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.

Equestrian Experience: Wild West Horseback Adventures in Las Vegas

Recently my husband and I found ourselves in Las Vegas on a work trip. But during the trip we had some free time and had booked ourselves a Sunset Trail Ride with Wild West Horseback Adventures. And we are so glad we did!

If you’ve been following the blog, you know this is right up both of our alleys since our honeymoon was spent on a dude ranch in Pennsylvania. We had never been out West and definitely not on the Old Spanish Trail so this was a treat!

The chef and driver, James, picked us up from our hotel on the Las Vegas strip around 4 p.m. and we were off! It takes about an hour plus picking up others to get out to Moapa Valley where the ranch is. The drive itself is very scenic and enjoyable and James cracks all the bad jokes you need for the month. And it’s perfect.

Arriving at the ranch, we signed the typical waivers and one of our guides, Caesar, went over all of the safety rules and made sure no one was drunk or hungover! It’s great for everyone in the group from beginners to experienced because even though my husband and I ride a lot, every horse has different buttons.

The group is really focused on making sure everyone has water which you have to out in the desert. Every saddle has a little pouch for your water bottle and your phone and you could leave other valuables locked up in the van. James stays at base camp while he cooks.

Don’t worry about mounting from the ground here! Everything is by a large platform so it’s easy for everyone of all experience levels and sizes.

And then the ride began! I don’t quite want to spoil the ride, but it’s absolutely breathtaking. Once you turn to go home, you are riding right into the sunset and it’s beautiful! I’ll post the photos, but they don’t do it justice!

We were at the front of the line and spent a lot of time chatting with the trail guide Brock. He was super nice and pointed out all of the animals and views. We even found a small lizard – with the help of the dogs – that Caesar caught and showed everyone!

After the ride which is at a steady walk and perfect for viewing the landscape, you’re treated to a steak or chicken dinner cooked by James. The best way to sum up dinner was that it was great, wholesome, good food. The steaks were a wonderful cut and very juicy!

Finally before heading back to the strip, Caesar taught a few of us how to lasso which was great for some laughs!

Some pointers if you decide to go: wear jeans and closed toe shoes and bring a wide brimmed hat! It gets hot the first half of the ride in the sun and you will get dehydrated or burnt if you don’t drink water during the ride from your pack.

I would return here in a drop of a hat. It was a great experience and James, Caesar and Brock made it very fun. Five hoofs up!

Product Review: My Favorite Supplements

One of the most hotly debated topics in the horse industry is supplements. Do you feed them? Do you not? How do you choose between the thousands of products that are available? I will admit I’ve only been a horse owner for a short period of time. However one of the things I find most important is education. I’ve taken the time to learn, ask questions and read all I can to be a more informed horse owner and to make better decisions.

When I first started out with Jack, my barn was a SmartPak barn. Almost every boarder in the barn and many of our lesson ponies had a SmartPak bin. I feed meals to the horses frequently on the weekends and the SmartPaks were easy to use and great to have around. At the time I was giving Jack Smart Dark and Handsome and SmartDigest Ultra (with ColiCare protection). But SmartPak began getting very expensive and even though the company had great benefits like the ColiCare program and free shipping, it wasn’t very feasible anymore. Also we had several horses at the barn who would balk at different supplements and refuse to eat them.

About a year ago, my barn owner started learning about DAC products. Our barn shows on the Quarter horse circuit and DAC has become very popular in the Quarter horse world. After starting Jack and then Jim on DAC, I can see why.

I feed DAC’s CoolGut, Bloom and Oil. (The Bloom and Oil together make for great hoof and skin support!) I’ve also fed their Foundation Formula for hooves before. I must say I’ve been impressed. Not only do the products work and really show a difference in my horse, but they smell amazing to the point where even humans want to try it! We really have yet to have a horse who has refused a DAC product.

Price wise you can’t beat it. DAC works through dealers in different regions across the country and you can buy directly online as well. DAC has become so popular that SmartPak began to carry some of the products in their wells. Although I’ve considered doing that, you still cannot beat the price for the DAC tubs. The only headache is feeding them out. You are now dealing with a lot of buckets that otherwise wouldn’t have been around with SmartPak.

It’s not to say that I don’t think SmartPak is a great company. They are and I do occasionally order from them. Just for supplements, DAC fits what I’m looking for in a great product.

If anyone has any questions about DAC or supplements, comment away!

(I have in no way been paid for this review and have purchased these products myself.)

 

Fly and Tick Control: Keeping the Bugs at Bay

It is officially summer in New England and with summer comes amazing things like more horse shows, long days under the sun, equestrian tans and bathing ponies. There’s also not so pleasant things that crawl on tiny legs or fly through the air and torment both us and our equines.

Here in New England, one of our major issues are ticks. But as the population has changed, it’s not only just New England that is tormented by these eight-legged bloodsuckers.

There are a couple of ways to help protect your horse against ticks.

One – keep tall grasses under control. Watch out for the grass growing tall against your fence lines especially if the fence butts against forest. Ticks love dark, humid places and can survive throughout the winter.

Two – use a permethrin-based fly spray that strictly mentions ticks on the label. You don’t have to spray them all over, but watch out for legs, chest, under the tail and under the belly.

Three – check your horse often. Check them all over for ticks that may have crawled onto them and attached. Ticks love under the tail bone, under the elbows, IN the mane at the base where the skin is thin, and under the jaw. If you find a tick, break out those handy tweezers and a bottle of rubbing alcohol to drop them in after. Be careful not to squeeze them. The sooner you find them the better that they may not transmit diseases.

