Knowing your horses vitals is key information to have in maintaining your horses health. It is important to have each horses average heart rate, temperature, and respiratory rate so if a health issue arises, you can nip it in the bud, and provide your vet with any abnormalities to your horses normal levels. We keep each horses individual information in their personal folders, along with their vet, farrier, and dental records.
Every barn should have a good, stocked, organized, and easily found first aid kit. We've compiled a list to the right, but for the purposes of checking vitals, you will need a thermometer, vaseline, and a stethoscope.
Adult aged average vitals for horses at rest:
Temperature: 99.5-101.5 degrees Fahrenheit
Heart rate 28-44 beats per minutes (da-dum is one heart beat)
Respiratory rate: 10-24 Breaths per minute
Gum Capillary Refill: Less than two seconds
How to check your horses temperature:
The most accurate way to get your horses temperature is retally. Make sure you lubricate the thermometer first with Vaseline. Keep in mind the end of the horse you are working with, and make sure you stand to the side to avoid getting kicked. Hold tightly to the thermometer, as the rectum will naturally try and pull it in.
How to check your horses heart rate:
There are four locations that are commonly used to check your horses heart rate. The easiest location is under the jaw, on the Mandibular Artery. If you place your fingers between the horses jaw bones, and run your fingers towards to bone, you will find the artery. Apply a light pressure and you will feel the pulse. Other locations are on the side of the horses pasterns of the front legs, in the heart-girth area just behind the left elbow, and on the tail bone.
How to check your horses breathing rate:
You can watch your horses nostrils or torso to check their breathing rate, however the most accurate way is to listen to their trachea with your stethoscope. Keep in mind your horse must be in a quiet, calm state to have an accurate reading. No feed in front of them, or anything else that will encourage them to get a scent.
How to check your horses gums:
This one is simple! Press your thumb firmly to your horses gum for a second and count how long it takes for the gums to turn back to the normal, pink color. Note that if your horses gums are Red or White or the refill time exceeds 3 seconds, you should call your vet immediately.
Again, please keep in mind these are the average numbers for adult horses at rest. Younger and older horses can have different averages, and just like humans, some horses may have a slightly higher or slightly lower normal temperature. Also, this is a basic guide to check for illness in your horses, but just because a horses vitals are normal, does not mean something isnt going on and if you suspect any health issues, call your vet!
Among the numerous hats I've worn over my years as an equestrian, one of them was working for 2 years at a local tack thop. This time of year we have a plethora of very excited kids with very confused parents in tow for one thing and one thing only. Horse Camp.
There are two things most parents are concerned with. First of all, what they need and secondly, how much is this going to cost? After all, many kids are only attending camp for a couple weeks, they may decide they to continue riding, they may decide to not. What do they really need, and what are the options? Hopefully this blog can clear up some of the confusion, and help you make the right decision on this new adventure in you and your childs' lives!
Your best bet is to check with the camp and see what they require. Bare minimum they should require boots with a heel, long pants, and a helmet. Many camps have helmets available, but I highly recommend making the investment and getting your own for both sanitation and fit reasons. I can not stress this enough, if there is ONE thing you don't try and save-a-buck on, it should be your riding helmet. Sorry, Mom and Dad, but their bike helmet wont cut it either. Bicycle helmets and riding helmets are designed differently in shape and protection, and are tested for different types of impact. The risks of riding are very real, so it is very important you take the proper precautions when it comes to minding your mellon! I hear the question all the time, "What is the best helmet for my kid"? The answer is always "The helmet that fits the best". A poorly fitting helmet can result in serious injuries because it may shift, or fall off, so fit is the single most important factor when purchasing a helmet. Another thing you need to know is not all helmets are created equal. There are approved helmets, and unapproved helmets or hunt caps. Without getting into major detail, you want an approved helmet, meaning one that meets ASTM/SEI Requirements. There will be a tag in the helmet that has the ASTM/SEI stamp on it. It is best to bring your child with you when helmet shopping so they can try them on at the store, assuring you get the best fit possible. We carry 5+ 'schooling' helmets (budget friendly) that are all a little different. International brand helmets tend to be more oval shaped, ovation helmets tend to be more rounded, and troxel helmets are kind of in the middle. Devon Aire and Troxel both make helmets for super small kids (4 and under). All of the schooling helmets we carry come with what is known as a "dial fit system", or an adjustment on the back that changes the size and fit of a helmet. One last thing you should know is that all helmet companies suggest that you replace your helmet if you fall off or drop it. Many companies offer discounted re-purchase as well so check with your local shop to see what the options are. Lastly, do not store your helmet in the trunk of your car, or anywhere it will get really hot, wet, etc, as it compromises the integrity of the materials inside the helmet.
