Thursday, February 26, 2009

Google News: Horses

I check headlines on Google News some times. But did you know you can get horse headlines? I tried entering the very broad term "horse" into the search box at the top. I thought I'd get lots of imprecise matches on articles that discuss election "horse races" full of "dark horse" political candidates and maybe a few "horses' arses".

I was surprised. Most of the articles I got back do discuss horse related topics. check out the entire list here.

Some that were of interest to me:

Horse Rider Ticketed For Roadside Manure

Horse Slaughter Facility Bill

Horse Rescues Increasing In Tough Economy

Stimulus Act Impacts Horse Industry

Happy reading!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Visit from the equine chiropractor

An equine chiropractor made a visit to our barn. Being both open-minded and naturally skeptical, I decided to sign Huey and Armani up, but I made no commitments to continue treatment without giving it thought.

Laws governing veterinary chiropractic work vary by state, as seen in this chart. In some states only veterinarians can perform chiropractic work. The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association seems to be the largest certifying body, which certifies both veterinarian and lay chiropractors.

What to expect?

I wasn't sure what to expect from the visit. I've never been to a chiropractor myself, but I have felt the benefits of yoga, so I do not entirely discount holistic care. I found this very thoughtful thread on chronicleforums. It seems their are two types of chiropractors: more forceful ones who really pop the joints, and gentler ones who approach the soft tissue more.

Here is a video of a Lumbar Adjustment. This user has a number of other narrated videos. They seem to be the first, more forceful, type. Of course, I feel obligated to say that I would not consider "trying this at home" after watching these videos.

Our chiropractor is the second type. She is a petite lady and when she walked in I admit I wondered "How can she possibly do this?" She explained that she doesn't think of it as "moving bone" but rather adjusting the tissue. She brought bagged hay bales to stand on. Although she only needed one to treat little Armani!

The verdict
Armani, feeling a little hot-headed, didn't want to stand next to her hay bale at first. He eventually settled down. But ever-trusting Huey clearly enjoyed it right away. He relaxed, sighed often, and shut his eyes for the whole treatment.

She observed without prompting that Armani and Huey were tighter on opposite sides. I admitted that Armani travels better clockwise and Huey counterclockwise. Armani was "out" on his temporomandibular joint, his jaw, and his atlas, the joint of the first vertebrae. Huey was stiff through his whole poll area. He also was "out" through his sacral vertebrae. She mentioned that she sees that frequently on off-the-track racehorses.

I would consider it again. I've heard from other people that it helps to stick it out for a few treatments, before you'll see appreciable results.

Have you tried a chiropractor for your horse? For yourself? Or have you considered it?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I installed the easy button

Last night I gave someone the reins to my horse. That is like giving them the keys to my car. I worry they'll see the wrappers under the seat and notice the brakes are a little squishy. A young lady who works at the barn is currently horseless. I offered to let her try Armani, "If you want...", I said. She didn't reply until my mother chirped, "Oh yes, you should try Armani!"

I watched them trot and canter around the ring. Armani zipped like a little brown Corvette. I was anxiously awaiting her opinion. I blurted "What do you think?" as they went past.

"He's so easy to ride!", she exclaimed. It wasn't the response I expected. When I got Armani a couple of years ago he was a pint-sized youngster with Napoleon syndrome. I'd heard his previous owners had been unhappy with his spunk. He'd been sent to various trainers without success.

"Well, he can be naughty." my mom intoned. "He has a teeny, little bit of a temper." Yes, that is how I think of Armani too. He has the fire of the Trakehner and the bull of the Morgan.

Did I install the "easy button"? He still has a temper. But perhaps I see the most of it because I'm with him the most. Maybe years of work are more apparent to someone trying him for the first time. Do I need to raise my expectations? As an owner, do your horses mature faster than you realize?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Advice from New England: Riding in the snow

When I complained about the Vermont winters recently, my instructor reminded me of the benefits of riding in the snow. Much like training in sand or water, snow creates gentle resistance as the horse moves. The horse builds more muscle and gets a more aerobic workout than they would in the ring. Not to mention the change of scenery is nice for horse and rider.

(Photo caption: pony ride in Russia) We take both boys out Saturdays and Sundays this winter. Usually we go with two or three other riders. We ride through drifts over their bellies. We stick to areas we know to have good footing. Otherwise we could hit a rabbit hole or tree stump hidden under the snow. Riding through powder is easier than wet snow. Very crusty snow can cut the horses legs, so we avoid that.