Four – consider spraying your property with a pet-safe tick repellent. They are a few to choose from and they can be a great option considering how bad the tick population has been recently.

As far as fly control, I have a few favorite methods that I employ once they start flying through the air.

For turnout, Jim goes out in a fly sheet from Schneider’s (sstack.com). I really love their mosquito mesh and the soft interlock. (The soft interlock is a bit heavier than the mesh but has better UV protection.) I also have a mosquito mesh neck cover and a good ole fly mask. I don’t really bother with the leg wraps, but that’s just me. I know some people have had good success with the leg wraps if their horses are constantly stomping at the flies.

For fly spray, I love the Pyranha aerosol or Equiderma’s fly spray. The Equiderma feels like lotion even when it sprays back at you and the Pyranha does have permethrin for the ticks.

While riding, Jim always has on a fly mask or a fly bonnet. The fly bonnet is probably my favorite of the two for style reasons.

Inside the stall, yes fans can be great at keeping your horse cool and keeping bugs off of them. However the benefits do not outweigh the risk of the fires that box fans can start in a barn. Our barn are not huge box fan users and I’m totally ok with that.

We are all equestrians

This is for the girls that can’t afford the $5,000 saddle or the $1,000 pair of tall boots. This is for the girls that have spent years dedicated to trying to move up a level and just won’t give up. This is for the girls braiding and shining their grade pony for a show because they know he’s just as good as the $10,000 warmbloods.

This is for the girls that cheer on others, that don’t care what other girls are wearing or who they’re riding. This is for the girls that support each other on the sidelines and in a sport based on judging, just wants everyone to succeed. This is for the girls that don’t let winning get to their head because they know the next show they might not do so great and that’s ok.

We are all equestrians.

When life didn’t have horses

The other day I saw a meme about what life would be like without horses and I could relate to how that feels and the pain it causes.

I wasn’t always fortunate enough to be around horses as much as I am now. When I was young, I think my parents hoped horses were “just a faze.” They hoped the dozens of model horses, the endless supply of horse movies, the horse books stacked up in my bookcase and the constant asking for a pony for Christmas would end. Quite frankly, it makes sense that they would think it was just a faze. For many children, it is. A love of horses starts young in many girls and although they still enjoy them, most get distracted and move on to other sports or boys or just something beside spending all of their time covered in dirt and hay in a smelly barn.

But stubborn, sassy me was determined. I rode in middle school and through half of high school until I had a bad fall. Confidence shaken, I succumbed to a life without horses. I took up dance for my final two years of high school. I had danced from age five to middle school so it wasn’t a stretch. I did do well in dance, but something was missing. In college, I didn’t have access to horses. I was too busy and too broke to do anything about it. So I tried to live without and what a mistake that was.

I struggled to figure out my identity. I made friends and enjoyed college life, but something was missing. I couldn’t pinpoint it at the time, but I was more on edge. My anxiety worsened. I got caught up in a relationship that wasn’t right for me.

Finally, during my second out of three years at university, I reached out to a friend with a Morgan/Arabian mare in her backyard. My friend was attending school in Ohio and her mare needed some love and work. I readily agreed.

I started to blossom again. I soon got out of the bad relationship. I caught rides to see the mare as often as I could. I begged my now husband (then a friend) to bring me to see her. I arranged for my co-ed community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega to do work at a local horse rescue. Seeing others enjoy the 1,000 pound animals that I love so fiercely was amazing.

After college graduation, I found myself at a barrel racing barn volunteering to ride a green horse for his owner. Although that match didn’t work out, I came across my first lease horse, Bo. And the rest is history. Even though I didn’t stay long at the barrel racing barn, it was enough to open my heart back up. My then-fiance fell in love with equines too. The anxiety-induced panic attacks started to lessen. I gave up trying to be someone I wasn’t.

So when people ask me why I spend so much time at the barn and thinking and dreaming of horses, I can simply say it’s not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a passion I cannot be without. It’s part of who I am and I’m proud of that. And I never want to know a life without horses again.

Wrapping up 2017

In a mere couple of hours, 2017 will be gone and we will enter into 2018. These last few hours are a perfect time for reflection and how our year has been. It’s a time to look at the highs and the lows and consider what we have learned from each day.

For me, the beginning of 2017 seems like ages ago. I began my year not even having ridden Jack yet (he was still with his trainer being broke.) I was entering into my first year of marriage with my husband. I was settled, but at the same time, the year brought so much potential.

2017 has treated me well. I accomplished a lot of milestones with Jack from my first ride on him in February, to our first in-hand show in April to his first off-property show then riding him in his first few shows, competing in dressage, and our goal-breaking versatility show that I did for fun that I never in my life thought I’d do as well as I did. He got approved in his inspection for the American Warmblood Society and Sporthorse Registry and received 4th for 3-year-old and older Stallions/Geldings in inspection score. He also received National Bronze for Western Dressage for AWSSR.

However 2017 is ending a bit rougher for us; although it’s going to make us a better team overall. With the cold that’s settled into the Northeast, we’ve gone back to basics with ground work and respect. We’re filling in some holes in our relationship that will only make things better in the long run.

But my year hasn’t only been about Jack. Not only did I launch this blog, but I’ve began discovering all of the amazing things about being married. My husband is my best friend. When he accomplishes something, I can’t help but be proud. This past year he got a promotion at work and began riding English. And I’m so proud of him for accomplishing his dreams and not letting anything get in his way. He is so determined and sweet and I love everything about him.

And now we’re looking toward 2018 as a team. What are our lives going to look like? What changes might be make? Although we don’t know what will come at us in 2018, we know we will take it on together. As a family.

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