The next thing on your list is a good pair of boots. An important thing to consider here is what discipline your child will be riding, in other words, will the be riding English or Western. This matters because the foot placement in the stirrup is different, so the design of the bottom of the boot is different. Cowboy boots, especially more 'fashion' style, usually have a taller heel, which means a higher arch, and are very difficult to ride english because the stirrup is almost forced back to the heel. Boots that have a slick bottom also make it very difficult to keep the stirrup. In english riding, we have two different types of boots. Tall boots are knee high, black boots, and these are used for horse showing. Short boots, or 'Paddock boots' come just above the ankle, and are perfectly acceptable for summer camp, everyday riding, and general horse activity. There are many options for boots under $50.00. One of my go-to brands is Equistar. They have an all-weather synthetic boot, available with laces or zip up, and have a great, higher price look and feel to them. Other brands include Saxon, which tend to run wider, and Tuffrider, which tends to run more narrow. For wider and more narrow ankles, laces typically work best. Boots come in black or brown, and the color really is nothing more than personal preference.
Many camps simply require long pants for riding lessons, jeans or tights are usually fine. Your main goal is something that is not loose fitting, but that your child can move in (skinny stretch jeans are great). If you would like to get some riding pants for your child, again, there are many options! Obviously, it's summer time, so keeping cool is a major concern. Kerrits, Tuffrider, and Irideon are three companies that make riding tights that are comfortable, lightweight, and breathable. All three companies have tights in a bunch of colors, including tan (which your child can show in at local circuits should they continue riding). Plus since they are tights, you can typically go up a size and really get the use out of them! A little wrinkle is ok, but don't push it too much. Riding clothes should be tight fitting. Now you're probably asking yourself what the difference between riding tights and regular tights, and the main difference is a suede (or similar) knee patch that offers reinforcement to protect your little ones legs from getting incredibly painful rubs or pinches from the saddle or stirrup leathers. Riding tights are also constructed of more durable materials and stitching than typical fashion tights.
One of the accessories we add to our boots are called Half Chaps. Half chaps are a leather, suede, or synthetic 'boot' that actually go over your paddock boots to give them the look of tall boots. They offer more grip, and more protection from those same painful rubs and pinches. Dublin and Perris are two of my favorite starter half chaps brand. The Dubling Easy Cares can be thrown in the washing machine to clean them, and run about $39.95, and Perris suede half chaps are around the same price. Perris also makes a very classy smooth leather half chap for around $60.00. Perris makes very petite chaps for the tiny kids too. Half chaps should fit to the knee, and right up to the back of the knee,and as tight as they can be without being uncomfortable. Your half chaps WILL stretch, so if you have to struggle a little getting them on the first time or so, that's not a bad thing. They will also 'drop' about a quarter inch so if they are a bit tall that is ok too. Take in to consideration how much time your child has before camp to wear their boots and half chaps around the house to break them in.
Other things your child may want or need are gloves, shirts, socks, a riding crop, brushes, and many other 'but I need this for camp' items. Again, this is where it comes in handy to know exactly what the camp requires. Gloves are never a bad option. This is camp, they will get lost. That said, find the pair that fits the best for the lowest price. There are several lightweight riding shirts out there for around $30.00. These are great, but not a necessities. It is simply important, again, that the shirt is fitted (no big flowing t-shirts!) and of course breathable. Riding socks are thin, knee high socks that come in a variety of fun colors and designs. If you opted for the half chaps, go ahead and get some! Its summer camp, have some fun! Riding crops, brushes, and ANYTHING for the horses are not required by the camps. If you think this is something your child is going to stick with, you can cross those bridges when you get there. Treats are always fun though. Don't forget the essentials outside of riding clothes - water, sunscreen, towels - and most of all, FUN! Happy riding kids!