Bell-boots can come off in the snow and leg wraps will get wet and slide around. So those are usually left at home. As for shoeing, the barefoot horses slip less. The shod horses have studded fronts with "bubble pads" and barefoot backs. The bubble pads pop snow out of the hoof to prevent the walking-on-snowballs effect.

Most horses act like puppies on their first snow rides, mine included. They leap, buck, or dance before they learn that it is easier to walk. Once they settle in, horses take very long strides through deep snow. You can feel their back, shoulders, and haunches lift and reach. I give mine a long rein and let them balance. I try to ride "balanced" rather than "pretty". So I lean forward or back and lift out of the saddle when I need to get out of my mount's way. Mostly we walk. But we trot and even canter occasionally. We are very careful choosing the footing and depth for fast work.

After a ride our horses are damp with sweat and melted snow. We cool-out at a walk. Then we untack and put an Irish knit or other cooler on them. To keep them warm, I only peel back the knit a little to reach each body part with the curry. Then everybody likes a little treat after a snowy ride, including the riders! Pass the hot chocolate!

Cold weather riding considerations

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Toodles meets our other cats

The continuing story of bringing home our new cat, Toodles

Day 2, "Sniffing":

We encouraged Sprite and Scout to sniff Toodles under the door. As they sniffed at her, we gave them both treats and praised them. Since all the ladies were in good spirits, we played too. We put a pencil under the door and Toodles batted it from the inside, while Sprite and Scout batted it from the outside.

That evening, I read the newspaper with Toodles. Then we watched TV with the other girls like usual.

Day 3, "Moving day!":

We moved Toodles and her stuff, from the guest room to the den down the hall. Then we left the guest room open. Scout and Sprite came in and sniffed around. We patted, gave treats, and praised them again. We did this so they could smell Toodles, without the pressure of a face to face meeting. They checked out everything. Then they figured out she was in the den. We encouraged more playing under the door.

Everyone seemed relaxed. So we opened the door a crack. They all got a quick peek at each other. We praised them and treated again. Then we shut the door.

Days 4-6, "Play dates!":

Sprite is less dominant than Scout. So Sprite had the first play-date with Toodles. We carried Sprite inside the den and held her for a while. We took her back out after a few minutes. In an hour she "asked" to be let back inside. We brought in a cat-fishing-rod toy. We played mostly with Sprite while Toodles watched.

Anytime one approached the other we quickly distracted them with the toy. When they separated and relaxed we gave them treats. At this point, even a friendly "Hello" could easily be misinterpreted by the other cat, and become a fight. So we wanted to keep them happy but slightly apart.

The next day, Scout had her first play date. Scout, our dominant cat, is less playful than Sprite. We held her and let her sit on us for the evening. While Toodles sat on the floor. Scout was happy to look at Toodles from the "high-ground".

Why might they fight? What do you do if they fight? Read this 3-page article from

Coming soon, Toodles gets free rein...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Looking at bareback pads

I've been flirting with buying a bareback pad. My ideal pad would provide cushion, both for me, and for my horses. But it would still be feel close-contact. It would also give me some extra grip. Lastly, I'd like it to be reasonably inexpensive. Here is a thread comparing bareback pads and here's another.

I'm looking for a pad without stirrups. This posting explains why it is better to use a bareback pad without stirrups. And I found this caution against bareback pads for beginners.

Little Joe

The Little Joe Bareback pad is on the structured end of the spectrum. It has optional stirrups (no, thanks for me). They also have a bareback saddle pad. They claim its curved profile and gussets will make your horse more comfortable. The price of the whole enchilada is more than I'd like to spend however.

Cowboy Justus

I've seen the Cowboy Justus Bareback Pad for sale many places. The breastplate looks like it could help hold the pad in place. The price is certainly low. A similar pad the Tacky Too I've read has good grip. I wonder about how well these pads hold up, as this review discusses.

Soft Saddle

A few models call themselves, "Soft Saddles", such as this model. I have to admit I think the price is rather high for what is essentially shaped foam. Having just thrown out a year-old egg-crate mattress topper, I wonder about the foam compressing with use.


Of course, if cost were no consideration L'Apogée makes a bareback pad. It certainly looks like la creme de la creme. But I never imagined buying a bareback pad that expensive. Perhaps the D-rings are made of gold? Well there is always eBay.

Do you have any suggestions to share with me?