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.

Product Review: Haas brushes

Months back when my husband and I were on a trip, we stayed at a little B&B that had a barn attached to it. In the mornings, the B&B let us saunter down to the barn to greet the Tennessee Walkers they had. We got to know two of the boarders and one morning, one of them was opening a box from SmartPak.

Along with multiple things inside, she was most excited about her Haas brushes. I had maybe seen them once or twice, but never thought much of them. They’re not cheap and I didn’t understand what the fuss was about.

Fast forward back to January. I wanted them. I had found the black horse set they sell on their German website. But in foreign currency and shipping them to the U.S., they would be expensive. Also I didn’t understand why I needed 5 brushes for one grooming! Instead, I found 3 critical brushes on the SmartPak site that were included in the black horse set- the Curry Comb, the Lipizzaner and the Diva Exclusive.

(Photos courtesy of Smartpakequine.com)

Now these brushes aren’t cheap. The curry is $6, the Lipizzaner is $40 and the Diva Exclusive is $32. You may ask, why is it worth buying that expensive of brushes? After using them twice so far, I understand.

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Now granted, Jim is a show horse. He’s kept inside and blanketed. He’s worked throughout the entire winter with a strict routine. He has a very balanced nutrition program including DAC Oil and I also spray him down with Equifuse’s Shine Spray about once every week to two weeks. And I seriously need to be able to bathe him when it’s warm again and get those stockings clean! But when I picked up those brushes, even that thin layer of dirt and dead hair brushed away.

The curry comb is part curry and part shedder. Since it’s almost spring, Jim has already been losing small fine hairs. The curry took things out of his coat that I had no idea they were there! It is a firm curry, but Jim seemed to like it.

The Lipizzaner is a good medium brush. It picked up all of the hair the curry left behind. It’s comfortable to use in your hand and you get a very nice grooming stroke from it. But my favorite of the 3 brushes is the Diva Exclusive.

The Diva sports lambs wool in the center of it. It’s almost softer than my cat! It’s lined with black horse hairs on the outside to give it lift and structure and damn does it work! It’s my favorite polishing/finishing brush ever. It’s going to be perfect come show season for getting that extra little bit of shine to come through. (And that can be difficult on a black horse!)

Another cool part about Haas is they have a chestnut, a gray, and a universal set as well as the black horse set. It’s not just a marketing ploy – they do cater the brushes to the coat types. Grays you need that extra pull from urine stains, chestnuts usually have a very sensitive/thin skin, and black horses love their deep clean grooming! If you’re like me and cannot afford the full set, find some reviews and see which brushes come in the set and choose the ones for you.

I know my husband will kill me for it, but I’m addicted to these brushes. They were a birthday gift and I’m so glad they were! Now I need a nice handy bag to keep them safe in.

(Note: I received these brushes from a non-horse family member for my birthday!)

Making goals together for 2019

It’s January and it’s time to sit down and collect our goals for the year. Most equestrians only have to focus on their personal goals and what they’d like their year to look like. In the case of being 1/2 of an equestrian couple, it’s a team effort.

Decisions such as what classes are we doing this year are broken down into “which ones can one person enter and which ones can the other?” Is one of us ready to move up a division and the other one stay in the same or are we both moving up? And it varies by show series. Some show series have certain classes while others don’t. Will I be the one to take Jim into the in hand classes or will my husband? Will he take him into Western Halter while I take him into English Halter? It goes on and on.

That’s on top of our usual personal goals and where we would like to see our riding this year. Luckily, him and I see very eye to eye on one thing with Jim: dressage. He tried dressage with Jim last year after I was ranting and raving about loving it. Now he’s just as hooked. Having dressage (both traditional and western) as one of our goals actually makes life easier since we can perform different tests. The trick is not performing more than allowed since some show series have rules on how many tests one horse can do at a single show.

Beside dressage this year, we set our eyes on one thing: our first overnight show. We took our budget from smaller shows last year and compiled it to focus on one, big September show – the New England Pinto Horse Association show in September. It will be the first time we have gone to a multi-day show where we don’t have to show off of our trailer. We set aside our vacation days from work for before and after so the horse show hangover won’t be so bad! And with it being in September, we have plenty of time to perfect our rides and train for it. Luckily we have trainers with us who support us in this goal and are ready to help us get there!

The show season begins early for us this year with a dressage show kick off in March (and maybe even a show before that!) I know we are ready and going to have so much fun this year because I can’t imagine anything more fun in the world than showing alongside my best friend and my horse.

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.