They don't call them pests for nothin'! Flies, gnats, mosquitos, stingy things, buzzy bugs, all of them out to make our summer barn time miserable! Ok, ok, they do plenty of good in the world, don't get me wrong, but we can all agree that having flies around the barn is more than just annoying, it can spread disease. Here are some ways to help keep your barn as bug free as possible!
1. Keep your barn clean! A clean barn is a happy barn. Keep stalls clean, at least once daily, and let wet spots air out to dry. Keep water buckets fresh, and disinfected regularly. We dump buckets everyday and scrub them several times a week. Make sure you don't have muddy, dirty build up around drains, or right outside the barn, stall corners, etc. Moisture attracts bugs!
2. Keep your manure pile away from the barn. The further from the barn you can get it, the better, and have it spread or hauled off regularly.
3. Make sure feed is in a sealed container. Open bags of feed are buffets for flies, mice, and other pests!
4. A well ventilated barn doesnt just reduce the number of bugs, but it improves the quality of air for everyone in the barn, too. We love our Barnmaster barns with bars between each stall, wonderful breezeway aisles, and big windows in each stall. Now, obviously we know you cant just go start cutting windows into your barns if you don't already have them but here are some suggestions to help your barn breath and have better air quality.
- Install fans in each stall
- Turn horses out as much as possible. This keeps stalls cleaner and drier.
- Look into installing ceiling fans in barn aisles
5. Install automatic fly spray systems like these found at horse.com
6. Fly Spray! Obvious choice, but there are SO MANY out there! My personal favorites include Ultra Shield Black (which has sunscreen in it, great for black horses), Ultrashield Green (Natural!), Equisect (Natural, and safe to use on dogs too!), and Repel X (it works!). Most of these come in a roll on, or a gel, which is great for horses faces, ears, etc.
7. Fly Masks, Boots, Sheets. These all help keep the pests off your horses. Just make sure they fit properly, and that on hot days your horse isn't sweating underneath them.
8. Fly bands. Fly Armour is one company that makes bands you can strap around your horses legs, on their halter, and more places which are great for trail rides, or horses that stomp their feet to no end .
What about all of these feed-through fly preventatives, and things like fly predators? I have heard nothing but good things about Fly Predators, but it's my understanding that when you use them, you can't use any bug spray, or anything like that because it will kill the predators. We have recently started our horses on Solitude IGR, a feed through supplement (and it's all natural too!), after a recommendation from a friend, and so far I would consider it a success.
Til' next time!
Whether your horses live on hundreds of acres of rolling green pastures, or they spend most of their time in stalls, forage is the most important part of your horses diet. Forage comes in many forms. Square and round bales, compressed bales, hay pellets, hay cubes, hay shreds, and of course grass. Hay also comes in two main types, Grass and Legumes. There are many types of hay available depending on your location. Since we are based out of Texas, we will discuss mainly the types of hay available here, Coastal/Bermuda, Tifton 85, and Alfalfa, and we will brush on other types of hay as well, such as timothy and orchard grass. In addition, we will discuss option for forage and hay in a drought stricken area.
Let's start out with the basics. Why is forage important, what are ways to feed it, and just how much hay should you be feeding? It is a common misconception that horses need grain. In a world where barns are growing and pastures are shrinking, grain is seen more and more and in larger and larger quantities. Let's stop right there. Horses are not made to digest grain, plain and simple. Now, obviously they do digest it, as hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of horses are fed several pounds of grain per day, but when it comes down to brass tax, grain was never meant to be part of a horses daily diet. We could get in to different types of grain and ways to feed, but I will save that for another blog. To put it simply, grain should be fed only to supplement the nutrients the horse is not receiving from his hay and other forage based diet.
