I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: consistency is the key to success when it comes to horses. A consistent diet, turnout schedule, exercise regime, etc.
It’s been a busy month here at Horses Offering People Education. A lot is happening behind the scenes; including a long-overdue soon-to-be live website update, new program planning, and community outreach. In the midst of all that, I recently spent a week down in Orlando, FL at The HERD Institute, where I’ve been working remotely as their Executive Assistant since the Fall. Add in the fact that we’ve had several very cold days earlier this month, with temperatures here in Massachusetts dropping as low as -27, and then shooting back up to 35 degrees the very next day.
Thus, time at the barn in February has been limited. I’ve been going as often as possible, sometimes for 15 - 20 minutes at a time, simply to just visit my horses in their paddock or stalls. There’s been no expectation to “work”.
And while it seems like Winter will never end, the reality is that Winter isn’t to blame for decreased time spent at the barn this month; there is always going to be something going on. It’s how we balance the rest of our lives (career, hobbies, family, and friends) in the horse ownership journey that truly matters. After all, the only constant in life is change.
As the year comes to a close, I wanted to take a few moments to share, in no particular order, 22 things I learned in 2022…
1. A successful year of business is not measured by how many clients you’ve had or how much money is in your bank account at the end of the year.
2. When one barn door closes, another opens.
3. Not all superheroes wear capes. Some have four hooves and a tail.
4. Believe it or not, it is actually more cost-effective to spend more money all at once in order to save more in the long run. Don’t skimp on high-quality grain, hay, supplements, tack, training/lessons, farrier, and vet care maintenance.
5. A certification is only the beginning of a practitioner’s journey.
6. The Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover really is the “Happiest Horse Show on Earth”.
7. It’s okay to take a vacation every once in a while. Unwind and unplug, your life will still be waiting for you when you get back.
8. Mental health is just as important as physical health, for both horses and humans.
9. Consistency is the key to success, for both horses and humans.
10. Lesson plans are a good backup, but really, “it’s not about the activity”.
11. Never settle with your current state of knowledge. Look to further your education through clinics, conferences, workshops, seminars, etc.
12. The best reaction is no reaction when it comes to a horse’s spook. Just ride it out.
13. If you never ask the question, you will never receive an answer.
14. Pitch yourself. You never know what may come of it…
15. Invest in your brand. From logo and website design to apparel.
16. Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Take the moment and make it perfect.
17. A successful business is not built overnight.
18. The best way to start your morning off is a 5-minute barn visit.
19. It may take a bit of trial-and-error to find the perfect daily recipe for your ponies.
20. The only thing that matters is whatever is happening in the present moment. You can’t change the past, or predict the future.
21. Age is just a number, not a defining factor.
22. Ex-racehorses make the very best companion ponies.
Thanks to all who have been following my journey this year. Wishing you a happy and healthy 2023!
𝐒𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬, 𝐥𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐠𝐨 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐞𝐦𝐛𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐛𝐞 𝐚 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐠𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠.
Yes, I seriously just wrote that.
For those of you who have been following this page for a while or know me in real life, you’ve likely recognized that this is NOT my typical philosophy. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I get very comfortable in situations, and am beyond reluctant to do anything different, because if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
I take riding lessons twice a week, and for the past few months, I’ve mostly been riding a lovely been-there-done-that blue-ribbon winning turned bombproof lesson horse. She has re-instilled a sense of confidence in me that months ago, I could have only dreamed of. However, I’ve always felt like there was *something* missing from our rides, and have never been able to put my finger on it. Until now.
Friday afternoon, I arrived to the barn and found myself lessoning on not one, not two, but three new lesson horses! You see, my trainer had decided to try me on a number of different mounts all in the same hour, to help me figure out what qualities I personally like in a riding horse.
At first, I was quite skeptical and honest-to-God almost had a massive panic attack upon the first pony’s back. However, as each short ride progressed, I found myself loosening up, as the worst, unknown part was over.
To my (and everyone else’s) surprise, my favorite ride of the day was the least likely culprit; a pony whom I had some pre-ride prejudice against, simply due to multiple prior instances of impolite ground manners. Overall, the lesson was one of my favorites to-date, as I typically second-guess every move I make, but simply just let myself enjoy the ride. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, right?
