What does it take to own a horse…

I get asked a lot about what it takes to own a horse. I must say that there is a lot of Finacial aspects to owning a horse but in my mind, knowledge is key. Let’s break this down.

First, what do they eat? Understanding how to properly feed a horse to maintain their weight yet not allowing them to be fat is very important. I personally own a 20 yo and a 19yo now. If I went by the feeding standards, I would think “oh they need senior feed!” But in my case, that is not true! The horse pictured is Splash, my 19 year old gelding. All of my horses are on Nutrena Safe Choice Perform. I chose this feed because it is high in fat and calories and provides the necessary pre/probiotics to eliminate supplementing them. So it is higher in cost ($19 a bag) but taking out the $50 a bag of pre/probiotics I was purchasing every other month, it really saves me on expenses. I also like to feed less and gain more. The higher fat content, that is not corn, really seems to help MY horses. They all eat about 1.5# twice a day and maintain their healthy weight. Being able to feed less and keep them healthy is a priority. I also consider my forage and mineral content of my pasture as they are all on pasture 24/7. Just because it works for me does not mean it will work for you. It’s a trial an error type thing. I have tried different brands and just saw them fill out or drop weight. I don’t like to pour feed into my horses. I feel the more processed grains we feed, the higher the chance of colic. My main barrel horse, Lynx, also gets alfalfa. The rest are on a coastal mix hay. So my feeling is that knowledge of how to feed a horse is worth its weight in gold! Also, you need to consider your pasture, or stalling situation.

Another thing that goes into the horse is proper hoof management. Without good feet, you have no horse. Good farriers are few and far between as the chore of trimming and putting shoes on horses is hard on the body. It’s a talent and a skill. I prefer a farrier that actually rides and competes. It seems they have a better working knowledge of how to do things properly. Think of it this away… you don’t want someone cutting your lawn that doesn’t have a lawn. Working knowledge of what it takes to help a horse get a grip and perform to their best of their ability helps the farrier to help your horse. My farrier is a roper. He shows up on time and does a good job. He doesn’t make drastic changes unless needed and doesn’t make my horses sore. Also, he has a good knowledge of horses in general. This means that he doesn’t pick fights with my horses for being horses. They are calm around him and he is able to get the job done correctly without too much arguing!

Next is tack. Saddles and tack. Quality is not cheap. However, you can choose bling or go for simple. Personally, my daily tack is plain. I want something made of good leather that will last. I don’t like foreign made tack. I prefer American made! I also like it to be leather. Leather will break of stuff hits the fan! I have seen so many situations where… if the tack had broken, the horse would not have broken. Does that make sense? When I say this, I’m talking about daily tack. I do have a nice leather set for both Splash and Lynx for competition. I did not pay much for it, but again, American made, good leather and pretty but simple! My saddles are also American made (actually Texas made) and quality. I actually prefer used saddles as I HATE breaking in a new saddle!!!! I also buy my saddles to fit my horses. So many folks try to make the saddle fit the horse and honestly, I have done it as well. But finding a good saddle to fit what you are riding is so important!!! It’s like wearing boots that don’t fit! Miserable for the horse if the saddle doesn’t fit them!!!

Trucks and trailers are part of owning a horse. If you plan to have a horse, you NEED a truck and trailer! It doesn’t have to be fancy! Sturdy is the key! Personally, I own a 2003 sooner trailer and a 2007 and a 2003 dodge pickup. I have learned I love the feel of a Diesel engine when pulling my trailer. I drove gasoline vehicles half of my life and the weight ratio was always off. My load out weighed my truck. When I am pulling with my diesel, I feel balanced! My trailer isn’t fancy but is just what I need. I can have trailer envy like anyone but do I really need a 15′ short wall with a slide out? No. I don’t. It’s normally just me and a friend. I have two beds (one is a couch that makes a bed) a shower, toilet and a TV. What more could I need? I also have heat and air conditioning. Even for short trips, this can be a life saver for me! But everyone is different. Figure out what you want to do and go from there. If you want to make close to home trips with no over night stays, do you really need living quarters????? Nope! But a place to store your tack and a comfortable way to haul your animals is a must.

My last section is reflecting back to my first sentiment. KNOWLEDGE. Learn as much as you can before making the jump into ownership! Don’t put the cart before the horse. Learn about how to handle a horse, ride, what is a good home for them, and how to care for them. It’s a huge investment. Buying the horse is easy. The rest adds up. Take some lessons. Go ride with friends. Figure out what you need as a rider before taking the jump. Learn how to handle the horse in a way that you won’t get hurt. After all, a 1200# horse can hurt or even kill you in a split second. Knowing how to handle them to get them to respect you and you learning to respect them is so important!!! Horse can be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Knowledge is key!

A Good Freeze

In Texas, near Dallas, we get a few good hard freezes a year. As a horse owner, this can be a time of distress due to cold temps coming on suddenly and causing colic. We also have to make sure our horses keep drinking even though they do not like the icy water. We add salt/minerals to their diet to ensure their desire to drink is strong. We want to keep them hydrated! I know that a lot of folks in the colder states feel that we are over doing a lot of things. Like blanketing. But the issue is simple. We could have a 40-50 degree temperature drop and rise in one day. Welcome to Texas! Our horses are not likely to be 100% prepared for the rapid changes! So yes, we might sheet or blanket our horses when the temps drop below 40 or we have cold rain/snow as we did already this week!