So why is hay so important? It all starts with the digestive tract [pictured below]. The horses digestive tract is broken down into two parts, the foregut - consisting f the Stomach and the Small Intestine - and the hindgut - consisting of the colon, the cecum, and rectum. The horses stomach is considerably small in comparison to the intestines, and the overall size of the animal. Because of this, horses are much better off (and are actually designed to) eat small amounts of forage constantly, versus 1 or 2 large meals a day. For horses that are turned out on grass the majority of the time, this is not a very difficult thing to accomplish, but for horses kept in stalls or turned out on dirt, you may have to make some alterations.
For horses turned out that don't have much or any grass, Round Bales are a great option. Several horses can eat on one at a time, and usually horses wont just stand there and pig out until its gone, and depending on the number of horses and the amount of time they have access to the bale, the usually last about a week. Many people will put a net over the bale to prevent wasting hay, and nets with small holes make the horses eat slower so they bale lasts longer. For stalled horses, it is best to try and keep hay in front of them at all times. Fortunately for my readers, I live in the real world and understand this is not always an option, so break feedings down to several times a day, for hay especially, aim for at least 2 times, but a breakfast, lunch, dinner is best, with dinner obviously being the largest of the three to get them through the night. Again, small holed hay nets work wonders for horses that eat quickly. Most stalled horses are fed on a twice a day, AM/PM Schedule. Because horses aren't really made to digest grain, it is important to always feed hay first, and grain second. This gets the hindgut going, and makes it easier for the horses to breakdown and process the grain.
As with everything your horse eats, hay should always be fed from the ground. Again, this is how hey were designed. They were not made to eat above their heads, or even level to their shoulders... a concept a wish many barn designers and builders would get through their heads. Horses are VERY capable of picking up individual pieces of hay, while leaving shavings behind. If you are very concerned, sweep the shavings away from where your horses hay will be. Hay may also be fed in large muck buckets to keep it off the ground and in one place. For harder keepers, horses with allergies, horses that are subject to Choke, or horses with bad teeth, you can soak your hay as well.
How much hay and forage to feed your horse varies depending on each individual animal. Obviously a horse in work 6 days a week is going to burn more calories than a horse that spends 24 hours on a 2 acre paddock. On average, a horse should receive about 2% of their body weight in forage each day. Lets say the average horse is 1,000 lbs, that's 20lbs per day of forage, which is about 1/3 of a square bale. I can tell you right now, if I fed several of my horses 1/3 of a square bale each day and nothing more, animal control would be knocking on my door. Remember, also, that horses gain weight from hay and forage, not from grain, so if you notice your horse is loosing weight, or you have one that needs to gain a few pounds, increase the amount of hay and forage based meals rather than the amount of grain.
Ok, so now we know how to feed the forage, but how do you know what kind of forage to feed? There are so many types of hay, so many different forms, and just why exactly can't I feed "Cow Hay" to my horses? All this and more coming in Part Two! Stay Tuned!
Sweet Bernie (PA-T2654-10) is a Canter PA Trainer owned listing. He is a 2007 16.1 1/2 hand colt, and is qualified for Canters gelding incentive fun, where they will donate $100 towards getting him gelded. For more information on Bernie, and more horses like him, please visit www.CanterUSA.org or click on his picture to go directly to his page.
Some see stud chains as great training tools, some see them as cruel devices, but one thing we can all agree on is that if improperly used, a stud chain can be very dangerous. This blog was actually inspired by a story circulating facebook of a girl who had the stud chain improperly connected, her horse was grazing, caught his foot and the long story short is during the freak out, he broke his neck and had to be put down on the spot. That may sound like a rare case, but stud chains are used incorrectly way more often than people think. I hope this blog can help correct that.
How to connect your stud chain to the horses halter:
The above picture shows a stud chain properly attached, through the near side ring, over the nose, through the far side ring, and up the far side cheek piece, where it is then connected to the far side crown piece ring. You will also see the chain run just over the nose, or through the nearside ring, over the upper gums, though the far side nose ring, and connected to the far side crown piece ring. Though I do not suggest a stud chain be used in the hands of a novice or otherwise inexperienced horseperson, under no circumstances should a lip chain be used by anyone other than a very experienced horseman.
