Here’s Your Sign!

Between working in a horse barn, doing some training, and competing in a few events on the side, I get asked several different questions that I feel are valuable to the everyone. Whether they regard training theories or methods, equine nutrition, or management it is important that no one person holds all of the answers and that various perspectives can shed some light on certain subjects offering various answers. I have compiled a common list of the top 5 questions and answers generated from valuable sources that may give you another perspective, because after all I work with horses and may not always voice the most organized answer to questions asked in the moment.

1. What good do sports boots, polo wraps, etc. do?

I have been at a loss for a stable answer to this question several times, but ran across a link that gives a very scientific, applicable answer to the horsemen. I simply had always used boots to support tendons and ligaments in the legs while working horses, similar to one of the same reasons why we wear boots that give us ankle support during riding.

But if you are new to using various sport boots or polo wraps, I advise you to seek advice before doing so. Not having the right size or not using the wraps correctly can actually cause damage to these structures that can cause you major problems. Another common reasoning advising on deciding on when to use these support devices revolves around the thought of over heating tendons in hot weather and intense work. Just goes to show that we must take into consideration various factors and always seek the best options for our horses!

2. How do I get my horse back in shape?

It is important to realize that we ask a lot from our horses when we work them, compete with them, or trail ride. My favorite example to give is to put yourself in their shoes. Would you go do a full workout without first warming up, conditioning yourself. and cooling down? I hope that your answer is no, and to get the best results and avoid injury I encourage you to do the same. Conditioning a horse can be served in several different scenarios. Whether they are recovering from an injury, have had the winter off, or simply need to shed a few pounds, take a look at these helpful tips that I have found to base your conditioning and rehab program off of.

3. Should I feed my horse treats?

Do yourself a favor and don’t. I stand very firm against treats after seeing firsthand situations in which horses have become not only nippy, but pushy and aggressive as well. Again, put yourself in their shoes. You are creating a learned behavior, they act up and you discipline them, as soon as they do something right you reward them with a treat. But in a sense you are also rewarding their negative behavior, following their change of attitude of course. Then they create a learned behavior that every time you spend time with them, at some point they will earn a treat and will simply look to you as a source of treats, neglecting to pay attention to whatever you ask as they are continuously searching you for a treat. Horses deserve respect just as you do, respect them enough to not create a negative situation for them stemming for a source of positive reward. Nothing teaches a better lesson than simple pressure and release, which can be done without treats despite contrary belief. Check out a cool article I found that lists other ways to reward your horse, that don’t involve treats!

4. My horse isn’t gaining weight on this new feed, what should I do?

Just because a feed doesn’t work for one horse, doesn’t mean it is the right option for another. After all, there is an equine feed industry at your fingertips that offers a multitude of feeds, from several various producers for a reason. Research has shown that some horses have different metabolisms than others, some have food allergies just like us, and others even have issues with insulin making them diabetic in a sense. The first step is to consult a veterinarian, horse owners often make the common costly mistake of overfeeding protein when not needed. A good vet will get you in touch with a nutritionist, which will in turn have you speak with a feed sales rep that can present you with options on the market. Another common mistake continues to be the desire to want to add several supplements to a horse’s diet. Horse feeds are very well known for having a set formula that does not change, although the price will due to resources. With this being said, adding a supplement to a diet may actually cancel out the ingredients already contained in the concentrated feed, thus rendering them useless. Meaning, contrary to belief it is actually possible to waste money trying to supplement your horse’s diet. It is simple to find this out though, simply call your feed company and have them run an analysis for you. They will be happy to do so if you provide them the feed label of the feed you are feeding as well as all supplements in which you would like to use. Finally, allow a trial period when trying a new feed before expecting to see results. The villi and nutrient absorbing bodies in the gut must change along with the change of the diet. This can take weeks folks, just be patient. I found several helpful links to common nutritional tips for horses listed below.

