There are many ways into a horse's mind and heart, these are some of my ideas ...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I wish I could show her ...

This absolutely beautiful young man is to be Her Ladyship's next breeding partner. He is straight Egyptian Arabian. His name is Chaswyck Caliph. She was to see him this year but was delayed by the outbreak of Equine Influenza.
This young stallion is heavily bred to Asfour (Malik x Hanan) who was imported from Germany for Simeon Stud. Simeon Stud has bred some of the most beautiful horses in the World, including a World Champion Stallion. They mostly breed Egyptian Arabians.
But Chaswyck Caliph was bred at Chaswick Stud, another Egyptian breeder, by their stallion, Simeon Sochain. He is a beautiful Chestnut stallion, loved and admired all over the world.
I feel if she knew she was going to visit him next year she might cheer up a bit. Alas, our communications are not that good.
The foal could actually be chestnut, since Her Ladyship's dam was chestnut. I am not too fussed over the colour, I would be just as happy with a grey or bay, but I really think the foal will be something to behold in conformation with this breeding. The mare has very good legs and shoulder, as has this young man. He has a very powerful hindquarter, which I am delighted with, and I am sincerely hoping it will be passed on to the foal.
A colt will be gelded at two months. That is the law around here. Meanwhile there are lots of things to do: keeping her in good condition, getting her next EI vaccine, having the vet check she is actually ovulating and so on.
She has been rubbing her neck where the microchip was placed. We have been trying to prevent her from doing this, but she does it whenever we can. I guess all the theory in the world wont prevent her from dislodging it or damaging it if she is really determined to do it. She doesn't know what it is and if it is annoying her, why not rub the damn thing?
So enjoy the picture.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Her Ladyship, the ex-Racehorse ...

She's a sweet old thing, our mare. She is so lonely at the moment she has taken to following the old person around while he does his outside chores. He says it is like having a big, spooky dog.

When we came home from Christmas shopping last Saturday, the boys ran ahead of us with the trolley and parcels, and were calling her. She came galloping up to see what was wrong. She so cares about those boys.

Her hair is so fine, her face is drier than any Arabian horse's head. Her legs have dried out and are just slightly feathered at the back of the fetlock. Her hair is so fine on her body it is smooth and silky. She has blood vessels close to the surface to keep her body cooler - so if she passes that on to her Anglo-Arabian foal, endurance will definitely be on the cards. Right now she is an extremely beautiful animal.

We feed her good food, that we have experimented with over time. She is wormed on a regular basis, she is not supplimented at the moment, because she is getting loads of good grass as we have had some good rain. She is a little spoilt at the moment only because we are not sure of our status with EI and don't want to risk getting another horse here until it is all gone again. We have seen people out riding around here - we don't know if they are supposed to be or not. They don't talk to us: they don't know us.

One day it will be over and we will be able to get her a companion. Till then she only has us.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Something to amuse you ...

(From a thread on

Diane asked the following:

A list of titles added to a library...

The baby human
The anti-bias approach in early childhood
Family in transition
Curriculum controversies
The art of teaching primary science 12 to 18
Anger management
Essentials of strategic project management
Children, families & communities
Computers, thinking and learning
Designing a thinking curriculum
Coat of many pockets
Formative assessment in the secondary classroom
Schooling for the knowledge era
Totally wicked!
Miss Lily's fabulous pink feather boa
Teaching mathematics to all children
How to talk to children about art
The psychology of B.F. Skinner
Just Stop and Think!
Not you again!
What else can I do with you?
Seven steps to ICT integration
The millennial adolescent
Learners with mild disabilities
The Differentiated Classroom
Right book right time
Teaching boys
The psychology of B.F. Skinner
Sociology of family life
Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology: quantitative modeling
Seeing red
Managing conflict with confidence
Storytelling in the classroom
Race, culture and schooling
Extraordinary performance from ordinary people
Learning to slow down and pay attention

Anyone like to suggest an alternative title to these with the Arabian Horse as the theme?
egThe baby horse
The anti-bias approach in Arabian Horse BreedingBreeding in transition
The art of teaching analytical Arabian Horse conformation
Foals, families & communities
Miss Lily's fabulous pink feather boa
A few could always remain - Anger managementAssertiveness etc

To which I replied:

The baby human - Imprint training
The anti-bias approach in early foalhood
The herd in transition
Curriculum controversies in Judging
The art of teaching mammalian science 12 to 18
Anger management (for humans)
Assertiveness (for Arabian horses)
Essentials of strategic project management of Breeding Programmes
Children, families, strains & communities of Arabian Horses
Computers, thinking and learning to outsmart your Egyptian Arabian
Designing a thinking curriculum for Egyptian Arabians
Coat of many pockets filled with carrots
Formative assessment in the secondary classroom at Pony Club
Dressage Schooling for the knowledge era
Totally wicked! Carrots recipes
Miss Lily's fabulous pink feather boa for reining horses
Teaching mathematics to all children, families, strains and communities of Arabian horses
How to talk to children about artistically braiding tails and manes
The psychology of B.F. Skinner for thinking riders
Just Stop and Think - does your horse really need that carrot?
Not you again! See these teeth?
What else can I do with you besides lawn ornamentation
Seven steps to ICT integration for Egyptian Arabians
The millennial adolescent two year old colt
Learners with mild disabilities - both human and other animals
The Differentiated Classroom - both human and other animals
Right book right time - duck.
Teaching boys not to play chicken with the stallions
Sociology of horse herd life
Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology: quantitative modeling after the rider has fallen off - again
Seeing red - before your horse shies.
Managing conflict with confidence - for Arabian horse owners
Storytelling in the classroom - how to learn truth from fiction
Race, culture and schooling in the dressage ring
Extraordinary performance from ordinary people - New horse ownership
Learning to slow down and pay attention before you get bitten.

I thought this might add a chuckle to your life.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Picking a pedigree ....

A horse's pedigree is a chart of ancestors of the horse, presented in a reverse round robin chart.
The male side is usually on the top and the female is on the bottom. The father is the sire and the mother is the dam (or in some cases, distaff). There are the father's parents and the mother's parents and then their parents and so on back as far as the chart displays.

The reason for the chart is to check what family or strain or breeding the horse comes from. It can be quite useful to know this, particularly for a breeding or racing horse. It can be useful when purchasing animals as it lets you know the quality of the animal you a buying. It can be useful knowing the potentiality of a foal and even for picking which stallion to breed to your mare.