Never, ever run your stud chain through the ring under the horses chin, then double back and connect it to itself. This creates a loop that your horse can get caught in, or get it caught on something and not break. If you do not need a chain for your horse, do not use a lead shank that has one.
When to use a stud chain:
Stud chains can be very useful tools when used correctly. Just like a spur, a stick, a dressage whip, a stronger bit, etc, when used improperly, or in the wrong hands, only then can it be considered a tool of abuse. Stud chains most serve their purpose for hot horses that need a little extra discipline to walk on a lead, perhaps one that is more 'up' in a new environment, to extreme cases of one that rears on a lead or strikes out. Most horses learn to respect the chain over their nose and simply putting it on does the trick. Some horses need them when getting needle shots, or being clipped or shod. Do not just put the chain on a horse because you like the look of it.
How to use a stud chain:
Whenever the chain is not in immediate loose, you should have slack in your line, and the chain. A taught chain will do nothing but dull the nerves and make the horse more resistant to the pressure. Anytime you do need to use the chain, a quick jerk of the shank will suffice. As with any device, start with light pressure and give the horse the benefit of the doubt that he will respond appropriately the first time. Never jerk the chain with all your strength on a horse you do not know, an even then, only in a very extreme case that has you and/or the horse in immediate danger. Stud chains are to be used very similarly to a choke chain on a dog.
I hope this has helped clear up some of the air on stud chains, and when and how to use them. It has been my experience that most horses that 'need' a stud chain actually need a tune up on ground work by a qualified professional. As with all of our information blogs, if you are unsure about something, please feel free to email us at SouthCoastSportHorses@yahoo.com, comment below, or of course, as your trainer!
2013 has been a great year at South Coast. We've had a number of great horses (and their awesome owners) come through our training programs this year from a not-exactly-young thoroughbred mare that her owner was almost convinced she would be deemed a brood mare (Yes, Lisa and Maybelle, I'm talking about you!), to a lovely Palomino gelding who is now loving dressage with his new owner. My eyes were opened up more to the realm of true western pleasure horses while I got the pleasure of working with Janine and Nobie. The small black pony, Rooster, who was broke and started through South Coast last year is now a leased and loved lesson pony at Milestone Farm in Austin - I love stories like that! If I sat here and wrote at all of them, we'd be here for quite some time!
I can't go on without mentioning the best part about the year, and that is Wringo Star coming home after 3 1/2 years. The story is all over the place, and you can stay updated with it here www.facebook.com/groups/BringWringoHome . A day that was made possible by so many people, none of which will or have gone unnoticed. Before I settled on the name South Coast (which represents 'home' in North Carolina, by the way), it was a toss up between that and "Fawringo Farm" meaning For Wringo. There is still a big possibility I may name the property Fawringo, and the training South Coast.... we'll see what 2014 brings!
This year was also the beginning of another chapter for us, when in August we opened South Coast Customs & Consignments (and if you haven't checked it out yet, like us on facebook! www.facebook.com/SouthCoastConsignments ) I've been having a lot of fun letting my creative side out to run wild!
Our South Coast team has grown this year, too. We welcomed two working students, Hailee - a tough, smart, hardworking kid whose riding ability grows just as quickly a her horsemanship skills; and Jessica Alderette (www.JLeighHorseTraining.weebly.com). Jess is a student at Texas A&M, and recently started her own training business, but still works very closely with South Coast, and I don't know if I'll ever let her go! She is a very talented, well rounded rider that competes in both Dressage and Barrel Racing. We've also 'brought in' two other talented young ladies that are a big part of our support system, Megan Herrington (www.TotalBalanceEquineMassage.com) who keep the horses comfortable and my motivation going, and Danielle Meyers (www.MeyersSportHorseServices.com) a very talented dressage and combined training trainer that helps me keep adding to my bag of tricks.
As this year comes to a close, I am nothing but thankful for the last 365 days, and excited for the next. Plans to continue property improvements, including a second arena, and covered outside stalls. Talks of doing an obstacle challenge/hunter pace series are also in place, so keep your eyes open for more information on that. Im also excited to get back in the show ring after about a year off bringing green horses along, and maybe find myself a new barrel horse along the way. It's been a great year, with great horses and great friends and I look forward to tackling 2014 with the simple mentality of 'but better' Just like 2013... but better.
