Be smart about the equine business….

Just like many of you reading this blog post, we have all been on Facebook lately and have seen the warning posts going out to others of misfortune dealings with shady parties. It seems like this happens more and more around the holidays as people are scrambling to find deals on ponies for their children, or sell horses before winter sets in. After seeing several this week, it made me wonder exact what kind of Missouri legislation is out there that we all need to be aware about.

1. Avoid “backyard” trainers.

Parents, we know that horses routinely steal the hearts of children and beg for ponies of their own, but in reality there is usually a middle ground that is met with riding lessons. No purchase of an animal larger than your dog, someone else cleans up after it and feeds it, your child still gets the experience, and you get pictures of them riding to attach to the Christmas newsletter. Best of both worlds, right? It certainly can be, but can also be a nightmare waiting to happen. Just as in any area, Southwest Missouri is notorious for having rednecks, and some of our horse professionals certainly are no exception.

lesson 1

 

The Missouri equine legislation recognizes liability of equine accidents…but there are always exceptions. Please see the following taken directly from the Missouri Equine Council website:

 Similar to many state statutes, the Missouri statute contained certain exceptions which provided that the equine professional would NOT be immune from liability in certain instances involving conduct which should be foreseeable and thus preventable by the professional. These exceptions provided that there would be NO IMMUNITY of the equine professional if it was proven they (paraphrased):
1. Provided faulty tack
2. Mismatched horse and rider
3. Failed to warn of known latent (not easily discoverable) conditions on the land
4. Evidenced willful or wanton disregard for safety
5. Committed an intentional injury
6. Failed to use that degree of care that an ordinarily careful and prudent person would use under the same or similar circumstances.
RSMo §537.325.4(1 – 6) (1994)

I want to take a second to reflect on the importance of #2. Matching a horse and rider is a knowledge, as well as a skill. The instructor must not only gain a background from the rider as a sense of orientation, but they must also know their horses well enough to make a competent match. Don’t be afraid to ask the trainer questions about their qualifications, experiences, etc, as you are not only entrusting them enough to pay them, but to also trust your child’s safety with them.

lesson 3

 

2. Cover yourself in horse dealings.

Too many times people stay careless in horse sales in this area. A firm handshake and a head nod may have been true enough to uphold a person’s word 50 years ago, but we certainly live in a different era now. I hate to see anyone get taken advantage of in a shady dealing, or scammed by a desperate soul so in hopes to help my readers out, I have a “cheat sheet” of necessary sale precautions to keep you from getting a headache!

A. Always have a bill of sale.

B. Horses should  always be sold “as is”.

C. Encourage a vet check on the sale horse.

D. Always draft up contracts for sale trials, leases, payments, etc.

E. Buyer should always release themselves of liability.

lesson 2

 

The golden rule can be brought to mind in terms of how to handle shady situations, unfortunately far too few actually know what it truly means anymore. I hope this blog helps my equine readers, and that you all share with people in which you hope to help as well. Just always remember, to first look out for yourself, and as always…look out for the horse as well. 🙂

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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.

http://blog.ponyclub.org/2014/10/06/conditioning-the-horse-tips/

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!

http://horselistening.com/2012/06/02/top-10-ways-to-reward-your-horse/

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.

http://myhorse.com/blogs/horse-care/supplements/supplements-in-a-horse-diet-too-much-too-little-or-nothing-at-all/

http://horsetalk.co.nz/2013/01/20/is-vegetable-oil-good-horse-diet/#axzz3GBHLTCNG

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.

http://www.itsmypony.com/horse-care/hooves#sthash.WlJRlquB.dpuf

http://www.nimbusequine.com/Nimbus_Equine_Chiropractic/Equine_Chiropractic_Treatment.html

http://www.mypetarticles.com/7-things-you-need-to-know-about-equine-dentistry/

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!

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.

BDS

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.

BDS 2

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.