will cause girth sores behind the elbow, or too far back and this can cause a sore back and you really do not want to be sitting on your horses kidneys. After you place your saddle towel and saddle pad on your horse and then the saddle, on the right side of the saddle is where the girth is attached. The girth is what is used to keep the saddle on and when properly tightened it will keep the saddle where it should be. Having the correct size girth is very important. I remember an exercise rider that told me that she did not want to get on a horse that was brought to her claiming that the girth was too small. The groom insisted that it was ok. Time being a factor and trying to keep up with the rest of the other riders, she got her leg up, (this is when someone helps you to mount the horse by holding your left leg and you take a little hop and up you go), on the horse and off she went. Well, the girth broke from too much pressure and she broke her back and was in the hospital for one year. So please take this seriously. If you are on your horse and they would decide to cut a buck or misbehave, a secure saddle is your best friend.
On the horse, at the very top of the back side of the front leg where the elbow is, you will notice a slight narrowing of the body with a slight indentation; this is the girth of the horse which runs all the way underneath of the horse in this area. Naturally, that is where your girth should be. If the girth is in the right place, it will be fairly comfortable for your horse providing you do not tighten the girth too much. This sometimes takes a little time to find the comfort zone. After you have tightened the girth it should come up on either side of the horse evenly, at least about halfway up the side of the horse on each side. If you get on your horse and you feel like you are going to fall forward, then the saddle is up too far. If the front of your saddle is sitting behind the end of your horses’ mane on their withers, then you are too far back. When you are in the right spot, you will feel comfortable when sitting on your horse, especially when using English tack. If you are using Western tack and you have a bucking strap, this should fit loosely but not too loose that the horse can get their hind leg entangled.
When putting your bridle on, hold the bit in your left hand, hold the headstall with your right hand, look at your horses head and judge whether the length of the headstall looks big enough to fit. If it seems too small, let the bridle down a couple of holes and this will make it easier to get the bridle over yours horses ears. Stand on the left side of your horse, bridle in left hand, put the reigns over the horses head and down the neck to the shoulder. Take your right hand putting it through the back of the headstall and take your left hand and hold the bit. Put the bridle in front of your horses head, holding your right hand with the bridle in front of the horses face at the same time bring the bit to the horses’ mouth asking your horse to open their mouth and accept the bit. As the horse takes the bit, using your right hand, put the bridle over the left ear first and then over the right ear. Fasten the jowl strap leaving about two fingers of space between the horse and strap. If you tighten this strap too much when the horse flexes their head, the strap will cut off some of their air flow. Next, tighten the bit. Some people like two wrinkles in their mouth. It depends on the horse. Some horses, two wrinkles is too much and the bit will be too tight and uncomfortable possibly causing the horse to throw their head while being ridden. Some people like the four finger rule that if you take four fingers and put them between the horse and bridle on the side of their head, they then believe that is sufficient. For me, that is sometimes too loose. You definitely do not want the bit hanging down and sitting on the bars of the horses’ mouth, this can make their mouth sore. The bit should be up in their mouth but not too far. You really must use your common sense. Try to put yourself in your horses place. If it looks uncomfortable, it probably is. If your horse seems to be objecting, make changes. If you have to make changes again and again, well then keep changing it until you get it right. Learning to tack your horse properly takes a little time as well as trial and error, but once you figure it out, you will not want it any other way. Happy trails to you.
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Equine Massage Therapy, Chiropractic and Therapy Machines for Horses. Are They Necessary?

My first question to you would be, “How many massages have you had in your life?” If the answer is none, then you need to get a good full body massage in order to understand where I am coming from. If you are an avid follower of sports, you know that most athletes are massaged, whirl-pooled, given chiropractic alignments and hooked up to machines of many different types on a regular basis. Our bodies as well as our joints were not designed to endure the constant pressure and stress that we put them under during the rigors of competition. Prey animals were designed to run in short spurts in order to escape from their predators. They were not intended to go at top speed for five or six furlongs or run one or one and a half miles a few times a month on a regular schedule. Horses were not designed to jump over seventy-five or one hundred, four or five foot fences, three or four times a week. What we do to ourselves and the animals we love is to tear down our bodies, as well as their bodies, and aid in the destruction of muscles as well as joints. Even competitive body builders will only work on one half of their bodies one day and the other half of their body the next day. This is to help rebuild from the stress of over use on the previous day. Equine animals are usually ridden on a daily basis when in competition.