Happy Holidays everyone!
At the request of some of our facebook fans, this weeks segment is on how to properly wrap polo wraps. First I want to talk about the purpose these wraps serve, as well as the appropriate time and place to use them
Polo wraps are designed to offer padding and protection to your horses legs should they bump them on a jump rail, hit themselves with their other legs, etc. They do offer some support, but is debatably minimal especially when compared to other boots. Polo wraps should be used anytime you ride or lunge, with the exception of riding through water or in wet conditions. They are permitted in equitation and jumper divisions, but not in the hunters. When shipping locally, polos can also be used instead of shipping boots or wraps.
It is very important that polo wraps are applied correctly. If they are applied to tight, or with uneven pressure, they can cause serious tendon damage. If they are applied too loose, they will sag, and can potentially slip down off the horses leg which can go from fine to incredibly dangerous in about half a second.
So whats the right way to put polo wraps on?
1. Start in the middle of the inside of the leg at the top of the leg (back legs
you want to start about midway up the leg since its a longer area to cover). You
will start unwrapping by coming across the front, towards the back on the
outside of the leg, around the back of the leg, and towards the front on the
inside of the leg.
2. ONLY PULL TO TIGHTEN as you are heading towards the back of the horse, and you never want to pull very tight, just enough for it to have a snug feeling.
*Note* These wraps were a bit long for zip, but the great thing about polos is you can take a pair of scissors to them and make them fit just right.
Also, as Zip so diligently showed in the video that horses don't always stand perfectly still, never try to pull against the left with the wrap to get the horses leg back down. Always just follow the leg until it is back down. If the horse is really freaking out, use your best judgment to either pull the wrap off (by unwrapping it quickly) or just getting out of the way. NEVER put yourself in a dangerous spot or situation.
Ahhh, the always calming schooling ring. A place for horse and rider to warm up quietly and prepare to compete in a stress free environment... Sounds peaceful, doesn't it? If only it were actually like that! Schooling arenas are more like a mad house. over crowded, over faced riders, at least one horse freaking out, watch out for the horse that kicks, "oh that's a jump, I thought it was a hitching post", trainers yelling, and the.inevitable rider day dreaming of all the ribbons she will bring home (inevitably because she's cut you off 15 times without even noticing). Hopefully this list of schooling ring etiquette will help settle things down. First and foremost, I want to point out it is the trainers responsibility to teach their students the rules of the road, but it is the responsibility of the rider to make the right decisions at the right times.
Rule number one: LEFT SHOULDER TO LEFT SHOULDER. When you are going to opposite direction as an oncoming rider, you pass them left shoulder to left shoulder.
2: Jumpers have the right of way, same goes for the barrel racer actually working the pattern. This is the only exception to the left to left rule as the jumper should always take the inside.
3: If you are walking to warm up or cool down, stay against the rail, going to the left.
4: Never, ever, ever pass someone from behind by going between their horse and the rail. Thats a good way to get yourself squished, kicked, or thrown.
5: When passing someone from behind, say "Inside" loud enough so they know you're coming. A horse.running up next to another horse can be very scarey for both horse and rider
.6: Do. Not. Park. Infront. Of. The. Jump. If you have to stop to talk to your trainer, pick a spot out of the way, or leave the arena.
7: Always call your jumps. "Heads Up Oxer!" can literally save your life. Even then, always pay attention to what's going on around you. Just because you're doing your job, doesnt mean the other riders are doing their job.
8: If a rider falls off their horse, bring.your horse to a halt. If their horse takes off, it is best to dismount until their horse is caught.
9: Don't be a jump hog. If you're schooling in the actual show ring, don't dismantle the jumps. If you're in a schooling ring with only two or three jumps, you get one. Don't have a ground person? Other trainers are typically more than happy to share. Just remember, you are then riding under their rules. If they are ready for a bigger jump for their students, its not polite to ask them to keep it small for.you.