There are so many benefits to a good freeze! For one, our winter grass depends on these freezing temperatures. Without it, the winter forage cannot thrive. Add in a lack of rain, and guess what? No grass! Our warmer types of grass will die off and without a good freeze, the winter grass will not come into play. This means we have to rely on more hay to keep them satisfied!

Another bonus to a good freeze is killing off pests! It seems I was still utilizing fly spray into November. That is crazy! A good freeze will kill off the flying pests! It also helps to kill the fleas and other annoying bugs. So, even though we don’t like to be cold, we truly need a good hard freeze (or 5) to reset the insect population!

As far as barrel racing goes, I’m a fair weather racer! In fact, I much prefer summer in Texas with temps reaching the 100° plus temps over winter amy day! Why? I can cool down. It’s hard for me to warm up! But we shall trudge on and keep going because, well, in Texas, barrel racing is year round!

So I took a photo of the morning sunrise over the pasture today. I want to remember WHY we need a good freeze! Our high today will reach near 50°. I’m sure we will hit that in a couple of hours. I bet the four legged children will love to shed their blankets and run around like crazy kids soon! My point of this post is simply that a good freeze will benefit us in so many ways. So instead of cursing the cold, we need to embrace it!

What Do I Do With My Degrees? Yes Plural…

When you are in High School, you dream about what you want to be when you grow up. Most of us. Most of us follow a different path. Well, I didn’t, not really.

When I was in High School, I decided I wanted to teach agricultural education. I knew I wanted my bachelors degree in Animal Science with an emphasis on Equine. I wanted to teach. I knew I didn’t want to be a vet because I HATE chemistry!!!! Once I was a junior, I realized I could not hack chemistry or algebra 2. So my mind was made up. I set off to SHSU, Huntsville, TX to get a degree in Animal Science….. did I want to go there? Not really. But being at a school with 75% being honor students, my GPA was not in the top half with A’s, B’s and a C in chemistry/algebra…. so I went to Sam Houston. It was fun and a bit too easy! I transferred out my sophomore year over to Texas A&M! WHOOP! I came in to TAMU as a junior. I had to BEG Dr. Hesby to let me in with my 2.98 GPA. (Chemistry again) but I got in! I proudly graduated on time in May of 2001 with a 3.07 GPA and a degree in Animal Science with an emphasis in Equine Science…. Now what? Whoops… I forgot to get my teacher certification while I was there 🤦🏼‍♀️. I promptly gained employment as a County Extension Agent for 4-H in Orange County, Texas! Yes, I had offers with Purina and a chicken production plant, but that wasn’t really what I wanted. I wanted to TEACH! I wanted to share my love and knowledge of animals with others!

After two years of gainful employment, I developed a health condition. It took me out of work for 13 weeks. I was working on my Masters Degree online with TAMU. My doctor told me I needed to change my environment. Sigh. I loved my kiddos and my parents in 4-H, but… my health was at risk. At this point in my life, I didn’t know what to do. So, I quit my job and went back to school to work on my Masters. I moved back to College Station, TX! It was amazing! My health condition almost instantly resolved! (Anxiety with paralyzing side effects). But, again, I had ZERO idea of what I wanted to do with my life. All I knew was I loved horses, I wanted to teach and I wanted to keep learning.

While I was working on my Masters of Agricultural Education, I also worked. I worked for Tractor Supply and then a few vet clinics. Man oh man did I love working for Southwood Valley Veterinarian Clinic with Dr. Bond! I learned SO MUCH from him! In my spare time, between full time classes and two part time jobs, I continued on with Rachael’s Equine Services as an equine consultant and lesson instructor. I also barrel raced and trained a few horses. But then the time came where I had to decide to finish my thesis or graduate. If I chose to finish my thesis, I would have carried on to get my PHD and possibly taught college. But I was out of money. So I decided to graduate. I still had NO IDEA what I wanted to do with my life. I took a job at the TAMU School of Veterinary Science working with drunk sheep. Seriously! Fun job!

Moving on….. I finally married the love of my life and moved. I managed to snag a some what part time job as the Director of Distance Learning for Sabine County through Angelina College. It was a decent job. Easy. But not really for me. My heart was not in it. Then I got pregnant (on purpose because we were married and wanted a child) and had to decide what to do next.

While I was pregnant I finished my corse work for my teaching certification. Issue was, I was pregnant and could not do my student teaching 🤷🏼‍♀️. I did substitute a lot. We moved to where we are now and I concentrated on raising my child and riding my horses. Eventually, I decided to go back to substitute teaching. It’s decent pay with a Masters Degree….. but I wasn’t 100% happy.

I worked part time for a photographer, Walt Mitchell, up until he passed away. A good friend of mine said “you need to work for yourself”. Of course I ignored that and gained employment with the State Fair of Texas as the Horse Show Coordinator. Again, it was decent but I wasn’t 100%. After that short 10 months, I decided to go all in with Rachael’s Equine Services.

Someone asked me, today, how I’m using my degrees. Well, now I’m educating all ages of how to ride and properly care for horses. I do sell things and clean things. But mostly, my days consist of me educating people about horses! It’s exactly what I want to do! I pick my own hours and spend my days riding! I also get to be home for my son!

Selling Summit was a game changer! Not only do I have plenty of students, I also sell a product that helps horses, dogs, and really, all animals! How cool is that?

Looking back at my high school self and my current self, I realize that I am where I need to be. If I had a full time job teaching, I would not be able to enjoy watching my son play baseball or any of his activities. I would not have the time to keep my horses legged up for a barrel race. God had a plan. My good friend was right. Finding out how to make Rachael’s Equine Services a full time gig was the best decision I could make!