When selecting a horse to breed with, whether the male or female, it is useful to look at the pedigree and to go and look at relatives of the breeding animal, say the grand parents, their other offspring, brothers and sisters to the parents and also their children. The more you can see, and preferably in person, the better idea you will get of the potential foal/s from the breeding/s. If not, get whatever photographs, videos and dvd's you can of these horses.

The pedigree should not be the be all and end all of the breeding selection, but it can help in determining what the final outcome will look like.

It is also useful to go to a breed society and learn more about the breed, whether it is the same breed as the horse you have in mind for breeding or another breed. The more you know the better informed you will be when you make a decision.

It is also useful to read books. The authors are usually long time breeders in the particular breed you are interested in and are considered experts by their peers. It is a huge subject that I have barely tickled on here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Sorry I have not blogged here for a while. I have been flat out with my course, work and other things life has a tendency to throw at me when I am not looking.

This is a more personal aspect to horses and their well being than normal, in that I am going to talk about her ladyship, the ex-racehorse.

She is quite arrogant and has found it a long time to learn to trust us. She will be going fine and then just take umbrage at something, and we are back to square one. Sometimes I get so annoyed to think about what must have happened to her as a racehorse.

She misses her son; of that I have no doubt. It has taken her till two weeks ago before she would venture down to the yard where he died. She had a good smell all around and settled to graze for a while and then went back up to her own paddock. We have not been able to get her a companion because of the Equine Influenza outbreak having put a stop to all horse movement. So she is very dependent on us for company.

I try to keep her groomed nicely, but mostly she wont stand still for it. Since she isn't going anywhere, I usually do not fuss about it. But on Sunday she was scratching great wads of hair off her back with a tree branch. I put her lead on, grabbed the rubber curry and began the circular rubbing that makes it so effective. I could not believe how much hair came off her. She has been shedding since early July, and with all the rolling and scratching she does, I felt most of it must have been gone.

After the rubber curry came the cat brush with metal bristles covered with plastic on the tips.
You would have thought she had died and gone to heaven with the long nose and twisted head she made. She thoroughly enjoyed it.

Then the soft bristle brush. She was sleek and shiny after that. To look at you would just think her summer coat is painted on it is so fine. And very soft. Her mane is unmatted and her taill is just touching the ground, suitable for keeping off flies for summer.

So if you see signs that your horse might be itchy with old shed, even if you think it is all gone, maybe a rubber curry will prove differently.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Just a quick note ...

If I can I want to load a URL I think you should be aware of. The person who keeps this blog has a mission and a passion. I agree with much of what she writes.

Please read her blog frequently and leave comments. It is a good learning resource.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


To me the most beautiful animal baby is a new born foal. They just seem so beautiful and embody all the things we love to see in horses, the long legs, the fluffy ears, the upright tail as they trot around with Mum, just cannot find anything to beat them in my opinion. I am not biased.

I like to think of a foal as the potential of all the good things in horses. They are at a good size and age to start training. While they are small they are still very impressionable.

When I read about foals, and talk to others about them, people often mention the idea of foal imprinting. I have the book by D Miller who is a vet and advocates getting the foal the minute it is born and touching it all over and then letting it get up to bond with its mother.

I think that as a system it would be okay if most people could train in it before they actually have a foal. I have heard plenty of stories of mares rejecting their foals because of the time the people took to do the "imprinting". Nature has a way with animals whereby the mother can quickly "forget" her foal if it has been taken by a predator, and the foal goes limp and soporific when taken by a predator. It is theorised that this helps lessen the shock for the baby. At that time of neo-natal delivery, nature does not discriminate within the systems of the animals that it is just a little human interference and not a predator taking the foal.

My preference is to let the mare and foal bond, and get to know each other for a few hours. In a small space. The mare wont be too interested in grazing much on the first couple of days anyhow. She should have an ample supply of water however, because she will be making quite a bit of milk for the foal. That isn't to say, either, that you shouldn't offer her any regular feeds you normally offer her. Nothing stands in the way of my mare and her dinner/breakfast.

It is a good time to catch the foal when it is about 12 hours old. Mum and bub have got a little used to each other, it is fairly steady on its legs and has had a little sleep. (If any one of these is missing or none of these things are present in your foal, please call your vet.) Get the foal's attention by going into the middle of the yard and squatting down. A curious foal will come to inspect. A protective mother may be a bit of a problem, but if you have worked with her a fair bit prior to the birth, and she trusts you, just put a lead on her, get the foal's attention.

When it comes up to you, allow it to smell you and investigate. Softly deter any nibbling that occurs, just softly push the little muzzle away with your fingers. Do everything softly and slowly. Once it is happy with you, stand slowly so as not to spook it. Take it around its chest and rump. Only for a moment. Make reassuring noises and only hold it for a moment. I would do this three or four times over a 24 hour period, till you can hold it up to a minute or two. Then as you hold it, pat it all over its body. In the next lesson, lift its feet up, one by one. Next you can put your finger gently into its mouth. Work gently and softly. If you give the foal a name, call the name as well.

But - make sure you also reward the mother with a reassuring pat telling her what a good girl she is etc. Then leave the foal untouched for about two or three days and then do it all over again. Restraining, patting, lifting up the feet. Then slip a halter on and off. Scratching helps too, especially around the tail area.

At about a week to ten days, the foal should be happy enough that you are not a predator and the mother reassured enough that you are not going to steal her baby. Add a lead to the foal halter and let it get used to it. Pull slightly, once it is used to it, to get it to step forward. Don't put any pressure on the foal to do this. No jerking whatever you do. The tiny poll isn't ready to have hard pressure applied. But the pressure on the poll is fundamental to all that the foal will do during its life with people, and the younger it learns to obey it, the better.

After two more days or about two weeks after birth, you will be ready to teach tying up.

My reasons for teaching such a young foal to tie up are that this too is the most fundamental thing a horse needs to learn to do. Tie up and stand still, for the vet, for the farrier for the dentist, for the trailer.