10: Get in, Get out. If you need to wear your horses energy level down, a crowded schooling arena probably isn't the best choice. Find a place you can ride, and only use the schooling.area to warm up before entering the show ring.
11: Be prepared. South Coast horses regularly go on trail rides off the property, and go to Playdays and open arenas to get used to hectic environments. Just like with any training, don't set your horse up for failure. If you've got a hot greenie, take him everywhere you can. Even if you just rent a stall or leave him at the trailer to hang out, you want your horse to be comfortable.
Feel free to add your own tips and rules! Stay safe out there!
There is one word, above any other, that strikes fear into the hearts of every horse owner out there. Fire. In September and October of 2011, our county of Bastrop, TX played host to the most devastating wildfire in Texas history. Volunteers stepped up in every way, shape, and form to help evacuate countless people, and their beloved horses.
Just this past week, less than two miles from our home at Broken A Ranch, a transformer blew up starting another fire and an all-to-familiar feeling instantly set in. Fortunately, the fire was under control in about two days, and consumed less than 300 acres, and not a blade of grass was touched at our place. Needless to say, with wind blowing our direction, the horses of South Coast were packed up, wrapped up, and ready to go if we had to get out of dodge.
Sadly, he positive thing about horses and wild fire evacuations is that at least with a fire you have some sort of heads up. This isn't the case in thee vent of barn fires, tornados, earth quakes, and several other natural disasters. So how can we keep our horses as safe as possible, and give them the best chance of both surviving, and making it back to us in the event they have to be set free? This list may be long, but these simple steps can very well mean the difference between life and death for your horse.
- Rule Number One BE PREPARED. Have a plan, and practice it until you can not mess up. The added stress of an emergency does not help you get through a plan that you've never practiced before. Would you go to a dressage show without knowing your test? Would you go to a pro rodeo on a horse that has never seen a barrel pattern? Why set yourself up to fail in such a serious situation?
*Have several places to go. Get in contact with local horse owners, big barns, local arenas (The Lost Pines Riding Club in Elgin, TX is pretty much always an option for horses in the Bastrop area), and form a group of places you can take your horses if you need to go. Know what you will need if you take your horses somewhere. A lot of places have a pasture you can use, but your horses may not be the only ones there, and you may need to separate horses. It's best to know if you need round pen panels to due so prior to showing up. Also think about things like buckets, hay, and feed.
*Know how to hook up your trailer, and keep it in good maintenance. Also know who can help you trailer horses if you need to move. If you have 8 horses, and a 4 horse trailer, you have to make two trips. If the closest place you have to move your horses is 30 minutes away, it will take you over an hour to get back for the last 4 horses.
*Know and practice every exit out of your barn. Even doorways that wouldn't normally be used for horses may be your only option if your barn is on fire. Practice going through tight spaces, and under short ceilings so your horse is comfortable with it, and you are confident that he can make it.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in your barn, and make sure it works! We also have industrial sprinklers on both exits from our barn so that will help give us more 'safe zone' to get out.
*Did you know you local fire department can come out and inspect your facility, usually free of charge? They can point out any fire hazards, and give you ideas on how to improve your facility so it's safe for everyone.
- Make sure your horse will load in a trailer! Practice loading in several different trailers besides your own. Load by himself, with other horses, with strange horses, etc. Even horses that normally load just fine can freak out about loading in a high stress situation. Give him the best chance possible.
- Don't wait until the last minute to leave. If you have advanced notice, USE IT.
- If all else fails, let your horse go. Horses are instinctual animals, and if you can't get him to safety, you have to make the decision to get yourself out of harms way and leave him to his own devices.
So what do you do to make sure you and your horse a reunited if you have to let him go, or even if you take him to a place with 100 other evacuated horses. Believe me, no matter how organized everyone tries to be, it will still be a very stressful, scary, chaotic situation for everyone involved - both two legged and four legged.
- Tag EVERYTHING. Every halter should have a name plate with your name, your barn name, and/or your phone number. I recommend leather or break away halters over nylon or rope as they will break if your horse gets caught on something. Use duct tape to put your name and contact information on your horses shipping wraps, fly masks, etc. Use a permanent marker or spray paint pen to write your phone number on your horses feet. I suggest using a metallic or neon color as it stands out a lot better than black. There are also several types of 'pony paints' that you can write your phone number on your horses body. He make look a little ridiculous, but you can wash that off when he gets home!