Flash forward to yesterday’s lesson. I was placed on yet another new-to-me pony but this time, there was an instant connection. Everything I liked about my favorite mount from the previous day existed in this gray gelding and more.
The ride was, dare I say it, easily one of my best ever. That’s not to say I won’t ever go back to my usual been-there-done-that mare. But this particular pony has an extra sparkle, the piece of the puzzle that’s been missing all these months…
𝐓𝐫𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐬: 𝐩𝐨𝐩 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐮𝐩 𝐨𝐧 𝐝𝐢𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐬𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐰𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐞. 𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐜𝐚𝐫𝐲, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐢𝐭’𝐬 𝐚𝐥𝐬𝐨 𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐲 𝐫𝐞𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠. 𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐰𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐟𝐚𝐫 𝐲𝐨𝐮’𝐯𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐦𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐟𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐥𝐞𝐟𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐠𝐨.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a widely-understood visual model that breaks down the psychology of human motivation.
Problems or difficult circumstances at one point in a person's life can cause them to focus on a particular set of needs, and this in turn can affect their future happiness.
For example, a person who lived through a period of extreme poverty and lack of food security in early childhood may fixate on Physiological and Safety needs. These remain even if they are satisfied. So even if this person later has everything they need, they may nonetheless obsess over money or keeping enough food in the fridge.
In my short time as a horse owner, I have found horses to be the same.
All horses have 3 basic needs that must be met in order to physically survive: adequate access to food, shelter, and water. Until those basic needs are met, they are unable to move up to another section. However, a horse that has experienced a lack of one or more needs will have the ability to revert back to “survival mode” even after those needs are met.
For example, my 4 year old mare polishes off any food within her sight rapidly, as there was a time she had to quite literally fight for access to food. Now, not only are her basic Physiological needs being met, but so are her Safety and Love & Belonging needs. Yet, that constant need to chow down to avoid hunger will likely always linger.
Our 17 year old mare spent the last decade of her life turned out in a field in upstate New York. Unfortunately, we don’t know much of what she endured there; however, we do know that she likely did not receive routine vet, farrier, or dental care. Our wonderful team has been working together over the last 6 months and there has been immense progress. However, there are some pieces of her body that will never fully heal.
Like humans, horses can travel between the different need sections throughout their lifespan, and the rate at which they do is unique to each individual. Some may fluctuate more than others.
Where does your horse fall in the Equine Hierarchy of Needs?
Today marks one year since Horses Offering People Education was born.
Whether you have been here since Day 1 or are just tuning in now, THANK YOU to all who have joined me on my journey of H.O.P.E. thus far. When I began this blog 12 months ago, I never could have predicted how quickly this following would grow.
While this initially began as a reflective outlet for me to share my horses’ rehabilitation journeys, it has evolved into fellow equestrians sharing their own stories of both struggle and triumph, as they navigate horse ownership. After all, we can learn so much from each other, both in and out of the saddle.
Here’s to many more years of doing what I love, and sharing what I do.
Upon arriving at the barn yesterday, I went to see my girls in their paddock and found them positioned like so. They didn’t immediately detect my presence.
Though I’m not quite sure what was capturing their interest in that moment, I quickly recognized that their stance was almost symmetric in nature.
A herd often mirrors each other's movements to stay together as a single unit for protection. This stems from wild horses, who mimic the movement of predators around them in order to stay safe.
While these two have only been a herd for 6 months, I love that their connection runs so deep, as evidenced by this moment. They are always looking out for one another, both in and out of the paddock.
Who’s always got your back?
It often surprises people when I initially tell them that I do not ride either of my horses. Not long ago, I did not see any value in being at the barn to do anything other than ride. So, what changed that mindset?
𝐒𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞 𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐚𝐫𝐧.
The more time I spent at the barn NOT riding (i.e. barn chores, assisting with Summer Camp or lessons), the more I observed horses in their element during all hours of the day.
There is SO much we can learn about horses from outside of the saddle. I am not talking about groundwork, but rather, just simply observing what is happening around you with your 5 senses.
Hence, why the foundation of my Equine-Facilitated Learning program is based in herd observation. We will get up close and personal with the horses; however, it may not be during the first or even second session.
“𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐩 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐡𝐨𝐫𝐬𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐮𝐦𝐚𝐧 𝐞𝐱𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐬 𝐟𝐚𝐫 𝐛𝐞𝐲𝐨𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐚𝐝𝐝𝐥𝐞”.
