Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bringing The New Horse Home

     When you purchase your new horse and bring him home, there are some things to remember....
Firstly, horses figure out pretty quickly that they have a new home.  Even horses that are seasoned haulers and are used to being put up in different stalls at shows seem to realize that this place is different - is more permanent.  These seasoned guys know the show routine but a new "home" is not the norm.  The young or unseasoned horse just goes "wow, where am I now??".
     So, this sets up responses and reactions you need to be prepared to deal with.   Everything from a scared horse to one that must show off to all his new buddies.  Most show horses just take it all in stride but even these troopers are probably a little tense though you wouldn't know it by looking at them.
     I try to make everything relaxed and calm for any new horse coming to its new home.  I create an easy environment for them to adjust to. 
     Many horses are not worked for two or three days which I think helps them settle in during this new period.  I always have hay in their stall and give them lots of it.  Then I ease them into their grain and supplements slowly.  Remember that horses won't colic from hay but they can colic from the combination of stress and grain.  I probably won't give a new horse grain for another two or three days after a move.
     When I turn them out, it's in a secure fenced area (no hot wire) and preferably with a calm horse in the nearby paddock or corral.  I also put geldings near geldings and mares near mares.
     When I work the new horse for the first time, I like to longe them for a while - just an easy exercise to get the kinks out.  No bitting up or expectations, just an easy work with time to look around.  Then, when I get up on them for the first time, I make sure to take plenty of time with them and ask them to softly bend around, giving and relaxing to the bridle.  I make sure the first few sessions are nice and easy, not adding to their stress.
     I find that this all makes for a very successful and easy transition.  We humans need to remember that not every barn or trainer or owner is the same.  When everything's different, a little time and patience can make for a much better transition!  See you next week!  JD

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Long Haul

     I recently returned from Canadian Nationals, which many of you know is in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.  Each way is about a 1,400 mile haul for me so, I thought I'd write about how I like to make such a long haul a success.
     First of all, I make absolutely certain that my truck and trailer are ready for the trip.  The truck always goes in for a lube and oil change and while it's in the shop I have the mechanics thoroughly check out everything else. 
     They check the hoses, clamps, tires, fuses, electrical system - just everything.  If there's anything even questionable I have it replaced.  Are the batteries good, are fluid levels ok?  Are the transmission and radiator coolant systems ready for the mountains and long days?  I check and recheck my tires, making sure they have the proper amount of air for a full trailer and, that the sidewalls and tread are up to my expectations.  I do the same with my trailer tires.  A flat tire in the mountains of Alberta or the middle of the prairie in Saskatchewan is not in my plans!
     Not only do I want the truck and trailer in great shape, I want the horses to arrive in great shape too.  I put the horses on some sort of ulcer medicine before the trip and make sure they're re-shod just before we leave.  I like to increase their feed too before a long trip so that they start out a little on the heavy side.  Not really fat but just a little extra since horses tend to lose weight when hauling.  If I have a poor drinker, I start them on electrolytes in their water before the trip and continue while traveling to encourage them to drink.
     We bed the trailer pretty deep to cushion the ride even more as well as to keep the road heat out.  I put in enough shavings to allow for a clean-out at each night's stop without having to add new but I take care not to bed it so deep that it will bank up as the horses shift during the drive.
     Now, everybody does things a little differently but I like to make sure I can get to my hydraulic jack and basic tools if need be, even when the trailer's stuffed to the gills.  I also like to make sure I can very quickly get to my lead ropes, lunge lines and buckets.  It's a good idea to haul with some basics for your horses too.  Your vet should help you with this but I like to have some Dex (for bug bites or stings, which unfortunately came in very handy this year!) as well as Bute and Banamine and some real basics like leg wraps and bandages.
     We absolutely do not make any unecessary "people stops" on these long hauls.  No lingering lunch stops and no sight-seeing.  The horses come first, not us.  We stop for fuel and a very quick pit-stop which gives the horses a chance to re-position, urinate and rest for a few minutes.  We humans grab a quick snack to eat on the way and take our own quick pit stop but then we're back on the road. 
     I also find that horses don't drink much, if any at all, when stopped so we just get back on the road.  I personally don't haul with water buckets in mangers, I think it's too easy for a horse to get hurt but I do ensure they always have hay in front of them to give them something to do on the long haul.  And, I never unload until we get to our destination.  I just do my best to get to that night's stop as quickly as possible so the horses can have a real rest and maybe a roll and eat and drink in relative peace before the next long day begins.
     Everyone has their own way to haul but I feel very rewarded to have traveled tens of thousands of miles without a flat or a breakdown and to have a show string of horses that still jump in the trailer day after long day and arrive at the shows (and back home again) healthy!  I hope these ideas help you plan your next haul.  Talk to you next week. JD  