You will need a bicycle inner tube, an old one, tied to a sturdy post, and the lead. Put the halter on the foal as normal, and if you can, lead it to the post. Tie the lead to the inner tube and let go. The foal may pull a bit, but the inner tube is flexible enough to withstand being pulled. If the foal begins to really fight the lead, step in and hold the foal, speak reassuringly to it, and move it in your arms closer to the post. This is really important. You never want the foal to be afraid of being tied up but if you suddenly untie it because of panic, it has learnt that panic type behaviour will get it out of that situation. Being so small your natural reaction to its panic will be to free it. But the holding it and moving it forward so that it is not pulling against the post is better. Once it calms down, then untie it. Then fuss over it.

More than likely if the foal panics the mare will panic as well. Pat her and reassure her. The foal will more than likely run to mum for a nurse. She will smell it and calm down more. Leave off tying the foal now for a day or two, but make sure you don't leave it any longer. Once the foal stands quietly while tied, you don't need to revise this again till it is a weanling.

Although once my foals are eating food for themselves around 6-7 weeks, I give them their own food, because my mare is a stealer. A haynet and all as they grow. But at mealtime, when they are eating, part of the condition they get to eat is they are lead to their food and tied up for part of the time they are eating.

I "wean" about four months old. By this, I mean that I put the foal into the next stable and yard area to the mare, just make it so the foal can't nurse. However, prior to that, I will begin feeding the foal for a few meals in that area away from Mum, and build up to leaving it there for an hour or so after the feed. By this age, my mare isn't too worried as long as she can see her bub. The foals have been so curious about everything, they wander in and out of the stable, smell around the yard. I will put some toys in with them, a large ball, some brightly coloured traffic cones. This yard becomes their home from now on. After a month, the mare has dried up, and they can be let out together. During the month, the mare has two or three hours in her yard and the foal can get out and get grazing. As I said, as long as they can see each other, it isn't a big fuss.

Immediate separation of mare and foal which some people do, so they never see each other ever again, to my way of thinking is just downright mean. You don't need a foal out of your mare every year no matter how valuable you might think she is. It affects them mentally and it can lower the immune system in the weanling to the point it can die of catching something it would not even have if the immune system was not depressed. The life of a foal is not worth it either.

Returning them after a month, the foal may try to nurse. There is nothing there, it is just a comfort thing. Even if the mare cocks her leg to allow it to "nurse". My colt was still doing this as a three year old. It is rather like giving a full contented baby a dummy (pacifier). It is no big deal and don't make it one.

Now you have a happy weanling. It knows how to be tied up and stand still. It knows to lift its legs, how to lead and behave like a well mannered horse. Most weanlings are ready to strut their stuff to the world and are happy to be lead around. Now is a good time to start those other things with the bags and stuff. Now is a good time to teach it to come to its name.

Happy foaling.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Catch me if you can ....

So your horse likes to play hard to catch.

Then you have to ask yourself who is really the dumb animal.

If your horse is off on the back 40 then he is going to be fairly difficult to catch, but not impossible. You will need to work a little to overcome this problem, but if you follow my ideas you will overcome this and reduce the likelihood of it happening again.

First you will need to collect a few things, colourful and interesting things, like coloured buckets, a baby stroller and other interesting things. Take these down near the gate of his paddock. You will have to make a din to get his attention, but once he looks at you , ignore him and pay attention to the goodies you have with you. After a while your horse will come up to investigate. Give him a piece of carrot or apple, gather up your goodies and leave.

Don't do anything else, just go.

The next day bring all your goodies again, and do the same thing. Only this time let him have a smell of at least one or two things, pack up and go.

The day after that, again bring it all and start fiddling with it. When he comes up to you for his carrot/apple, get some patting in first and then a smell of the goodies. Give him his reward and leave.

Leave some gear behind the following day, taking maybe the stroller if you have one or a couple of buckets. You want some pats and even maybe put on the halter, let him have a smell and then the reward and leave.

The next day put on the halter, lead him around a bit, let him have a smell, then the reward and then another pat and go.

By this time he should be coming up by himself. He will tolerate doing things, as long as there is a reward. Now when he comes, pat him, do not use a halter or gear, just a pat and no reward.


The next day, take the halter, lead, gear and a reward. When he comes up to you, go through the patting, halter, leading and smelling, then give him a reward.

Do this routine for about 10 days. It does seem a long time, but we are making a point. You want him to come, but on your terms. Rewarding him each time is him coming on his terms. You have to do this to start with, to get him to come to you.

After 10 days he is curious and coming because there is a strong possibility of reward, but he knows it isn't guaranteed.

When he comes up on day 11 or 12, put the lead on and walk him back to his stable. Handle him and do all the normal things, with occassionally giving a reward to keep his interest. Now he will come whenever you call him, because he may or may not be rewarded. The higher the probability he has of getting a reward, the more likely he will come every time. You need to make some choices here.

If on the other hand you can't catch him in a small space because he runs into a corner and offers to kick you if you get too close, you have a problem, but again it is not insoluble.

The main thing is to never let him get into the corner in the first place. Make things interesting enough that he wants to come to you. Get outside of the yard and get his attention with a yell or a whistle. Have something interesting in your hand, a coloured bucket, a doll or something. Let him come up to you and smell it. When you pique his curiousity he is more likely to be cooperative than boring, boring, boring. Maybe you need to rethink some of your routines as well. Get some toys going, for example a plastic bottle with some dry feed in it. Hang an apple from the ceiling of his stable. Use your imagination. If you make your horse's life more interesting he will be more responsive to you.

You might have to use a reward/not reward system as the horse above on the back forty. But don't you go chase him, let him come to you.

However, these situations come about because you have not shown enough dominance to your horse, which is discussed in the article below. You need to have a good think about your interactions with your horse.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Who is the boss?

There are people who seem to think that horses can be treated as equals or as "friends". This is probably the basis of "Natural Horsemanship" and such like. This is also a formula for problems with your horse. Unless the horse has a clear view of the need to submit to humans, you are asking for problems.

In a herd situation, if a stallion senses danger and alerts his mares, he isn't going to tolerate a mare who is going to stop and argue the point with him. He is going to nip and kick her to submission. An alpha mare is not going to tolerate a junior horse interferring with her decision to move the herd to better grazing. It is not in the interest of the herd. She will kick that other horse or will cast it out to be fair game for predators rather than endanger the herd. So a horse needs a clear line of submission or its life will be in danger.