And as I’m writing this, I am realizing there are a plethora of horse diet tips and misconceptions out there so I encourage you to do your own research and the blog may take a trend in the near future exploring certain feeding questions…and advice…:)

5. Do farriers, chiropractors, equine dentists really make a difference and are they necessary?

Yes! I have had experience with all of the above for various horses in different situations. First off, have a good working relationship with your farrier and live by the quote, “No foot, no horse”. Routine hoof care is only just the beginning, balancing a foot, correct shoeing, and have a reliable and knowledgeable farrier will be in your best benefit. Second, I have also seen horses contain conformation problems from flipping over backwards, jumping, and even slipping and falling in the pasture. Pay close attention while grooming to know whether your horse is sore, and just as you would benefit from a good snap, crackle, and pop, so would your horse from time to time when they show signs of need! Finally, as silly as it sounds, horse’s teeth need routine annual care just as yours do. Not only will your horse chew and utilize his feed better, he will also be a happier camper during riding when a sharp point on a tooth is not rubbing the side of his mouth raw causing an abscess.

I know there are many more questions running through your head now, but my goal is to get you thinking and researching before making drastic decisions. After doing research for this brief blog post, I realized that I could so easily break down each and every subject and explain each component in its entirety in depth for individual posts. But a different project for a different day!


All is fair in love and livestock

Whew! What a week it has been! And I am even happy to share that I have been cheating on my horse loving friends, and have been involved in the cattle industry the past few weeks. Not only had I been putting hours in at the stable, but have also been lending a helping hand at the school farm preparing for the annual Journagen Ranch Sale. Some of my weekly duties there had included walking bulls, building sale pens, tidying up the shop and sheds, and building and tearing down the sale ring. Prior to the sale that occurred this past Saturday, a show was help on Friday night that was open to any past sale purchases, or their offspring. I happened to work at the school farm just before the show and was able to help our advisors son ready his heifer for the show.



The process of readying a calf for a show is much different than a horse, although there are several similarities. The first step we took was to rinse her and wash the heifer, this is done with an Aloe Advantage shampoo, and her tail is dipped in conditioner. She is then tied up to dry, using brushes to knock the excess water off in the same manner as a sweat scraper. Ok, now this is where we really differ….cattle are blown out prior to a show going against the hair to get the hair to stand up and make the cow look fuller. After this is done, they are then “fit” or clipped.



Pictured above is Parker and his beloved show heifer known as Addie. Not only did Parker have a pit crew to help him ready his heifer for the show, he also gained a cheering section, whether he knew it or not. 🙂 The pair won their class and were called back for the Grand Drive, there in which he ended up in the top 5.



Now that the day of the sale had finally came, the day before and the day of the sale were very long days for the crew. Several helping hands from the department, the ranch, and students banded together to make the sale a running success. The cattle had been at the school farm for a few weeks prior to the sale to settle in and be prepared. The night before the sale prior to the sale, the cattle were sorted into sale pens where potential buyers could walk through and take a look at them. After everyone that wanted to that night had a chance to study the cattle, the cattle were then turned back out to their pens or the night. Then, bright and early the next morning, the same process started again. The Journagen Sale is done by sale videos, which means plenty of preparation. The cattle are videoed prior to the sale, which plays on a live feed during the sale as opposed to bringing the cattle into the sale ring. This is why having the cattle available to viewing is so important. There is also an online bidding that can happen now during the sale as well, so both live bidders and online bidders have a chance to take the winning bid. I am pleased to announce that the sale was a tremendous success! Just over $480,000 worth of cattle were sold, breaking all previous sale highs by over $2,000. Now, that’s something to really be proud of! This in tandem with school beef being carried at local Hyvee stores, means that Missouri State’s beef program has gained a lot of special attention.

20141005_152037To wrap up a busy weekend, I was able to relax and do homework all day Sunday to get all caught up in my classes. Ok, you know that I am just kidding. What fun would that be? That only happens when I am sick haha! Sunday, I was back at the barn doing chores…..and…..drum roll please….we broke ground on the first lean to that we are planning on putting up this fall before winter! Even though I am super busy and I get overwhelmed from time to time, I don’t know what else I would do or if I would have it any other way. Stay tuned for my next post, where I spill the beans regarding yet another iron I have in the fire.


Take a Walk In My Shoes at Missouri State

As part of a class project this week, my instructor in Public Relations in Ag gave us the assignment to make a promotional video regarding Missouri State or Agriculture. After brainstorming for a few minutes trying to come up with a topic or video that wouldn’t be too cheesy, we agreed to talk about some of our experiences at Missouri State, because after all that’s why we all knew each other anyways. Below is our link to the YouTube video that we published. Now, keep in mind that this is a very rough draft, we only had an hour to complete the assignment, our props are home made and our budget is far below slim to none. 🙂

After creating this video, it made me think about why exactly I did choose Missouri State. What have I learned? What unique experiences have I had? How else would I have met some of the awesome friends I have made? Although, choosing the next path in your education is never easy, so often we forget about what we choose with it as well.