Fellow equestrians, I urge you all to carve out at LEAST 5 or 10 minutes each week to solely spend time with your horses. Take away the expectation to ride during that visit and just observe them in their most natural state. What do you notice?
𝐄𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐡𝐨𝐫𝐬𝐞, 𝐫𝐞𝐠𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐚𝐠𝐞, 𝐛𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐝, 𝐨𝐫 𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫, 𝐢𝐬 𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐭𝐥𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐚𝐬𝐢𝐜 𝐧𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐦𝐮𝐬 𝐭𝐛𝐞 𝐦𝐞𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐯𝐞, 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐡𝐮𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐬. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐧𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞: 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐭𝐞𝐫, 𝐟𝐨𝐨𝐝, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫.
My 4 year old ex-racehorse lived a very pampered life on the track, so it was quite literally a shock to her entire system when she spent 1 ½ months post-track living the polar opposite life.
Our first trainer gave her 24/7 turnout on a track system with no access to shelter, limited access to hay and water, no fly sheet/blanket, poor hoof care maintenance, and an unbalanced diet which lacked any grain or supplements. Now, I am not knocking track systems or 24/7 turnout; however, her basic needs were not being met, and when I began to question why, I was faced with resistance. So, I started to look for help elsewhere.
When we left on September 15, 2021, my mare’s body condition score was a 3 out of 9. We had a LONG rehab road ahead of us, and after this nightmare, I was unsure she would ever trust me again.
A year later, we have re-built a sense of trust that I could have never imagined. She happily follows me around like a puppy whether it is at liberty in her turnout paddock or attached to a lead rope in the arena. Kisses and playful nudges are a daily occurrence.
To get to this point has not been easy. After the first trainer fiasco, we landed in the hands of another trainer who ultimately broke down our confidence and my mare’s physical state yet again a few months later. By letting my guard down, I continued to put trust into the wrong people.
There were a lot of days in the last year where I just wanted to throw in the towel and give up being a horse owner all together. My mare seemed broken beyond repair. Clearly I lacked any ability to put trust in the right people. I poured my blood, sweat, tears, and thousands of dollars into this never-ending project.
However, any time those negative thoughts arose, I took a deep breath and looked over at my inspiration to keep fighting. Those chocolate brown eyes never once lost hope that we would one day be in a better emotional and physical state.
And she was right. Finally, we have found expert 24/7 care from a trainer and barn staff that understand her needs. With proper nutrition, great hoof and vet care maintenance, and access to a stall, this little lady has never looked better.
Third time’s a charm.
Today concludes our week-long family vacation. A vacation that feels like it flew by way too fast, as all good things do.
During this designated time off, I did not worry about the care of our horses. Yes, you read that correctly. Me, the chronic overthinker, did not stop to second guess that our mares were being fed, turned out, put back in their stalls, or hosed off to cool down from this excessive heat.
For the first time since I became a horse owner a little over a year ago, I did not feel guilty about not visiting the barn for a week. In fact, our mares got a vacation of their own while we were away. They earned this designated time off just as much as we did.
While consistency is the key to success when it comes to training horses, it is perfectly healthy to give our equine partners a break every once in a while to rest and recharge both physically and mentally. (Same goes for their human owners too!)
𝐌𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐥 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐭𝐡 𝐢𝐬 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐚𝐬 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐚𝐬 𝐩𝐡𝐲𝐬𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐭𝐡.
While horses, just like humans, have different care specifics, their basic needs remain the same.
Our equine partners give so much to us, the least we can do in return is provide a stable (no pun intended!) environment for them to thrive in.
𝐀 𝐒𝐮𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐟𝐮𝐥 𝐁𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐢𝐬 𝐍𝐨𝐭 𝐁𝐮𝐢𝐥𝐭 𝐎𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭...
It was always my intention to begin providing Equine-Facilitated Learning sessions immediately upon graduation from The HERD Institute in April 2022.
However, after returning home from Orlando, I realized there was so much more to be done to begin working with clients than just having a certification. Business cards had to be made (thank you, ALT Art & Design!), insurance paperwork had to be filed, program fees had to be set, client registration packets had to be created and most importantly, I had to find a location to run sessions out of.
After pitching my program to over a dozen local barns, I am so excited to announce that I am officially OPEN FOR BUSINESS starting next Tuesday, June 21st!!