Like wise under domestication. The horse needs a clear line of submission or it will be in danger and it will put you in danger at the same time. Whether you like it or not, if you do not get full cooperative submission from your horse, it will take the initiative itself. Being an animal in a dangerous situation, it will take the only way it knows - run away! And what will be the result of that?

Using the word "submission" sounds very forceful and intolerant. But being wishywashy about it isn't going to help your horse. He needs a strong line of command or he is left with no choice but to take it himself. If you are weak, a horse will sense it. A good horse will try to protect you at the same time if it senses danger, and particularly if it is a male horse - even a gelding. However, it will have no respect for you and you will have a hard time convincing him it was a one off mistake on your part.

So while it seems a harsh thing to get your horse to submit to you, it really is a safety issue, both from the horse's point of view and your own.

I am not advocating beating the crap out of your horse and getting him to give in to your superior strength. I am advocating putting limits onto him. Learning to say "No" and being prepared to enforce it with a responding action, a slap, for example, or making him back up, anything to make him do what he is supposed to do. And then making him do it. This means teaching him to not be spooky of things and I have talked about bombproofing elsewhere. This means if you ask him to walk through a puddle of water, you let him learn that he wont drown in it and can cross it in one lesson. It means he learns not to attack you when you go to give him his dinner at night. And so on.

With foals, you teach them right from the beginning, that yes, Mum is there, but neither of you are going to die if you can't reach her for a moment because I am holding you. You tie them up at a few days old, so that if they need veterinary care they can be handled, and later farriered and dental work done. It is somewhat harsh to start off with, but with a good start, you have a respectful horse and a safe horse.

This morning, my mare came up to me for a carrot. She let me pat her and scratch her and brush her mane. Then I started stroking her ears. Her head just drooped and sagged. She was so enjoying her attention. But later on today, I thought she had cut herself, and I took hold of her halter and made her stand up so I could check her out. She did not fuss or pull away, she knew I meant business. I did not have to hit her or shout or pull her around. She is happy knowing I am in charge, and I am happy knowing she is doing what I want so I can inspect her quickly. Luckily she just had some mud and petals on her leg and nothing else. She is an ex-racehorse and she still has some issues, but as time goes by, she is becoming the horse she should be and she is quite happy about it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Artifical Insemination

I want to use this blog to educate you about what it is like to be under a National Lockdown as far as the movement of horses is concerned.

It is frightening.

I am concerned about my mare. I also feel so bad for breeders who have expectant mares or foals just born. The mares may not die if they get it, but the foals probably will. It will devestate breeding.

And the reason why? Because the Thoroughbred powers that be insist that TB stallions breed naturally and will not allow Artificial Insemination. So a stud had a shuttle stallion return from Japan where the influenza epidemic has ceased racing over there for about two weeks. It is a highly contagious disease that has not been in Australia before, so none of our horses have any sort of immunity to it.

Yes, the horses are only ill for about 10 days, during which time the poor horse feels really bad, then there is the recovery period afterwards. But after, getting over the weakness, building back up to whatever the horse is used for. It is just such an ordeal.

There is a cure for humans, and as a horse lover and lover of animals in general, it bothers me that there hasn't been any further research to develop it for animals.

Now it is here, it will probably always be here; being a threat every year to every horse. It is very frustrating, it is extremely annoying.

I'll have some more training tips very soon.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Learning the Bit

One day your horse is going to need to wear a bit. If you are raising a foal, in the first few days it is useful to start putting your fingers into its mouth across its bars. When it is weaned a little string can be put across the bars to get it used to the idea of having something there. I don't recommend anything stronger at these ages, because the bars are really quite sensitive.

Once the horse is a late yearling, or an early two year old, you can tie the string to the halter and lead it around pulling lightly on the bars. Just to get the horse used to the idea. String doesn't taste the best, but it is not repulsive. If it is chewed it wont harm the horse, either.

Then about two and a half, a sweet iron bit can be introduced. If the weather is cool, it is good to hold the bit in your hand for a few minutes to warm it. If it is too cold there will be resistence. We have been trying to avoid resistence, and since this part of the horse's education is so important, it is worthwhile just going really slowly.

Just slip it in, but be careful not to bang the teeth. If the horse wants to just spit it out, let him, at first. This gets him used to unbitting without hitting his teeth. Next time you put the bit in, leave it there for a minute or two before allowing him to spit it out. Make sure you praise and scratch him for being good. This is really important as you want the horse to know it has done well. Most young horses want to please you, and if they know they have done well, will be willing to repeat the positive actions. After a few in and out, it will be time to put a bridle on. If you have taken time to halter train the horse, getting the bridle on should be no problem.

The bridle should not have reins attached to it at this stage, just the cheek straps, the troat latch and the poll straps. You could put a forehead band if you really wanted to, but as you are just getting the horse used to the idea at present, it isn't necessary.

Make sure the bit is sitting where it should be in front of the first back teeth and on the bars.

Leave the bridle on for about 10 minutes or even if you wanted to, for a feed; however, just grazing with the bit on at first is better. The undo the straps and let him spit it out again.

After two or three days, repeat this until he accepts the bit in this way without fussing or trying to scrape it off/out. Some horses accept it faster than others. Once you are both happy with the bit, tie a piece of string on each side of the rings of the bit. Pull softly one one string till he gives his head in that direction and then the other. Keep doing this softly over a few days until he gives his head almost to his shoulder on each side. It just gets him used to the idea of the bit being a guide for direction. You can also pull down on both strings together so that he puts his head down and in towards his chest. If you had taught him the word stop, now is a good time to use the word as you pull softly.

After each session make sure you tell the horse how good it is and scratch it in its favourite place. Some sort of non food reward food is appropriate, because the horse is learning to give to your commands.

Once you are happy the horse is responding kindly to your pulling on the bit, you can replace the string with reins. Then you are ready to do leading and other ground breaking with your horse. Take it easy and slowly, building his confidence and not letting resistence happen. In no time you will find your horse ready to respond to aids from the saddle.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Get otta my space ...

There is nothing more annoying than a horse that gets in your face, wants to stand all over your feet, push its way through, even become aggressive and moves into your space. Disrespect is not an option for good human/horse relationships.

If your horse is a little over enthusiastic, usually just a 'shoo' and flicking motion with your hand will get it to get back down and behave itself. And this is the level of behaviour that you want.

