Monday, December 20, 2010


From our saddle expert Linda.

My husband and I have been married for 23 years now. Poor guy married into the horse scene. The most pets his family had growing up was some dogs, a goat and some ducks. So this was a whole new experience for him. We dated for a while before we got married, so he totally knew what he was getting into before he "popped" the question. Throughout the years he has been supportive, but rides less and less as time goes by. He now "rides like the wind" about 2 to 3 times a year (only about an hour or so each ride!!), but at least he's out trying to enjoy it. He tells everyone he knows his "place" and that I would get rid of him before I'd get rid of the horses - which isn't true but we let him think so. I still have the Quarter Horse mare that he started out on. She's 27 now and still going on shorter rides--semi-retired, you could say.

When we were first married we would go camping with my brother and his family on weekend trips to different local state parks. My niece and nephew would love to ride with Uncle Rick (my husband) because he would always do something funny (and not on purpose). That is not a real confidence builder when a 6 and 8 year old are saying this to you as they are riding their own horses.

One time we decided to venture out and go to a state park about an hour away. This park had sand trails with hills and was totally different from what we were used to riding on. We normally would be in wooded areas or hard packed dirt trails. So this would be a new and exciting riding weekend---or so I thought. We got all packed up and away we went. This was before we had kids so there wasn't as much packing to be done. It was in the fall so the horses were starting to get their winter hair. It was cooler at night but warmed up during the day when the sun was out. Well, they weren't used to riding in this sandy ground so they really worked up a sweat at times.

My husband got his back adjusted before we went on this trip (which now I'm wondering why before and not after, but that's beside the point). So we headed out for a nice leisurely ride, just the two of us going along, enjoying the scenery. I was leading with my Arabian and he was following on the Quarter Horse. All of a sudden, I hear a big commotion and him starting to holler. I thought, "Great, what has happened now?" I look back and there he was standing up, still with his feet in the stirrups and still straddling the horse---but his feet were on the ground! I yelled back to him "Get off, you dummy, she is going to roll!"

I'm thinking: broken leg or ankle, being dragged through the camp, there goes his back again---all kinds of things are going through my head.

He's thinking: "Quicksand!! What kind of a state park would have quicksand in the middle of the trail?!! How in blazes are we going to get her out? You can't get a crane back here. There's no way we'll get her free!"

Isn't it funny how differently minds work!! This is all happening in seconds. Well, the horse got onto her side and then decided this was a bad idea. My husband is standing there just watching this whole thing going down, not thinking he should at least hold the reins until she gets back up. Well, she did get back up and took off down the trail heading back to camp. I'm deciding whether to go after her or stay there and get my husband up on the Arabian which doesn't ride double well with a saddle. He would do fine with no saddle but I wasn't leaving my saddle out there. At this point my husband is yelling "You go after her. I'm done riding. I don't care if she doesn't make it back to camp," on and on he goes but I was gone at that point. Needless to say he was not happy with her. He could not believe an animal would try to roll with a saddle on her back. He tells everyone "They have a brain the size of a walnut, you know".

Well, she made it back to camp, ran right up to our hitching rail covered with sand on one side and clean as a whistle on the other. My Mom came up to me as I rode up and wanted to make sure everything wass alright because it was quite a scene with a sand-covered horse running into camp without her rider and me running up behind her. I said we were fine and I would tell her later what had happened. My brother was sitting at the campfire and just knew there was going to be good campfire stories that night. Well, my husband made it back before dark and eventually could talk about his adventure. Alot of folks have gotten a kick out of it. We were even camping at our local state park and had some people riding by and said "There he is! There the quicksand guy!!" We obviously knew part of them but he has become famous from his incident. He definitely tells a better version of it so if you want his side of the story, you will have to ask him.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fall Time Camping

From our saddle expert Linda.

I believe camping in the fall is my most favorite time to camp. This fall was especially a great fall to camp here in Indiana. It's been dry but beautiful. Cool enough to chase the bugs away yet warm enough to wear just a sweatshirt in the afternoon. I enjoyed camping with a group of ladies. We were able to go about 5 times since the end of September which is good, for all of us and our busy schedules. We would go over the weekend and have so much fun that we would set it up to go again in 2 weeks.