Thank you to all of the clients who have been patiently waiting for several months to begin your journey of H.O.P.E. And a huge THANK YOU to the incredibly generous woman who is welcoming my clients and I with open arms into your barn. I can’t wait for them to meet your fabulous farm animals!
One of the three main principles of The HERD Institute philosophy is Here & Now.
“Here & Now refers to the importance of being (and staying) in the present moment. As both a herd and a prey animal, horses are always aware of the present moment. It is not only their survival instinct but their way of being, as they rely on energetic presence” (V. Lac, The HERD Institute).
As a facilitator, I have to remain present during sessions in order to fully engage with my clients. If I am thinking about the laundry list of items I need to pick up from the grocery store or emails I need to respond to, I am not focused on what is happening around me, which could result in missing key “take-a-neighs” or unsafe behavior.
But, Here & Now does not just apply to EFL. It exists in our daily lives.
For example, when we make a change to move to a new barn or a new job, we can not constantly compare “old” versus “new” — it does not allow us to focus on what is happening in the present moment. This is certainly easier said than done, and takes a TON of practice (I am still figuring it out myself!).
Lately, I have had to bring myself back to the present moment during my twice-weekly riding lessons. I am not, nor will I ever be, a competitive rider. I prefer a walk or slow trot, and have no desire to increase that pace any more. While I began riding at a young age at a friend’s backyard barn, I did not have a consistent schedule or trainer, bouncing around from barn to barn every few years in between long hiatuses. In fact, it was not until I purchased my own horse last year that I rode in a consistent lesson program.
Each trainer had their own teaching style, thus at each new barn, I started back with the basics. My body is currently physically “undoing” all of my previous bad habits from the last lesson program I was a part of. There are days where it does not remember how to ride correctly, reverting back to those nasty old habits, and leading me down into a rabbit hole of comparison.
It is in these moments that I remind myself of the Here & Now, determined to focus on the task at hand, not the past that I can not change.
As we celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s graduating high school seniors, I want to take a moment to acknowledge those who choose an untraditional post-high school route.
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs did not graduate college. Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerberg. Bill Gates. Ralph Lauren. Michael Dell.
Personally, after graduating high school in May 2020, I chose to take a gap year. During that time, I threw myself into any opportunity that came my way, craving for some normalcy in an otherwise chaotic world. After a few months, I decided that I did not want to just take a gap year, but rather, not attend college altogether.
Most people spend their college years trying to discover what they ultimately want to do with their life career-wise. I had already found my passion: working alongside horses to improve people’s overall mental health and wellness. And so this journey of H.O.P.E. began…
To the #Classof2022:
Congratulations and best of luck on your next life adventure, whether that road leads to college or elsewhere.
Those who have met my 4 year old mare know that she is well-mannered, fiercely loyal, whip-smart, and incredibly athletic. Her and I share a deep physical and emotional connection that all horse owners desire, despite being a part of each other’s lives for less than a year. In other words, she is without a doubt my heart horse.
In the last 6 weeks, she has gone through 2 mild episodes of Colic. Thus, we have taken a pause in her training to allow her to fully settle into her new home and properly treat her for Ulcers. There have been lots of changes for the better recently — a different barn, a different turnout schedule, a different trainer/vet/farrier team, a different feeding plan…
A few days ago, the vet came by to do an exam for both of our horses. Upon taking x-rays of my 4 year old’s back, she discovered Kissing Spine. This occurs when vertebrae in the spine are too close together, rather than being spaced apart as in a healthy spine. My mare has 2 overlapping vertebrae in the region of her back directly where the saddle sits.
She will not be saddled ever again.
We were given the option to do surgery. The surgery itself is not painful, but the post-op rehab is a very long process. There is no guarantee that it will “fix” her either. She has already been through so much in the last 10 months, both physically and mentally.
However, this is not the end of our journey together. It is only the beginning…
Horses have always been therapeutic for me; not just riding, but simply being in their presence. My business was built on the idea that the relationship between horse and human extends far beyond the saddle. The best way to reflect that? Providing a forever home to a non-ridden equine.
Dear Heart Horse: here’s to a lifetime of hand walks, endless grass grazing, holiday photo shoots, playtime with your older sister, and eventually, being a partner in my Equine-Facilitated Learning sessions.