Sunday, September 15, 2013


     Believe it or not, horses are not for everyone!  Sometimes, they're not even right for people who really admire or "love" horses.  As I watch horse shows and other competitions shrink, and I observe that all major breed registries are down, I can't help but wonder if maybe this decrease was inevitable. 
     The first thing that comes to mind is that this "horse show thing" is only for workaholics (yeah, you know who you are!).  It's not for people who want to quarterback from the couch or those who are afraid to work hard and get dirty and tired, and possibly even, but hopefully not, hurt.  It also takes a good deal of money and time which means that most of you must work, work, work and then spend all your vacation time at horse-related events.  And, it means that someone like me must make a life-long obsession into my life's work.
     I truly don't think all people have the right personality to be horsemen.  Some people don't want to work hard enough and others just don't have the skill to become competent around horses.  One must learn "horse sense" and some people just can not learn to read horses at all.  Yes, it's a learned skill - like a second language - but trying to learn this at an older age without being around a variety or horses can be very difficult. 
     All that said I think that with the right coach or trainer, AND with a suitable horse, AND with an attitude and willingness to get dirty, get tired, get sore, AND all rolled up in the patience it takes learn to read horses and ride horses, many more people could enjoy this sport we all love so much!  Talk to you next week!  JD

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Old School

     As those of you who follow my blog regularly know, I believe in the old school - the very old school!  I believe that horse shows are about horses and that horsemanship is paramount. 
     The concept of showing horses was not developed simply for people to have a good time or even for competition as an end unto itself.  Horseshows were developed to further the breed, whatever breed you may choose to promote.  Shows were developed as a way of displaying the talent in horses and along with them - their riders.
     Sometimes I worry that we've lost the basic concept altogther though.  Yes, I like to have fun and I most certainly have lots of friends on the show circuit, people I'm always happy to see.  And yes, I like to win too, but we must be careful not to forget why we are really competing.  It truly is not about us and shouldn't just be for our recreation, it must be about the HORSES.
     Horsemanship in all aspect has been developed over thousands of years and we are a part of that development, part of a continuing stream of advancement.  You and I are an important part of this as we show our horses and promote their talents and abilities, and as we breed to improve the next generation. 
     Always appreciate your time with your horse, always give him the best care you can and, work on your own horsemanship so you can fully develop his talents and abilities - in or away from the show arena!  Talk to you next week, JD.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sportsmanship: The Unseen Benefits!

     I've had the priviledge of becoming friends with Ahna and Scott Bowman of Bowman Sport Horses.  We truly enjoy each other's company as well as competing with one another and that's what, I think makes this commentary interesting.
     We talk a lot abour sportsmanship but I doubt if many people are sincere.  Hypocracy seems to run rampant in the horse show world but sometimes there really is good sportsmanship.  Ahna and Scott, Joanne Salisbury and myself became good friends with each other by showing against one another.
     They own an oustanding mare called Lady Loria and Joanne owns Rosie's First Gold (Tilly).  These two mares have beat each other going back and forth for years.  We truely admire Lady Loria even though she beat Tilly and when Tilly beat Lady Loria, Scott and Ahna were complimentary right back. 
     One time, Tilly came out Reserve Champion with Lady Loria beating her once again.  I believed the better mare - that day - had won the day but I was taken aback though when Ahna said "that mare can ride in my trailer anytime".  She was sincere and complimentary.  A good sportsman and boy, did that make us feel good!
     The competition between the mares and our barns continued and our friendship grew from a few sincere words to respect and friendship.  Joanne, Angela Wilson (who shows Tilly) and I have come to love and respect the Bowmans as friends, good sports and competitors, and we know the feeling is mutual.
     Good horsemen respect one another and respect good horses no matter who wins on any given day.  Respect then makes it easy to be good sportsmen.  Improving your horsemanship will improve your relationships with fellow competitors because as you learn you will come to respect their work and as your horsemanship improves, they will grow in their respect for your work too.  See you next week!  JD