A horse that is full of itself and deliberately gets all over you needs repremanding strongly and firmly. No excuses. You need to put yourself as aggressively in front of it as you can safely do. You might even need to slap it. Whatever you do, don't reward the behaviour with food or other petting that it might like. That just reinforces what it has done and will encourage repeat performances.

I will clap my hands and completely shoo a horse away from me and make it wait until I am ready for it to come to me. It isn't a case of "rights" or "feeling sorry for it", it is a case that this sort of behaviour can favour the horse, it will seek reinforcements for the behaviour and will rachet up the level of aggression while doing it. It is not a safe situation to be in and needs to be cut as soon as it happens. Which is why you have to be just as aggressive or even a bit more aggressive in deterring it every single time it happens.

I will even crack a whip if I have to, not to hit the horse, but to gain their attention and get them focussing on the fact bad behaviour is going down that will not be tolerated. Horses are sound sensitive like dogs and will promptly stop and assess the situation. You need to let them know that is as far as it goes. Even a shout will do it if necessary.

Usually at this time it is good to put on the lead and remind your horse of some basic manners. Stop, go, left, right and lift your legs up. Stand tied up for a few minutes. Then start again. It will sink in very quickly having to work as a "reward" for all that aggression.

You might have to reinforce it a few more times, particularly with a new horse, and one that has been able to get away with it for a previous owner. Most horses, when they learn the new rules, are happy to abide by them, as long as they know. As long as they also know that it will never be tolerated (because a really smart horse may test you again after a while).

Food aggression needs to be handled in the same way. Then perhaps some anti spooking lessons as outlined previously in desensitising horses.


There comes a time when we must say goodbye to our beloved friend. I had this heart wrenching experience this past February when I had to have my best buddy put down. He had injured himself very badly and when the vet came he said that the colt could have an expensive operation which would fix him, but he would have poor quality of life, often being in pain or he could euthanase him humanely and the pain would be gone. I had him euthanased, as poor quality of life for an animal such as my boy was just not an option.

It is a hard call to make when one sincerely loves an animal and would like to spend a good number of years with that animal only to have fate take it away. I had plans and goals for my buddy and he was only four years old and just ready to begin life as an adult horse. It was a huge blow to me to have so much emotionally bound up in him for him to go that way. I could have opted for the operation, but he was a horse that was full of life and full of mischief and so very full of himself. Living on a special diet, being in pain on and off and really just a miserable existence and not a real life was just not an option. It is very hard, and there were many tears shed afterwards. To complicate things, because we live in a water catchment area, we are not allowed to bury large animals on our property. Finding someone to haul his body away was not easy, no one seemed to know who did it, whose responsibility it was or anything. The City Council, who should have known, had no idea, the vets had no idea and it was only on the recommendation of the Vetinary Hospital at Camden that we eventually found a person from out near Penrith who would come. And at a cost.

Doing it all while grieving a loss is not easy. It would be a nightmare to have to do it again.

Quality of life is very important. No one who really loves animals of any sort would deny this, yet often I hear of people who let their horses suffer the pain of colic without calling the vet. They sit with a very old horse while it dies rather than call the vet to do the right thing and ease it out painlessly. They also use the excuse that having a "stranger" euthanase their horse isn't an option, because it is bad enough it is dying without having a stranger administer a pain killer to do it.

My partner and myself were with my buddy when he died. We were the two humans who dealt with him every day, fed him, groomed him, played with him, trained him. I believe that as much as an animal can, he loved us as much as we loved him. He had certain neighs and nickering noises that were only ever used for us. We held him as he went down. Yet neither of us could have administered the drugs that the vet did. He certainly never liked vets, but he seemed to know that this vet was helping him, relieving his pain into a sleep. He would never have known he would not wake up, only that the pain was gone, his beloved humans were with him and he was asleep.

The important words here: THE PAIN WAS GONE.

It is hard enough for any creature to die. To die in pain when it can be relieved is just not on. If we can relieve the pain, I believe it is our humane duty to do so. Yeah, okay, the vet needs his bill paid and that can be a bitch. But humaneness is more important at the time. Maybe it is time you went and had a talk to your vet and got to know her/him and herhis accounting practices - will s/he allow you time to pay off bills. If s/he wont, is there another, competent vet in your district who will?

But if you have difficulty paying vet bills, maybe you should reconsider the need to keep animals. You wouldn't deny your children, who are also dependent on you, medical care. Why should you deny your animals? I know this is harsh, but you have to be realistic - for their sake.

If you "love" your animals, and find it hard to part with them, maybe you also need to re-examine your definition of love.

Animal welfare is critical to good animal husbandry.

If you look in my sidebar there is a link to my other blog where I have dealt in more detail with issues of animal welfare.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Feeding horses ...

Feeding horses properly and well is almost an art form. I am not going to dictate to you on this blog what exactly to feed your horses because it is different for each horse what they like to eat and what they can eat. What I will do is tell you how to go about feeding your horses so that they are able to do whatever work it is you want them to do.

I recommend John Konke's book "Horse Nutrition in Australia" for Australian readers. This book is very thorough and is for Australian conditions. I would also recommend you discuss with your vet whatever diet you feed your horses, so that he can recommend adjustments if necessary. Also it doesn't hurt for your vet to be aware of whatever you feed your horses so that it can be a consideration when he has to treat them.

If you live overseas, take the time to read up on what is best in your area to feed your horses.

Cheap food is not necessarily better even if it helps stretch the budget, but then again, you don't need the most expensive feed either. Seek advice from knowledgeable people around you, even if they have different breeds of horses to you.

Horses are grazing animals and their first preference is for grass and grass products such as hay. This also includes chaffs, which is grassy stubble left over from harvesting. As such if you notice your horses eat best when their heads are near the ground. So when feeding horses it is best to put a bucket with their food on the ground, tied if necessary. My boy used to pick up his bucket after tea and throw it all around everywhere and have a grand old time doing it. Needless to say we went through many buckets. Drinking should also be as close to the ground as possible.

When feeding hay, a hay net at its longest without being actually on the ground is suitable. If you put the hay on the ground directly, unless it is on grass, will mean the horse will pick up dust and dirt from the ground. Dust and dirt in the gut after a while will cause colic.