Both of our OTTBs began their racing career when they were under 3 years old.
Think about that.
Physically, horses aren’t completely finished growing until nearly 8 years old.
No wonder OTTBs are notorious for frequent gastric ulcers and horribly thin soles. (That’s not to say other breeds of horses in different disciplines don’t have ulcers or thin soles, but it is very common in OTTBs). They are bred to run for money, until they decide that they don’t want to run anymore, and early retirement becomes their fate. Many go on to excel in second or even third careers…
Our girls know that they are safe with us, that we will never ask them to run another day in their lives. They were promised a forever home, and promises are not meant to be broken.
So, I fully understand the excitement of Derby Day (I love the fancy over-the-top hats too!), but I also understand the harsh reality behind this sport.
Just like humans, horses need routine dental care. Some horses are able to go twelve months in between appointments, while others require more frequent visits. Our 4 year old OTTB loves being pampered, so she had no issues with any of the tools our equine dentist used to float her teeth last week.
On the other hand, our 17 year old OTTB was terrified of the strange, shiny objects and loud noises that ensued with their use. Recognizing her trepidation due to past trauma, the dentist calmly entered her stall and began to desensitize her to his voice and his tools. After a few moments, she relaxed significantly, allowing him to begin his work. While she had a couple of other small spooks throughout the remainder of the appointment, the dentist did not react to her fears.
At the end of her appointment, it was concluded that her teeth had not been floated in an unknown number of YEARS. She had 2 fangs. This actually made sense, as we witnessed her slow eating habits and frequent discomfort associated with wearing a bit for months.
While some may have gone straight to sedation upon sensing fear, this man recognized and tailored his care to the individual needs of our horses. Although the same breed, our girls are not the same in terms of personality. Equine welfare is so important to us and we couldn’t be happier to have this guy as one of the many valuable members on our horses’ care team!
In 9 short months, we’ve been through 4 vets, 3 farriers, 3 trainers, and now we’re moving on to our 3rd boarding barn.
This journey truly takes a village and when you don’t have the right people inside your village, it may be time to find a new tribe.
However, I do believe that everyone crosses your life path for one reason or another, good or bad. Each time we subtract and add a new person onto our team, there is a valuable lesson to be learned.
Here’s to our newest adventure, and all of the lessons that it shall bring!
THANK YOU to The HERD Institute for an amazing 3 days!
I’m proud to announce that after 7 long months, I’m officially the youngest certified Level 1 Equine-Facilitated Learning (EFL) practitioner of The HERD Institute!!!
Congratulations to my fellow weekend graduates — Jenn, Nicole, and Val. Excited to watch you all grow your EFL businesses!
“𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐲 𝐢𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲. 𝐈𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐲 𝐢𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐦𝐲.” - 𝐂𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨𝐧 𝐀𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐨𝐧
What a great weekend at the Downunder Horsemanship #WalkaboutTourFranklinTN!
Whether it’s colt starting or trailer loading or desensitizing a horse for the trail, the biggest lesson that Clinton drilled into us over the past 2 days was that consistency is the key to success with your horse(s). It’s not about how many hours you put into your horse each week, but rather, adhering to the same training schedule as much as possible. Horses are creatures of habit. As a flight animal, they can easily become upset or anxious by the unknown.
Horses will not make any improvement if they are not worked with regularly. Horses are just like children, they learn best with consistency and repetition.
When you teach a kid how to read, you don’t just show them the alphabet once and then say, “Go read the book.” You practice going through it every day until they recognize those letters and understand how they fit together to make words. Then you can progress to teaching them how to read; first by introducing simple sentences and then moving up to more complex ones.
Horses are the same — they learn best through repetition. The more consistent you are in both the way you cue your horse and how often you work with them, the faster they will progress through training. Regularly working with your horse gives them a chance to understand what you are teaching and will help ensure that they remember the lesson.
𝐒𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐡𝐨𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐚 𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐪𝐮𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐨𝐰𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭…
Since she was backed, my 4 year old OTTB has been on some form of ulcer prevention. She took U-Gard while racing. Post-track, we switched over to a slightly less expensive ulcer prevention, Succeed from SmartPak. She LOVED the sweet taste of the (low sugar!) natural oat flavored syringes, to the amusement of our boarding barn staff. A few months ago, I made the decision to take her off of Succeed, as it seemed like more of a daily game to her than a necessary supplement.
