“I don’t feel attached to my new horse…why?”

I recently came across this question in one of my Facebook groups. “I don’t feel attached to my new horse…why?” It was after the girl had had to put down her old horse and she had gotten a new one and he was perfect for her in every way. But she didn’t feel the same click with the new horse and was worried something was wrong.

It’s 100% normal.

When I first got Jim, it wasn’t like an immediate love at first sight, we are bonded at the hip feeling. I was still mending my wounds a bit and trying to figure things out. Jim – like the horse for the other girl – was perfect for me. He had the right attitude, build, potential that I needed. He was sensitive and sweet and would take care of me. But those first few months took work. Over time, going to see him multiple times a week at the barn, grooming him, riding him, pampering him, our relationship began to grow. It’s now over a year and a half later and we have that attached at the hip, trusting relationship. Now he nickers at me when he sees me and I know all of his quirks and habits and things that make him Jim.

It’s ok when you’re going through a transition, no matter if you had to sell your old horse or put them down or it was the ending of a lease. All of us equestrians have been through this before. It’s not an easy feeling and it can be a hard time. But don’t beat yourself up when you don’t immediately have that relationship with your new equine. Give it time to develop. Although the place in your heart for your old horse will never go away, you’ll find a new spot just for your new partner.

Don’t go the trail alone – get involved!

Even when you board your horse, it can get lonely. Whether you board with one other person, 20 other people, or have your horse in your backyard, it is good to find a community to get involved with. As much as we love our alone time with our equines, it’s good to reach out and find other like-minded individuals to socialize with. There are a number of ways to get involved, even if you don’t own your own horse.

Do you show? Is your horse registered? There are a number of breed associations that you can become a part of. AQHA, APHA, American Warmblood Society and Sporthorse Registry, the Arabian circuit, Morgans, the list goes on and on. There’s a group for everyone and at all levels of competition. Many of the organizations welcome their members to get involved with the regional club – as a board member or a show volunteer, to help with social media or sponsors. All you have to do is call them up or shoot them an email. Go on their national websites and locate your local regional club and subsection of the national organization. You’ll find people all over the world just waiting to welcome you with open arms.

Is the open circuit more your style? Do you find yourself going to all barrel racing shows or do you do cowboy mounted shooting? Or are you just looking for an organization that welcomes everyone? They’re out there! Make a post on Facebook or ask around at your local tack shop. You’ll find a group to get involved in there.

Would you rather be in the woods or at the beach with your horse? All over the nation there are trail riding associations and clubs to join. These clubs plan meet ups and host big trail rides and camping sites so you can all enjoy the outdoors and your horses in a relaxed, fun manner. They can also teach you some neat tricks of the trail about what to pack and be prepared for!

Do you not have a horse? Your local horse rescues are always looking for volunteers. Or maybe you do own your own but have some free time? Almost all rescues have open barn hours or days where they accept volunteers. There’s always hay to be brought in, a barn to be painted, a horse groomed or a fence to mend. These horses and organizations appreciate any time – however short or long – you can provide!

Do you enjoy the show or expo atmosphere, but don’t know how to get involved? Many shows or expos accept volunteers. It’s a great way to meet people and lend a hand! Equine Affaire is coming up in Massachusetts in November and they’re always looking for volunteers! And for a bonus, you get into the expo for free!

No matter what way you get involved, it’s so good for your horse and for your soul to get out and about. Meet other equestrians that love horses just as much as you do. You won’t regret it!

 

Not all supplements are created equal

Jim eats better than I do. He has a personal nutritionist. He has all of his meals carefully planned. He gets an ideal amount of everything he needs to be the successful athlete he is. While I sit and just try to make a healthy recipe out of a book, he is getting the most perfect feed for his type, weight and exercise. What we feed our horses matters. They are athletes and they need the dietary support to perform how we want them to.

It’s sometimes easy as a horse owner to sit back and let others make decisions for you. Your horse may be fairly easy to feed. He or she may get fat on air. But when it comes to becoming an educated owner who likes to learn and be involved, it’s important to dive right in and understand WHY your horse is fed what he is.

I’m very fortunate to have a trainer who doubles as a nutritionist for the farm. She has spent a lot of time with me sitting down and discussing supplements and how best to tailor Jim’s diet to his workload and condition.

My favorite example is when it came to picking a new hoof supplement. Before I had Jim on the DAC Bloom and Oil for his coat and hooves. The products are fabulous together. However Jim started gaining fat pockets. He had tipped the side of the scale from muscle and healthy weight to getting fat and we wanted to nip it in the bud.

But not all hoof supplements are created equal and this is where equine nutrition and a knowledge in it become important.

For example, every supplement varies in the vitamins and amount of vitamins. They have to, otherwise they would all be the same product. Some have different fillers. Some are one ingredient. Some deliver vitamins by way of fat.

Hoof supplements are a perfect example of variation. They vary anywhere from 10mg of biotin in a 1oz scoop to 50mg or more. Some include copper, zinc and methionine while others are strictly biotin. It’s important as you begin to travel through the pages upon pages of supplements to have a trusted guide at your side. What sounds like Greek to you will be easily understood by someone with more experience.

But learn. Pay attention to why a supplement is better than another supplement for your horse. For Jim, he couldn’t have anything with a high fat content or something that delivered the biotin via fat. That was the reason he could not be on the Bloom anymore. But the methionine helps a horse’s body process biotin so it’s a good thing to have in a supplement.

We went through dozens. It took over an hour going through supplements to decide on one to try. And yes, I said try because at the end of the day, we may not be happy with it. Your horse’s diet – yours as well – is fluid. It always has to be assessed and tailored.

At some point, sit down with your trainer or someone – not a feed store rep – to analyze what you feed. Determine what holes exist in the feeding program and ask questions. Be more involved. At the end of the day, your horse will thank you.

Treats aren’t the only way to show love

I’m going to say something that will make everyone gasp…

Treats aren’t the only way you can show your horse love and appreciation.

I touched on some of these in my blog about my post-show routine, but I think it’s an important fact to get across. You don’t have to constantly feed your horse to make them happy.

With the issues of obesity in horses, many people don’t look into what they’re feeding as treats. Some treats are so laden with sugars, artificial flavors or fillers that it’s like giving your horse a McDonald’s milkshake every day.

And it’s not just sugar-filled treats. Apples have a historically higher sugar content than carrots do. Better yet – rainbow organic carrots have an even lower sugar content.

How many treats – even the little peppermints from restaurants that you nabbed on the way out – do you give a day? One or two? Or five to 10? It may seem incidental, but it’s not. It adds up in your horse’s overall health.

Along with finding low or no sugar treats and watching out for artificial flavors and starches, your horse would just as much appreciate a good liniment rub. Or a massage with a favorite curry comb. I have one of the curry combs with the rolling magnets on one side. Jim absolutely loves it!

Instead of filling up a treat ball or hanging a Lick-It in the stall, how about a few special moments of hand grazing? Or a nice shampoo and conditioning – including mane and tail – that would make your horse feel better.

Even a long scratch on the withers where it’s particularly itchy for horses is sometimes most satisfying for them than a treat. I’m not saying to never give treats – I think Jim would murder me – but feed within reason. One or two after a good work where he or she earned them is better than a huge handful for just existing. Also pay attention to what you’re feeding. I’ve been personally feeding Giddyap Girl treats that are lower in sugar and also include some good probiotics.

Your horse and his body condition score will thank you.