It is no secret that I am a certified massage therapist, but this was acquired after probably twenty-five years of using other Massage Therapists, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, and Therapists that used machines on my horses; usually on a weekly basis. This was a constant necessity for as long as the horses were in competition. This was money that was well spent because I was riding them myself and I was able to know and feel the difference in them after treatment. Also, with therapy, there is an increase in circulation in the their muscles and their whole body, and they grew before my eyes. Their muscles became more developed and were allowed to reach their full potential. I’m basically saying that I saw my horses become much larger, wider and fuller in muscle but in the best kind of way due to the constant care and rebuilding of them as they performed their demanding tasks. My experience with different machines, as well as Massage Therapists and Chiropractors, brought great results. Using equipment such as Infrared blankets, Electro-magnet Blankets and Electro-magnetic machines for the joints, The Laser, Ultra Sound and Bio-scan equipment, were all effective in their own way.  

If you are involved with horses in competition and you are thinking about starting a therapy program, know that this must become a constant commitment in order to get true results. If your horse is under a grueling schedule and you wish to keep your four legged friend in good form and help him or her in battling soreness and ailments that come along with the territory, then therapy is the best way to accomplish this. Beware!! There are many people that claim to be sports and massage therapists but they just cannot get the job done, mostly because it takes years of practicing horsemanship as well as therapy. Word of mouth probably is your best bet. I always considered therapy an absolute expense and necessity but money very well spent. That is the reason why I became certified. Not necessarily to perform for other horseman but mostly to massage my own horses just because I believe in therapy so much.  

Keeping up with the muscular anatomy of your horse does residually result in less joint injuries. Muscles, ligaments and tendons are all adjoined as a whole. This is why I was always a lover of therapy machines. Different types of machines seem to work differently for different problems that arise. Addressing these issues as soon as they arise is a major part of nipping problems in the bud. If you are armed with different types of therapy machines and as time goes on and you deal with these problems, you will soon learn which machines work the best with each particular problem and you will develop your own form of therapy. My definition of a good therapist is the way in which they interpret the best approach in helping your horses to heal themselves.            

If you are fortunate enough to find a good Massage Therapist, Chiropractor or Acupuncturist and you see and feel the difference, you will be very quick to jump on the therapy wagon because it works!

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Learning to Clean Your Stall Bedded with Shavings from Corner to Corner

Now that I have given you the information that you need to bathe and groom your horse like a professional, the next step is to help you learn not only the way in which you properly clean a horses stall, but to understand how important it is to offer your horse a very clean environment. To think that horses don’t care, as far as I am concerned, is a bit of a myth. So, so many times, I have acquired horses that have come from an unclean situation, and when I bring them into their new very clean stall, the first thing they do, without hesitation, is to get down and roll in the new shavings, and get up, get back down and roll again and again. This tells me that they are very happy not only to get down and roll and scratch, but the fact that they do this more than once encourages me to believe that this is an overwhelming sign of approval and happiness.

The first thing you need to do is grab your pitch fork, rake, broom, and a hard brush for cleaning your water buckets.  Put them into your wheel barrel. Go to your stall, take down your water buckets, take them to an area that will not interfere with the integrity of your stall, and scrub them with your brush inside and outside. Water buckets or automatic waterers should be cleaned every day. Cleaning the outside of the buckets everyday is important as horses are kind of messy and slobber a lot. Take your tools out of your wheel barrel, set them at the opening of the stall where you can grab them easily. Put your wheel barrel in the entrance way of the stall, facing out with the handles facing you inside of the stall. Having wheel barrel handles sticking out is dangerous to horses passing by. Unfortunately, I saw a horse at the race track back into wheel barrel handles that were sticking out in the shed row. The horse got his legs entangled in the handles, fell backwards, wheel barrel on top of him, thrashing and blood flying. This was enough to teach me to NEVER have the handles sticking out of the stall. Turn facing the stall, pick up your piles of manure first. Go back, start at the front of the stall, either to your right or to your left, and begin to turn over your stall one pitch fork at a time. Usually the best way is to turn over all that is on the outside of the stall all the way around. If you are familiar with the areas where your horse urinates and if there are good shavings on top, move them away and save them as long as they are dry and clean. Take out all of the urine saturated shavings, continuing to turn over the entire stall. The reason for overturning the entire stall is because shavings can become moldy or mildewed in just a few days. You do not want your horse breathing in either urea from the urine, or mold or mildew. This can cause your horse to develop lung issues, allergies, or infections.