- Microchip your horse, and keep a record of the number.
- Have up-to-date pictures of your horse. One from each side, a front, and a back, at the minimum. Make sure to get any markings, brands, or blemishes in the pictures. There are a lot of bay horses out there, and sure, YOU can tell which one if yours but not everyone else will unless you give more information.
- I have flyers of each one of my horses pre made, and kept in several places (along with copies of their coggins and registration papers) that have their pictures, their name, my name, and my phone number. Not only can I use these to put up if I had to, but I can hang them on temporary stalls or pastures if need be.
- Have matching equipment. Though this will not save you on it's own, having matching stuff for each horse will make it easier for volunteers (who often have little to no horse experience) keep your stuff and your horses identified.
This list is only a small sample of ways to help you and your horse stay safe, and stay together in the event of an emergency. We would love to hear from you with your tips, comments, or questions, and encourage our readers to post comments to the blog. Remember, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Hopefully you never need this list, but if you do, I hope it helps!
It was a very lucky day for the horses here at South Coast today, because today they got to determine which treats really are the best! The test was simple, offer 5 horses 6 different types of treats, and see what they prefer. Each horse was given a feed pan with 1 Nickerdoodle broken into two pieces, 1 Sierra Sweet, 2 baby carrots, 2 peppermints, 2 pieces of butter scotch, and home made apple sauce (I ran out of apples, and it's all natural) and the rest was up to them. Before we get to the results, lets talk about some quick safety tips and some do's and don'ts on feeding treats.
1. Anytime you hand feed treats, make sure your fingers are together, and your hand is flat. Fingers feel like carrots!
2. It is best to put treats in your horses feed pan rather than hand feeding. Hand feeding treats can cause a horse to get nippy, or impatient. If you feed your horse a treat every day after your ride on the cross ties, chances are the day you run out of treats is the day you will find out you have a pushy, pawing horse.
- Already have a pushy horse? Stop giving him treats all together. When you feel he is ready to be a gentleman about it again, make him work for it! Have him stretch his head around to each side, between his front legs, and his nose all the way out. Also, don't give treats every single time, let it be a surprise!
3. Give your horse small bites. Whole carrots and whole apples can be hard for a horse to properly chew, which in turn can cause them to choke. If you prefer to feed treats like Nickerdoodles, Stud Muffins, Sierra Sweet, Mrs. Pastures, and other wafer-like horse treats, you should break those in to 2 or more pieces as well, as some horses wont chew them at all, and they are the perfect size to cause a blockage.
4. Read the ingredients. Choosing healthy snacks is just as important, if not more so, for our horses as it is for us! High starch, high sugar treats should be fed sparingly. Choosing all natural treats, and ingredients that are already a part of your horses diet will greatly reduce the risk of an upset stomach.
5. MODERATION. Some treats have a daily limit printed right on the box or bag, others you have to kind of guess. One apple, two carrots, or two treats is usually plenty for your horse, and he doesn't need them every single day. Adding too many treats at once can turn into more of a meal, and can really mess up your horses diet.
Alright, after a excruciating afternoon of research, the results are in!
3. Sierra Sweets
6. Apple [sauce] - I will re do the test with Apples and see if it changes.
I tallied the points by the order in which the horses ate the treats. If they didn't eat something within 3 minutes, that treat got counted as 6th place. Each horse had their favorite, and seemed to know right away exactly which one it was. After the third treat, Soda, Bay, and Zip all pretty much slowed down and then eventually took another bite. Dan pretty much shoved the first three in his mouth at once, but left enough scraps to go back and pick them out individually. Vara is the only one who ate all of her treats, one after the other. Even though the carrots came in second, they were the only treat to be chosen first by 2 horses, and the Sierra Sweets were a steady second pick. The Carrots and the Nickerdoodles were also the only treats that every horse ate.
So there you have it folks. Straight from the horses mouth!
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