The courses I have taken at Missouri State have been beyond helpful. My favorites continue to be the Equine Science classes as I am a horse person inside and out, but I can’t say I have really not liked a course….other than Chemistry or Missouri Government but I feel as if that is self explanatory. I have been fortunate enough to pick a field of study in which I am passionate about and MSU has the facilities to satisfy educational endeavors. The Journagen Ranch keeps the largest purebred cattle herd of any in the United States, and this semester I have been lucky enough to work hands on in prepping the facility and the cattle for the upcoming production sale.

Journagen Bull

In addition, the school also maintains an indoor arena, several head of horses for school riding team practices, stallions for collection and semen labs, and broodmares for spring foals. Although a real job gets in the way of being active on a school team, they offer a Western Horsemanship IHSA team, a Huntseat IHSA team, a Ranch Horse team, and a NRHA Judging team.

Blog at MSU

But at the end of the day, school is still a headache. One of the most important things that keeps me going are the friends and the connections I have made. Together, we teach each other study aids outside of the classroom, keep one another up to date in case someone can’t always make it to class, use each other’s accounts for printing, and borrow books so you don’t have to buy them. These are everyday occurrences for us in the ag department, but in the long run it comes down to not what you know, but you who you know. One day after we graduate, we will keep in touch and cross each others paths in the industry, helping one another out like we have already done.


3 Horse Boarding Tips

Working in a horse barn, we often find ourselves dealing with individuals new to horses…thus also new to boarding. Here a few rules that are great for any new boarder to bear in mind!



  1. Clean Up Communal Spaces: Horse-boarding facilities are primarily communal spaces. Thus, when using these spaces, be respectful and clean up promptly after yourself so as to be a good community member.
  2. Pay Bills On Time: Getting behind on payments to your boarding facility can put your animal’s livelihood in jeopardy. Thus, always keep current on your bills.
  3. Ask Permission: Just because the spaces inside the boarding facility are communal does not necessarily mean everything in the space is also shared. Always ask before giving your horse any feed or using any grooming supplies, so as not to wrongfully take things belonging to others.

Are you looking for a place to board your horse? J Bar T Ranch offers quality horse boarding facilities, to keep your animal safe and comfortable.

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I better get a hat collection….

Have you ever wondered what it takes to successfully work at a horse barn? Over the past 6 months working under the manager, Debbie Petersen, at Black Diamond Stables, I have learned just how many hats one has to wear to get the job done. I am hoping this blog creates some awareness within the industry as to how much we really owe the individuals that take such great care of boarded horses in order for the owners and boarders to enjoy their horses.

1. First and foremost, we do the work that most owners simply don’t have the desire or resources to do. The stall cleaning, changing dirty water, scrubbing buckets, fence building, hay stacking, and the many other jobs that a few may see as ‘not so fun’ are what pay our bills. What may seem as a dreaded task to many, is a simple normal routine for us that we do on a regular basis, like clockwork subconsciously it seems.


2. We are handymen, or in this case handywomen. Sure, we have real man power from time to time….but in our part of the country where cattle are dominating, it is almost easier to accomplish our own projects as we understand how to do so in a manner that is horse friendly. From fixing vinyl fence from pesky horses playing through the fence, managing electric fence, and changing out damaged hardware, you bet we are friendly with a drill and know the guys at the local hardware store by name.

3. We solve problems and think out of the box on a daily basis. Almost everyday we are posed with a challenge, something so simple as to where we might be able to put horses poses a very challenging dilemma for us this is often unforeseen. New horse in the barn? Sure! Just let me see where we can fit your little mare in….well these horses don’t get along, this owner requested them here, and the list goes on….

4. Organization is our middle name. From making space in a cramped tack room, managing records on 40+ horses, planning out chores for time management, and overseeing a small crew of employees, we are familiar with making sacrifices, finding deals, and utilizing resources.

5. We have horses as our therapy and are therapists ourselves. We work with horses because we don’t always handle people as well as we should. In return, our boarders have horses for the very same reason. We are your support system. We cry with you, laugh with you, share the same frustrations, and even the same goals. We know when you come to the barn to get away from the real world or the stresses from home, or we travel the same journey with you when a horse is hurt and lame. As a team, we provide the very best for your horse. Even though we are paid to take care of your four legged friend, we ultimately end up caring for you as well.