Also, there is the issue of small biscuits of manure that are spread throughout the stall. You will constantly be picking these out and you can throw the shavings up against the wall of the stall in small piles and some of these biscuits will roll down the sides of the small mounds and you can pick them up easily. After you feel that you have gotten your stall clean of manure, urine and small annoying biscuits that seem to breed and multiply, level your stall. This does not mean a big dip in the center of the stall. Take either your bag or your wheel barrel of shavings and empty them into the stall. I prefer to put them in the middle of the stall so I can spread them evenly throughout the stall with my rake. Personally, I prefer a deeply bedded stall for my horses. This of course is more costly and takes more time to clean. My theory is if you have performance horses, of which I consider athletes, the last thing you want is for them to be sleeping on a cold and or wet ground. This would not be the best for your horses’ muscles not to mention they sleep better on a softer bed.

Put your water buckets in the stall and fill with water, (if you have automatic waterers, take a sponge and small bucket, sweep the standing water quickly into the bucket wiping out as you go). Put your hay either in their hay rack or shake out in a pile in the corner of the stall. Sweep your shavings in the front of the stall and either rake or sweep outside of your stall. When I was a groom , the saying on the race track was that the stall is not done until the shed row was raked, and the outside of the stall was swept. It is important that you not only keep all areas clean but also organized. The more organized you are, the less likely you will be to forget a step in the proper daily care of your horse.

Cleaning stalls is not my favorite part of horse care but it feels good when you walk your horse into a very clean, clean smelling stall, knowing that your buddy will be comfortable. Bathing, grooming and cleaning of stalls are not just chores, they are acts of love.

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Grooming Your Horse Like A Professional

What is better than going to the barn and seeing your horse standing in the stall, shining like new money, mane perfectly pulled and laying beautifully on your horses’ neck, dapples everywhere just talking to you saying , look at me, tail free of tangles, almost reaching the floor, thick and wavy. Not to mention your horses forelock is where it should be, not too long or too short, and no dirt or dust on your horses nose and that shining look in your best buddies eyes. Wow!!!…Hah, GET REAL. These things happen only after many weeks or months of constant serious grooming and elbow grease. A proper balanced diet as well as a regimented exercise program with a minimal amount of stress are contributing factors to a beautiful coat on your horse. Breeding will come into play but with hard work, a brilliant coat can be achieved. Successful, well groomed horses are very pampered animals. Of course they do have a price to pay, they must do what it is that is asked of them and do it well if they wish to continue this pampered way of life. Doesn’t matter whether you have a western pleasure horse, jumping horse or dressage horse, or even a racehorse, performance horses have a job to do and they will always be expected to have positive results from their performances. Nothing in life is free, not even for them.     

So, let’s get down to business. First you will need a grooming box. Most of them today are made so you can sit them over the top of a board such as a fence board. You need at least one curry comb, preferably two of them, a fairly soft bendable one and you can get curry combs that look like they have small cones sticking out of a round base with a band to put your hand into on the other side.                                                                                          

Next you will need a regular size soft brush, a regular size harder brush and a very soft regular size brush. You will need a smaller hard brush for brushing out the horses feet after you have picked them out. You will need a hoof pick, a mane pulling comb and a tail brush. Last you will need a few good rub rags. You will need a large spray bottle that will be used for a detangler for the tail. Old timers would not let us use anything but a hard brush on tails as you want to try and keep the tail as long as possible for swatting flies and gnats. If you are careful you can do a good job using a comb and detangler. Some eye wash in your box is probably not a bad idea, a good hoof care product and maybe an anti-thrush product. Last you should keep some type of wound care product in your box for easy access too (check out my latest blog).  