A salt lick is a terrific additive if your horse will lick it. We wet down our horses' feed as they have a tendency to choke on dry food for whatever reason. So we cannot put a salt lick into their food bin. We add a powdered vitamin and salt suppliment to their food, but this is more expensive than a salt lick. Salt is vital to horses.

Water should be fresh every day or free flowing if they drink from a stream or creek. Make sure you are aware of what is upstream from streams and creeks, as you don't want poison running off - even fertilizers from the ground are not good. Likewise if drinking from dams.

Carrots and apples are good suppliments to put in their feed. Molasses will help if food taste does not meet with your horses' approval. Carrots and apples are much better treats than sugar lumps.

Sugar will rot horses' teeth in much the same way it will rot human teeth.

Friday, July 6, 2007

A visit by the Vet or Farrier

Well, it has to happen some time, either your horse is quite ill and needs the vet, or its hooves need trimming. If you have been vigilant and have handled your horse right from the beginning this does not have to be a traumatic event. I think safety requires that you at least prepare your horse for what is going to happen to it well before the professional turns up.

You need to make sure your horse can be tied up. Go through this exercise almost every day. Sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes up to an hour. It might be boring and your horse may paw the ground. This is not a vice, he is telling you he is bored and it is okay for him to be bored. I find people who try to stop their horses from pawing are a bit mean. What else is there for him to do? You don't have to entertain him while tied up, but you don't have to make it harder on him either. Let him paw. He'll get sick of it soon enough.

You have to make sure you can touch every part of his body and bits without him making a fuss about it. You need to spend time making sure you can do this. Scratching along helps, because it is relaxing. Then make sure you can do it all while he is tied up.

Then you need to be able to lift up each leg, and hold it for a little while without him trying to pull away from you. We use the word "Lift" and we pick up the leg. You can either squeeze the tendon gently or pull the fetlock hairs as you say it. After a while, you will get a leg lift.

Okay, now the next thing to do is to find another person, who the horse does not know well, but is fairly confident with horses, to touch him, and to lift up his legs. This is just to get him used a strange person handling him. It needs to be done till it is not a big deal to him.

If you are able, teach him to put up with either a slap on the neck about where needles go, or if you have a needle, put it into him. But be condifident you know how to use a needle. My vet to the most extent will put the needle in, the attach the syringe and then plunge anything inside the syringe into my horse. But if you have not done it or are not confident, just slapping is the better choice. It doesn't have to be a hard slap, you aren't punishing him, just getting him used to having something going on there.

If you have a cooperative vet and/or farrier, have them come out just to visit the horse so that the horse gets to know the smell of the professional (see smell below). Then it isn't really a stranger.

My mare would go home with our vet it he would let her. She actually nickers to him whenever he comes like a long lost friend. She isn't scared of him at all, even when he walks up to her with a needle in his hand. I don't actually have to tie her up for his visits, just hold her lead. Mostly to stop her from following him when he leaves.

So practice before the vet comes and it wont be nearly as traumatic as if he just rocks up and assaults your horse (in your horse's mind).

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Sense of Smell and the Pile of Manure

Okay, I am really going to gross you out with this post.

Horses have very keen sense of smell. Each horse smells slightly different to the next. You may not be able to smell the difference, but each horse knows the other through a sense of smell. They also know you after a while by your sense of smell. Vegetarian humans also smell different to meat eaters, and will also behave somewhat differently to vegetarian humans.

Horses learn alot about their environment by smelling it. When we first move to the farm and let the colt walk around by himself, he went everywhere and just smelled everything. The house, the trees, the new garbage bins, the cement, the car, the garage, the stables, the food shed everything. It took him a long while to go around to absolutely everything and smell it.

I said in my last article about letting a horse smell things that you want him to get used to. This is because if a thing smells "normal" it wont be so spooky as a thing that is not smelled. I teach all my horses to respond to the word "smell" so that if something is held out to them, they will smell it. You might think this rather obvious, but if I don't say "smell" they will sometimes shy away from it, especially if it makes a noise as well.

Horses also smell where they urinate and where they drop their manure. This is to check that another stallion has not come along since last they were there and left a scent.

When the colt was three days old he watched his mother urinate, then stood over it, pulled his upper lip back with his head in the air and urinated over it himself. (He was a colt!)

A stallion will pass manure when he is excited, stressed badly, in severe pain or just plain to show off. He will only drop a few balls of it, but it is there, ready and waiting for when he needs it. It is his signature.

It will smell of him, and be a signal for any other horse that comes by "foo was here".

When horses have been away from each other for a while, they will smell nostrils on return, and smell the tactile hairs that are on their faces. These hairs must pick up chemicals and smells from wherever the horse has been and will tell the story of what has happened. The little snorts and pawing are just reasserting their relationship. (I am not one of those who subscribe to the horse pecking order theory of horse relationships.)

So next time you interact with your horse, try smelling it and letting it smell you - especially your hair as it tells interesting stories.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bombproofing/desensitising your Horse

Bombproofing/desensitising your horse is a safety issue. You don't want to be riding along and suddenly it jumps from under you and you break a bone in the fall. And it gallops off and takes a month to find. You don't want your horse rearing suddenly and whacking you in the forehead with a hoof leaving a lump the size of a duckegg. You don't want spooky horses period.

The best time to bombproof a horse is as a foal, but if you get a new horse that has been bred and owned by other people, it is still possible to bombproof it. It takes a little time and effort, but believe me, it is worth it.

The first thing to do is find something moderately scarey, like a small paper bag. Rub it in your hands so that it makes noise to get your horse's attention. Hold it out to him so that he can see clearly what it is and let him smell it. Once he realises by sight and smell that it isn't harm full, you can place it on his shoulder and see what happens. He will probably watch what you are doing. Rub it around the shoulder for a bit so that he gets the feel of it. Then rub his belly with it and then the neck working towards the head. Then do the flank and rump. If he moves away, stop for a moment and start at a place where he didn't move. Work you way up or down, till he stands quietly for the movement. Then rub under the belly and touch the udder or gentials of a male horse with it.

I am not being "rude" here. Part of the trust you build with your horse depends on these areas being touched. It is trusting you not to hurt it.

Then rub the tail area. Then work back towards the head again and over the nose and eyes, and up to the ears. This will be trickier than anywhere else on the body, but going back and then forward till he totally accepts it is easiest for the horse and for you.

Now go onto the other side and do it all again.