6. We are vets. Just kidding.  Importantly, we are not and you need to know that. We will do our best to help you care for your horse and offer you amateur insight, but in most matters it is important to seek the professional advice from a vet. After all, they are the ones that paid the big bucks to go to school. Going hand in hand, we are not farriers either. But we do have an arsenal of basic horse first aid to help you and are familiar with several vets and farriers that will help you more than we can.

7. We could be meteorologists. We know when there is a chance of rain, how significant of a chance, the highs and the lows for the days, etc. This is intriguingly important as to know when to leave horses out long enough to get turn out, but to bring them in before we get rained on, know how many layers to wear to the barn that day, or know if it will be nice out enough to anticipate arena traffic.

8. Groundskeeper could be our maiden name. Coordinating mowing, weed eating, watering and dragging the arena, and pasture maintenance is no small feat. After all, the place wouldn’t look as good as it did without all the elbow grease behind it. Not only for curb appeal, but also for weed management, equine health, and safety.

9. We are thrifty shoppers. Running a barn is no small financial endeavor. We know how to prioritize needs or projects, have a run down of what items cost, know what sales are going on and when, and know where brands of feed are cheapest. We take special care of the pennies that you pay us so that we can continue to earn your pennies, your respect, happiness and friendship. We are here for you.

10. We are most importantly babysitters. Your horses are under our care to be fed, taken care of, loved, and well managed. We know your horses inside and out and can recognize when they may not be feeling well, when they are frisky and when to watch our toes, and when they are sick or hurt and require monitoring for an efficient recovery. But going along with this, we also watch out for you. You may have seeked out a boarding barn for arena access, to know that you will have someone close by in case something were to happen, or to be in an organized environment to learn more if you are a new horse owner. A boarding barn is the perfect place to accomplish all of these needs.

This is a collaboration of ten important roles that barn managers are familiar with. There are many more out there and each and every one are significant. After shadowing a barn manager for the past 6 months, I have truly learned and experienced what running a full fledged facility is really like. I hope that I can do half as good of a job as she has.

Part of this blog was created as an assignment to myself. I would have loved to have a job working with horses all day, everyday. But with the real world and ‘growing up’ on the doorstep I have had to really think about what I want in life and if working in a horse barn was another phase that most horse crazy girls grow out of, or if I could justify holding a position of the like with a four year college degree. As you can see, I have justified the job as more than just shoveling poop, and for that I am grateful.

A Glance at the Author

Hey y’all! My name is Sami Johnson and I am from rural Southwest Missouri. For a little background about myself, I am currently a senior studying Animal Science from Missouri State University. Long story short, I am about to put my big girl pants on and enter the real world. But there is a twist on things, I am taking life by the reins and am chasing a future career with horses. To some this seems like a dream, but to me this is a long term goal. I guess that you could say that it should come naturally to me as my world has revolved around horses since I was 6 years old, but the real world still is scary and intimidating. The process of turning a hobby into a career is exhilarating, but the fear of failure is real.

My educational journey involved in agriculture first started at Aurora High School where I was actively involved in FFA. I wondered off my career path and successfully judged livestock, where I was led to Indianapolis for national convention, the UK for the Royal Highland Show, and finally Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College where I completed my Associate’s Degree in General Agriculture. While at NEO, I was a rider on their very first IHSA Western Horsemanship team where I competed against other collegiate riders in our region. After completing school in lovely Miami, OK I moved on to my hometown college of MSU where I am currently wrapping up my Bachelor’s Degree. As a college student, I plan to reflect on several of my favorite, frustrating, and fun filled moments that I had along the way being an ag student.

Blog-About me

Currently, I am employed at a beautiful facility known as Black Diamond Stables in Rogersville, MO. My two lovely mares reside there, along with about 50 others that we are responsible caring for on a daily basis. In addition to being a farm hand and a fellow boarder, I also am a ARIA certified riding instructor where I specialize in giving beginner/intermediate level riding lessons and help others spark their love of horses. From time to time, I even ride a few horses for others and give tune-ups. The bosses, boarders, horses, and fellow coworkers are wonderful. There are so many lessons to learn in an environment like it, many experiences to share, and even a few situations that make you shake your head but that’s really just what life is about.

I hope that you will check in from time to time to see what I have been up to and get to know me more along the way!