Taking Requests?

So this week I asked for requests! I had two people ask for two things that go hand in hand… in my opinion! Let’s see if I can help these ladies out!

One asked “how do we leg up a barrel horse that has been turned out for a bit” and the other asked “how can older women get “back” into riding after being out of it for a long while”. See what I mean? I think I can come up with ways for the horse and the rider to work together! Let’s give this a go!

First… when ever legging a horse back up, make sure everything is up to date! Don’t slack! Deworming, dental, vaccines, farrier, body work… all detrimental to the well being of the horse! Also, for horse and rider, STRETCH!!!!! Lynx and I have a series of stretches mentioned in previous blogs! Humans, stretch like you are getting ready to do hot yoga! Touch your toes and HOLD for 10 seconds! Step out and touch your opposite toe and hold and vice versa! Stretch your front legs and back legs (that is a joke) and don’t forget your shoulders!!!!! Also, make sure you, yes you, are properly geared up for riding! Good sports bra, comfy jeans, good boots that fit, etc!!!

Moving forward… when getting back into riding for the horse and/or the rider, we must determine WHY the time off. For example, did the horse have an injury? Did the human have an injury? Once you have been cleared by your vet/doctor to begin riding, that is literally the first step. The easiest step is getting cleared to ride! The next step is the hardest… starting to ride AGAIN! So after all of your gear checks and stretching, it’s time to decide how to proceed. For me, I like to lounge or work the horse in the round pen before putting my boot in the stirrup! It might be fear, it might be me watching the horse for signs of distress, it might be a easy way to get the necessary “walk/trot” warm up in for my mount! Or all of the above!

Horses, like humans, need to be warmed up before riding! I prefer to long trot lynx 3-5 laps each direction in my field which is about 1/2 mile of long trotting. Then I will progress into loping. Again, 3-5 laps each direction. If we have had time off, this will be more trotting, less loping and it will make the rider a bit sore! So I also walk and stretch while my horse is walking!!!!!!!! Touch my toes in the saddle!!! Reach back and touch his tail! Reach forward and touch his ears! Trust me! STRETCH! Also, this gives your horse a chance to walk! The more you ride, the more you warm up! But start off with more trotting and less loping!

My first rides after time off normally last about 15-20 minutes. I don’t want to push too much on a horse that is out of shape or that can re-injure himself. Also, my body will be screaming by this point! I highly recommend unsaddling then brushing the horse down from head to toe while stretching yourself as well. Make sure said horse is 100% cooled down before turning them out! Also check any prior injuries to make sure you did not re-injure them!!! Then go in the house and soak yourself. You will be sore!

One thing about rehab and conditioning is… repeat! Yes! You must work with this horse daily! However, it doesn’t have to be strenuous daily! In fact, day two might be a nice leisurely walk. It would be good for both of you to ride on day two but also take it easy! I prefer to start with working out every other day and easy ride in between. Take your time! Both of you need to build back up!

If you and your horse are sore, might I recommend a product that I personally use??? Summit! Now they have a human formula too!!! Feel free to ask me all about it! In all seriousness, legging a horse and yourself back up takes time! 🤟🏻

Mental Health

We all have issues. Sometimes those issues are not outwardly apparent to others. My issue is anxiety. My horses keep me sane in a way that no one else can. Problem is, I can’t avoid interaction when my anxiety takes over. So, instead I surround myself with like minded individuals who understand where I am at when I have an attack. They know that when o have an episode, I need help. I need someone else to fill my shoes and help me to get through it. Anxiety is really hard to understand if you have never experienced it. Many people have it and try to cover it up. I will say that it has crippled me more than once.

Last night, I had a 4 hour episode that I’m sure was compounded over weeks if not months of issues. I felt like my heart might jump ship. I had pain. Lots of pain in my head , chest and arm. No sleep. I did not have random thoughts. It just hit me. I had to breathe through it and finally fell asleep. Lucky for me, I have great friends that stepped in to help me today. Normally, after an attack, I would stay in bed and shut off from the world. That was NOT an option today. But in the end, I realize I have awesome friends! They stepped up to be me. They helped me. They understood. I got the chance to just work with the mare by myself and focus just on that. I needed it. My lesson kiddo was covered and even loped in the big field!!!!

Anxiety is one of those things that is really hard to explain. It’s almost like a seizure. After a bad attack, you are drained. You can’t explain WHY it happened. Sometimes it’s just a compound of life. Sometimes it’s a rainy day. Seriously, anything can set it off. It’s draining. It can be painful. It’s embarrassing. It’s traumatic. However, you can live with it. I don’t think it will ever go away 100%. Learning to manage it is key. I can say that my horses are almost the only thing that can 100% calm me.

With this being said, I’d be happy to offer advice to anyone who is experiencing anxiety. I have lived with it for over 20 years. It is REAL. It can be crippling. And it’s OK. Take a day or two to recover. Write down what your trigger was. Or at least your thoughts leading up to the episode. I have found mindfulness helpful. Reach out!!!!! You are not alone!

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!