Don't ask me why, but horses are two sided creatures, and just because they are calm on one side they will be spooky on the other unless you go over it again. I have seen this so many times on all horses.

Once it is okay with the bag, do it again the next day and the next till it is actually bored with you doing it.

Once your horse is happy with the little paper bag, get something a bit bigger and a bit noisier, like a supermarket plastic bag. Do the exact same thing. Make sure it makes lots of noise while you do this.

Then a large plastic feed bag, preferably a coloured one. This will be fun, because it will smell of food and be quite tantalising, but maybe harder to get up to the eyes and ears. Persevere.

Doing it until the horse is bored means that it will ignore this from now on, and bags will not be an issue with it. I also like to leave a few tied to the fences, because then they see them flapping in the breeze, lying around and learn to ignore stuff that is unusual. This also helps with shying when mounted. Flappy stuff is just not an issue.

Next you need a tarpaulin. Spread it out and place it on the ground. Lead your horse to it. Let him look at it and if necessary smell it. Sight and smell are so important to horses. Next you are going to stand on it and give a little tug on the lead. It might take a bit, but sooner or later he will put a hoof on it. Make a big fuss of this, what a good horse etc. My horses have always responded positively to verbal encouragement, so I hope yours do too. If he puts and foot on it, then backs off, try again slowly. Keep urging him on till he will put two fee, and then four feet onto it.

The main reason they are not sure about it is because it is different footing to what they are used to. You can use the same method for teaching them to walk over anything, including gravel. But remember, gravel is pointy and sharp and hurts if on it for too long.

Next, get some family members to blow up some balloons. Get a pin or a needle and go near your horse, and pop a couple. He will probably spook and run around excited. Pop a few more, and then go closer to him. Again, let him see and smell them. Pop them away from his face. but keep popping them. Keep it up till he ignores it. Then pop a few more for good measure. You might need several bags of balloons.

Now for the umbrella. A rainy day is good for this. Go out to where your horse is with the umbrella. It will make him focus right away. Talk to him, so that he knows it is you there. As you get closer and he sees it is you, he should come closer if he normally does.
Close the umbrella and do with it what you did with the paper bag. Then when he is okay with it, put it up slowly. Make sure he can see what you are doing. Hold the umbrella up and let him see and smell it. My boy took to mouthing the edge of it, so if he does this, you are getting there.
Now put it over his head. Hopefully he will put his nose up under it to smell underneath. Put it over his ears. When he realises he isn't getting wet, that is when you have him. I don't know why, but horses like to have their heads out of the rain. The umbrella will be something welcomed around your horse. Be slow and be patient.

And there you have it. Find all sorts of different things and use these methods for them. Eventually he will get so bored with your new things he will just stand there as if to say, "Now what? Is it dinner time yet?"

Lead him various places as well so that he gets used to the neighbourhood. Let the neighbourhood kids come and pat him and get him and them used to each other. If there are horse crazy kids around, encourage them to be friends with your horses. Kids seem to be fascinating for horses. They can be very calming for your mares as well.

Everything you do, do it till your horse is bored with it. But not sour. Then less things are likely to upset him, and it forms the basis for other scarey things, like trailers, vets and dogs.

Have fun with your horse but let him think he is the one having the most fun.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Herbal Treatments for Horses

There are strong advocates for using herbs for horses, because they are less invasive, more natural. I say to the most extent I agree with this, but I draw the line at some things. I give chemical wormers to my horses. I would rather they not have worms, but I combine my worming program with a tablespoon of garlic powder in their evening feed. This means I only worm four times a year. There are those who say that garlic powder is not good for horses, but I have not seen any evidence of this with my own horses.

I also give them a tetanus/strangles needle every year. It is not worth the risk.

When her ladyship was around nine months pregnant with the boy, I gave her fennel seeds. These are supposed to assist with milk production. She had it all the way through to when she gave birth and for about six weeks afterwards. The boy grew like a weed. He was very strong born and stayed strong.

When he cut himself badly one time the vet gave us a spray for the wound and a spray to keep the flies away. The chemical fly spray just did not work. I did not want the wee beasties blowing in his wound, so I mixed a few drops of citronella oil into some warm water and sprayed the area around the wound. No flies. Twice a day I did it. I also rub a little of this mixture around the eyes, being very careful not to get it in the eyes. Again, no flies. Her ladyship will wear a fly veil, but the boy felt it was not macho going around looking that stupid.

The willy wagtails were not impressed with the lack of flies and let us know about it as well. The also protested the mare wearing a fly veil.

Using warm water in a spray mix is good, because the cold spray tickles and the horses learn soon to jump away. If the water is warm, they don't really feel it and don't jump so much. Actually with the wound, we couldn't warm the spray and the boy learnt to tolerate it quite well. We had begun to spray him with cold water when he was very little (less than a week old) so that it never bothered him much. The mare would lay back her ears if we sprayed her, and swish the tail, but she put up with it.

If you want to give your horses herbs and natural things, be sensible enough to read as much as you can about it, books, internet articles, etc. Experiment with your horses till you find out what works for them and what doesn't. Have enough sense to worm them, maybe as above, but worms are not nice. Also, as I said the tetanus and strangles shots. They work. A horse near our place had strangles, and gave it to a couple of others, but ours were fine, not even a sniffle.

I think letting them grow their winter wool is also useful, prior to using the rugs. I like mine to go into winter very fat as well. They seem to last the weather better. Then a stable isn't a really necessary thing. Just ask her ladyship.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Teaching your horse "words"

It is all very well to teach aids from the saddle once you are up and riding, but how do you communicate with your horse on the ground? Before it is ready to ride; if you choose not to ride (maybe like me you only have a brood mare), etc. Well, I developed a bit of body language, as this is what horses understand best, but I also taught mine single word "commands".

When the colt was little, he used to like having the tail area of his thighs scratched. I would offer to "scratchyabum", and he would come over to me, give me his rump and I would scratch him. He really enjoyed this (the ears go floppy and the lower lip droops). The only problem was he then thought his name was "scratchyabum" and would only come for that. I had to spend some time teaching him his pet name.