After your horse has had a bath (complete details on bathing in recent blog “Giving Your Horse A Bath From Nose To Tail“) and is now completely dry, take your softer curry comb, stand in front of your horse after you have either tied him or her in the stall with a tie chain, (tie chains are not necessarily made of chain, there are rope, elastic or other varieties), or have your horse in cross ties either in a barn or outside on a wash rack. If you are right handed, use your left hand and hold the nose band of the halter lightly, and curry your horse between the eyes, very gently, currying is usually done in a circular motion, continue up towards the ears. Now down both sides of the cheeks. Start on the left side of the horse, if you wish you can change to your other curry comb. Continue from behind of the ear, again in circular motions, straight down the neck, onto the chest. You should gently curry between the front legs and over their chest. Do this all the way down the whole side of the horse, (the curry is not for their legs but there is a soft rubber glove type of curry that is much better for horses who are shedding this type would be ok for the legs), under the stomach, close to the spine but not directly on the spine, over the horses rump, around to the tail down to the hock. Now you need to start on the other side of the horse behind the right ear and do exactly the same. You will know if you are currying too hard because the horse will keep moving away from you or will drop his or her back down low trying to get away from the curry comb, adjust to a lighter touch. Next, take your regular size soft and regular size harder brush. Gently start brushing at the forehead, up between the ears, behind the ears making sure to move the halter back cleaning under the crown piece of the halter very well. Using the brush in your left hand, on the left side of the horse, and your brush in your right hand, alternate strokes from top to bottom covering all areas again working your way all the way back to the tail. You will use these brushes to brush their legs all the way down to the hoof. Go to the other side using the same alternating strokes with soft and harder regular brushes. Now, starting again at the front of your horses head, use the soft regular brush and your rub rag. Do exactly the same alternating strokes except that you can sometime use the rub rag in circular motions with your right hand giving your left hand a little break. Grab your comb, comb forelock, mane and then tail using the detangler if you get a lot of resistance or excessive knotting, starting at the bottom of the tail working upwards. Now it is time to perform the very important picking of the horses feet with your hoof pick and your small hard brush. Stand by the horses left leg facing the back of the horse, asking your horse for his or her front foot by running your hand down usually the inside of their leg. This is a taught behavior to give you their foot and practice makes perfect. After you teach this to a horse and with regular practice of this important procedure, most horses have no problem with being obliging. As they pick up their foot, use your left hand to hold the front of their foot, using your right hand, as you face the point of the pick towards the ground, run the pick on either side of their frog and clean out any unnecessary stones, manure or other things you know do not belong there. Still holding the foot with your left hand, grab your small harder brush with your right hand, brush out the bottom of the horses foot in a downward motion. Put that foot down, run your hand, as you are bent over, on the outside of the other leg and do the same.Continue to the back of the horse, stand by his or her hind leg, start up high, running your left hand across the rump and down the inside of the left hind leg, asking kindly for their foot, clean and brush the foot and then ask for the right hind foot, you know the deal.  Job well done, stand back as you will be able to see a difference. By grooming your horse in this manner on a daily basis, it will bring you great satisfaction as you will really be able to see the difference, and your horse just might give you a smile.

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Preparing Your Equine First Aid Kit For The Constant Cuts, Scrapes And Abrasions Horses Encounter

From the very moment of birth, foals, yearlings and older horses will inevitably and almost constantly acquire a considerable amount of cuts, abrasions, bruises, and unfortunately sometimes very severe injuries. It is important to always be prepared with as many different types of medications that will address cuts and wounds using conventional, homeopathic and perhaps even herbal methods. Wounds that are topically not too serious or severe will just need the usual topical applications. If we delve into situations with deeper wounds but are not severe enough to call a veterinarian, then you may want to use basic homeopathic elements to help the healing process. People that are new in the horse industry may have to rely on a veterinarians advice and guidance until they learn the difference between a horse that can heal from a wound with the help of proper care internally and externally, and a wound that needs more than just a diligent horseman, but needs the immediate care of a professional veterinarian. Being properly prepared for the inevitable careless antics of your horse or horses is half the battle. You will also need to have bandaging material of different types, such as gauzes and cottons. Gauzes and cottons will go directly on the leg next to and over the wound and need to be kept as sterile as possible. Then there are bandages that go over these gauzes and cottons, and outer bandages to hold the whole thing together and hold everything in place.

My first suggestion would be for you to acquire a heavy plastic, fairly large storage bin, that has a tight fitting lid. You need something that has easy access. Find a reputable tack shop that carries over the counter medications. Explain that you are starting your basic first aid kit. As I have said before, horseman are always happy to help other horseman. Let them know what your budget is, how many horses and so on. You should have something for washing wounds, usually iodine based, a medication that is geared towards drying out the wound and a back up that is anti-bacterial and/or anti-biotical. Always keep an eye wash of some type, even if it is only saline solution. There are mouth swab type medications for horses that get sores in their mouths usually from the bit. There are salves for drawing objects such as splinters out of their hide or from their foot. Try to stay basic and build from there as you learn more about your horses mistakes. Take a pen and paper with you and write down the things you see in the tack shop that you may be able to get on your own such as alcohol, mineral oil, talcum powder and such. The gauze and cotton may be well priced at the tack shop as well as the leg bandages you will need.