However, yesterday morning, we found ourselves on poop watch! After witnessing some rather unusual behavior for my mare (laying down during breakfast time, refusing to eat most of her breakfast grain, leaving an abundance of hay remaining in her hay net), my trainer gave her a dose of Banamine and instructed me to walk her around to get her gut moving.
By mid-morning, she had pooped, concluding our first extremely mild case of Colic. We believe this was her way of letting us know that she wanted her ulcer prevention medication back, as she has never been off of it before as far as we know.
It’s no secret that horses are incredibly fragile beings. Whoever coined the term “healthy as a horse” clearly never had to pay any vet bills. Thoroughbreds in particular are notoriously accident-prone. In the month of March, we also experienced:
1 reaction to spring vaccines that resulted in a swollen neck for a few days.
1 eye wound that resulted in several stitches and a minor concussion (this one was actually our 16 year old OTTB).
Life with horses is certainly never boring — and no, this is NOT an April Fools’ Day joke!
Happy First Day of Spring!
Spring unofficially sprung a few days early here in New England. With the assistance of my trainer, my mare and I went out on our first walk outside of the arena on Friday and she couldn’t have been more relaxed!
Thankful everyday for this smart, curious young lady and looking forward to many more adventures outside together as the weather continues to warm up.
Horses roll for pleasure when in a state of complete relaxation and feel it is safe to do so.
Rolling relieves the “itchy-sweaty” feeling post-workout.
In warmer temperatures, horses may roll in mud to ward off pesky insects.
Rolling helps dry off a horse’s skin after a bath or excessive amounts of rain.
Similar to when a person yawns, rolling is contagious, so you’ll often catch more than one horse in the barn roll after another.
Occasionally, rolling can be a cause of concern, as it's a symptom of Colic. However, if a horse rolls due to Colic, they will most likely not shake themselves out when they get up.
“𝐃𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐢𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐟𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐦𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭. 𝐓𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐢𝐭 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐟𝐞𝐜𝐭”.
Since my fall in late December 2021, I haven't wanted anything to do with this mare. There were quite a few contributing factors that day from improper tack to not being in the right headspace to ride. Regardless, this mare did absolutely nothing wrong —she didn't buck me off nor did she trample me while I was laying on the ground in extreme pain. I only recently started grooming her again, but had no interest in hand-walking, lunging, or riding her. Until today.
I didn’t know that I would ride prior to arriving at the barn this morning. But, when I witnessed her docile demeanor, I knew that I would have regrets later if I didn't at least try to get #backinthesaddle.
We didn’t go faster than a walk. I was led (thanks Dad!) around the arena for only a short 10 minutes. It’ll be awhile before I’m able to let go of that safety net and ride fully independently again, as I lost a ton of confidence post-fall.
Sometimes, you can’t wait for the “perfect” moment to arrive, as spontaneous decisions don’t leave a lot of room for over-thinking to occur. However, you do have to make time to celebrate the small victories each and every day…especially those that are 2 months long overdue…
What is your small victory this week? Please share in the comments below!
There’s something magical about riding your own horse for the very first time (!) after years of riding lesson horses…
This little lady had her first ride in 9 months post-track today! And I got #backinthesaddle for the first time since my fall 6 weeks ago. As someone who normally overthinks every second of their life, I didn’t hesitate once before climbing up on this 16.2 hh beauty. No, I wasn’t wearing the proper riding attire or tall boots. But, I had complete trust in a being that weighs 10x more than I do. Trust that has taken months to build up.
Here’s to many more hours in the saddle with the most gentle OTTB!
Thoroughbreds sustain quite a bit of noise stimulation on the racetrack. They have to deal with starting gates, loud music, shouting crowds, camera flashes, and maneuvering around other racehorse and jockey duos, just to name a few distractive scenarios.
That being said, any horse, Thoroughbred or otherwise, often receives desensitization training. Desensitization is the act of slowly introducing a horse to foreign objects or noises they may be scared of in order to help them understand why they do not have to be afraid. This process, completed in multiple stages, looks different for all horses, usually dependent on their specific job title.
Thank you Freedom Rider Tack Shop for providing the colorful toys for a recent desensitization session!