But horses do respond to words if you teach them clearly what the word means. Some are obvious some are not. For example, I taught the colt the word "smell" and because he would instinctively put his nose to something to smell it, he quickly associated the word with the action I required of him. Now this might not seem obvious at first, but when you want to condition a horse to something strange, it is useful to tell him to smell it, even if he is not sure of it. Knowing he can smell it is a start toward reassurance. The colt would also try to taste many things. I never discouraged this because if he was sure it smelled okay and tasted okay, even if not edible, chances were there wasn't a monster in it and it could touch his shoulder, and then rub all over his body.

It was rather funny when I introduced him to an umbrella. Horses often rely on shape recognition, because their close up vision isn't too good. When I walked up to him with the umbrella, talking to him, he knew it was my voice but the shape was very wrong. He decided spooking was easier than waiting around to discover the monster that imitated mum's voice. But then his curiousity overtook his natural instinct to spook, so he was in the spook preparing stance half turned, and putting his nose out. Of course, I let him smell it, telling him to smell. Next he was chewing on it and wondering what the fuss was about. He wasn't too impressed when it went over his head. But then he realised the rain wasn't going on his head. Well that was it. The umbrella was cool. Everytime I went near him with one, he wanted his head under it.

Another word both horses took to quite quickly was "nana" (as in short for banana). I found this word when my two year old (then) grandson was in a trolley going through the supermarket, he pointed at things he knew were food and he would say "nana". So treats are "nana". Even her ladyship, the exracehorse, knows the word "nana".

I use "stop" and "go" in context, but because I like a word with strength, rugs became "jamas" (as in pyjamas). Neither will stand quietly for a "rug" but put on "jamas" and its okay. No tail swishing, no foot stomping. "Drink water" is self explanatory, and hey, you can lead a horse to water and make it drink. Clean fresh water.

I use a few other words. The mare is slower to learn than the colt was, because she was trained originally by other people who didn't use words particularly. She wont stop, but she will "whoa".

But, by me training them, they also trained me, and we now have a head shake/nod to indicate "come here". They use it on me and I use it on them. I respond every time, and so they in turn respond every time. It is only a courtesy. The colt used to suck in a little of his face and put his ears just a little back to indicate his displeasure, and I tried to make a similar face to him, but I am sure he would just laugh at me. (My ears don't go back).

There are other small movements they make that I take the time to read, and learn to respond to if I can, if I understand. They communicate all the time, and if you take the time to learn, you will find your own horses training you as much as you train them. Let commonsense teach you, rather than you imposing your will. You might just be surprised how well you get along with these lovely creatures. Never stop learning from them, never stop teaching them. You never know when it might get you out of a tricky situation.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Introducing a New Horse Blog

Welcome to my pages. The entire reason for starting this blog is to help you learn more about your horses and how to relate to them as animals, companions and working horses. I hope to share opinions, training ideas and theories, tell stories and generally improve the life of horses.

I am not a horse whisperer, I am not a Natural Horsemanship proponent - I don't want to make money from you or your horses. I just want to share and I hope you will share in return.

Most of the experience and examples I will be using are methods that have proven successful on my own horses. I have a Thoroughbred mare at the moment. I previously had her Daughter, who won four races, smashing her maiden class record, placed six further times. I also had her son, who died in February this year before he was able to be raced. I raised these two from foals to adult horses.

Flat Strap Halters

My first blog is going to be about halters.

Halters are about the first apparel that a horse learns to wear, usually as a foal. When I first had the colt he was three days old when he was finally going to be allowed out into the big world with other horses. He had to wear his halter. We had handled him since he was born, so he was not afraid of us. We allowed him to smell the halter and feel like what it was before we actually placed it on. Therefore it was no big deal. It was a small flat strap halter, pretty blue colour because he was bay. He went out for that first hour with his mother, got smelled all over by the other horses, smelled everything else and then was bought back in with his mother. She would brook no disobedience when it came to going back into their small yard where the stable was (and more importantly the food shed).

When he was four days old, I attached a light nylon lead to the halter, underneath the chin. I did not put any pressure on it or pull it at all. Just to let him get used to it being there. The next day, I took the lead again, tucked a face cloth under the poll strap and then tied him up to a post with an old bicycle inner tube. He pulled a little, but a brush and scratch and he stepped forward. Immediately he realised that stepping forward took the pressure off the lead and he was comfortable. I immediately removed the lead and let him go back to his mother.

I did the same thing again two days later. He stood there, letting me brush him and scratch him. After a minute I again unclipped the lead from him. He never, ever pulled when tied up and would just stand until we were finished doing whatever to him and he knew we would let him go.

Now my reasons for doing this were twofold. firstly, it enable me to be able to safely handle him while he was tied up as he would always be as a youngster and adult horse. Secondly if he was ever required to have vetinary treatment, he would be handleable and not stressed with the fear of being tied up.

The reason I use flat strap halters are these, firstly, the idea of a halter is to restrain the horse by the head without a bit. Our horses have their halters on 24/7. They never get tangled up because they are used to having them on. It means that my partner who isn't really a horse person can catch them quite easily as I work full time and cannot just drop everything to come catch a runaway. So the flat strap halter is mild on the poll and on the nose as it spreads the pressure as it is applied through the lead.

Secondly, It is quite easy to put face cloths, or some other soft padding under the pressure points at the nose and poll, so that there is little or no pain if needed. This is especially imporant with a young horse or foal. If the truth is known, it is a more humane halter than anything else.

I know that many of the so called natural horsemanship/horse whisperers advocate the use of rope halters. They advocate as well, making them out of very soft cotton rope with a strong clip. But what they don't tell you is that the reason these halters are effective means of control is that they inflict pain on the poll and more so on the nose.

The nose is the most sensitive part of the horses body for control. It is even more sensitive than the mouth where the bit sits on the bars. So in using a halter, most horses will respond to the halter in order to release the pressure on the nose. But a properly trained horse with a flat strap halter would not need this sort of pain inflicted on it.

I have also seen leather covered wire halters, called cable halters that are popular for Arabian show horses. These would have to be much harsher than the rope halters. They are almost an instrument of torture to my way of thinking. When I breed Arabian horses, I think I will be avoiding the in hand show ring. I have heard too many negative stories to think that it would be a good place for my horses. Part of the reason for this is because of the harshness of these halters.

It would do your horse alot of good if you would actually think about what real effects are being done when you use a piece of equipment on it. Now you might have to learn a little about animal physiology and physics to do that, but I think it would be worth it in the long run, especially for your horse.