If you choose to use homeopathic or herbal remedies to enhance the healing process for more serious injuries, going into a major health food store or large chain that specializes in vitamins, they will be able to help you choose just the basics that you will need. As I have mentioned before, there are specific books out now that were written to teach horseman about the uses of homeopathic and herbal remedies. These books will also teach you about dosage. My personal experience with using homeopathic and herbal remedies has been phenomenal. I always have these available not only for the horses but I use these products myself.

Lastly, you will need to ask your veterinarian about eye ointments and the basic non-prescription medications necessary for inflammation or severe bruising or medicines for situations that a tranquilizer is necessary. Horses are sometimes in areas that a veterinarian cannot reach in a reasonable amount of time. Keeping this in mind, you may want to address the issue of the possibly of colic and what medicine you will need to have available for minor colic issues or until the vet can arrive. As you will learn, horses are actually in many ways, very delicate. Sometimes having the correct medications or the right bandages to address a severe situation can make a major difference in the life of your horse and in your life as well.

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Lead Shanks; an Absolute Necessity, the Different Kinds, the Uses and Misuses on Horses

Why do we need to use lead shanks? Control! Without it you can break or even lose a finger. Whenever you walk into a stall and put a halter on a horse, unless you have a tie chain in the stall and you are going to tie your horse in the stall, you should always have a lead shank snapped onto the halter. Even though horses are domesticated, they still will resort back to their instincts when frightened. Horses were here millions of years before man and their means of survival was flight or fight. I can assure you that flight is the first instinct they will follow. If you walk your horse out of the stall or out of the pasture holding the halter without a shank and your horse sees something and decides to shy or duck sideways very quickly and your hand is inside of the halter, you may endure injury. I can say this from past experience. When I started around horses at the age of eleven, and did not know any better, there were a few instances where my fingers were close to being broken as I tried to hold onto the halter in fear of having a loose horse. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to get the message how important it is to use a lead shank not only to keep my fingers intact, but to have better control over the horse I was leading.

When you are leading a horse, you should be back by the horses shoulder on their left side. Always start everything that you do from the left side first. By approaching your horse and starting everything from the left side of the horse, you are creating a movement of habit that will become acceptable to your horse. This means that when you approach to the left of the horse, your horse will be less likely to question why you are there and be more accepting of your actions. Walking with your horse, not in front of them or too far back will help you to have control over them in case of any sudden movements forward, backward or sideways. In this case you would give them a gentle but sharp jerk on the shank in order to get their attention as to say please do not do this. You are in charge and you will need to convey this to your horse as they will sometimes want to be the boss. Usually horses that are trail horses, show horses or just horses that are part of the family, you will only need a rope shank. Nylon shanks are ok but in the case of a horse trying to take off with you, and if the shank starts to slip through your hands, you may encounter some burn marks from the shank. This can happen from rope shanks but it will not be as severe and there are rope shanks on the market that are very soft. At the same time you do not want them too soft especially if you are leading two or three horses at the same time as they seem to get tangled up very easily.

Leather shanks are your other option but of course these will need more care in cleaning and conditioning them. Usually leather shanks have a chain and snap attached to them. These shanks are for horses that are more head strong and need to be under more control. Stallions usually are led with a chain shank especially breeding stallions. You take the end of the chain part of the shank with the snap, start the snap part through the left side of the halter (the metal part of the halter), pulling the chain over the center of the nose piece of the halter and under following through to the other side of the halter were the metal piece is and up the side of the halter and snap it onto the metal ring up higher on the halter. This is debatable of where to snap the shank onto the halter after running it over the nose piece. I personally like to run it through the under side of the halter, through the ring at the lower end of the halter, under their jowl and snap it onto the metal ring on the left side of the halter. In order to do this you will need a chain shank that has a very long chain on it. You may have to special order shanks of this type.

For me, I feel I have more control of the horses head and a horse will follow its head. If a horse tries to overpower you and take off and you can bring his or her head around towards you very quickly, that horse usually cannot follow through as they will need to follow their head. These instances occur mostly with racing horses.

Chain shanks can be very harsh on some horses. Be very careful if you need to use this on a young horse or any horse that is not use to the chain over their nose. This is a very sensitive area on their face and should be treated that way. Never tie a horse with a chain shank over their nose, this could be a disaster. Chain shanks are for leading horses only. Halters and shanks go together. Sometimes it seems like a waste of time if you are only going a short distance but try to stay in the habit. Horses are creatures of habit and horseman should follow their lead.

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