The one weekend in October proved to be quite trying but in looking back it was truly a memory maker:

We were not going to be able to get to the campground until about 5ish so we knew we would be racing the clock to get set up and supper made before dark. We pulled up to the main gate and there was a line to just get into the park. No problem - it's the second weekend in October, the peak color time in IN so we weren't too shocked until we went up to the gate house to pay to get in and she told us that the horseman's campground was full!! Now if you have ever packed for horse camping you know what is all involved. There's alot of time and effort in remembering everything for you and your horses. I'm fortunate to have a living quarters in my trailer so I can store alot of things in there that can stay there for the season but you still have alot of last minute things to get around: your clothes for all kinds of weather, your food, all the horse stuff that you need - hay, feed, buckets, blankets, emergency kits, etc. So our hearts just sank at the thought of just turning around and heading back home. The gal was checking with the park ranger to see if the overflow sites would be available for us to stay on which was great but there was only two overflow sites and we needed three sites and they were not next to each other and when you camp together, normally you want to be close enough to share the campfire and suppers if you choose to do so. So we talked and thought we could make do. It was better than heading back home for the weekend. We prayed the horses would all get along at the hitching rail and the walking, we decided would do us good.

So we got the go ahead to head back to the horseman's campground, which by now we had people lined up behind us out on the highway waiting to get in. We got back to the gatehouse to the campground and the guy there told us we would have to go back to the main entrance to pay for the weekend stay!! He also told us that there were three sites right inside the campground right next to each other that was open. We said why not and pulled on to those sites. Now a little voice inside my head kept saying, "Don't unload everything until you know this is for real." I've had to pack up and move everything before because of a mess up and it's not fun. So we unloaded the horses and high tailed it back to the main gate. Good thing we didn't set up camp because we had to move. The sites were only open for Friday night and we needed sites for the whole weekend. We paid for our two sites that weren't next to each other and out in the middle of the campground, but we could stay for the weekend. Thankfully the horses got along fine with each other and our neighbors didn't mind us cutting through their sites to get to our friends site. We got everything set up - in the dark and horses feed and was making our chili over the fire at about 9 pm. What an evening!!

During the night we started to hear this pecking on the roof of our trailers. It was starting to rain. Oh, well, it should stop before we get rolling in the morning. It didn't stop until about noon but we did get to sleep in some, leisurely eat our breakfast and just plain relax which most of us needed anyway. Only one problem--when the rain stopped it started getting windy, and when you are out on the prairie, not much is stopping the wind. Didn't think too much about it. It wasn't a cold wind so let's ride!! We got back from a couple hour ride and was getting something to eat when my mom stated that she thought we might want to tie down the awning because some of those gusts of wind would really make it rattle good. No sooner did she get that out of her mouth then we heard this horrible crash and alot of light was shining in. The awning had blown up and over the horse trailer!! breaking one of the arms that attach it to the trailer. God bless good neighbors. One of our neighbors seen it go and came over to help us get it rolled back up and tied onto the trailer to at least get it back home to get fixed. You should have seen people scrambling to get their awnings tied down after ours went for a ride!! Glad we could help them out in sending out the warning at the expense of our awning. It was an older one anyway with a few problems but it still worked up until then.

Despite all the set backs, we had the best time. You'd wake up Sunday morning and there was a light fog settling over the whole campground as the sun was coming up. At night you would smell the campfires burning, the coolness setting in and maybe later on in the evening a raccoon would pay you a visit. It was just priceless to be there. The riding was magnificent. We would ride through the woods and watch the leaves falling and see how the landscape would change from each season and really each week. Totally awesome! Riding through the pines has got to be the best. The smell of the pines can never be bottled, it's so refreshing and clean that it sticks in you mind forever. My friend and I would take our geldings on one of the trails that was towards the back side of the park where there wasn't much traffic and just let the boys run through the woods. It was amazingly invigorating. I think they were having as much fun as we were. What a ride!! And that is why you go through all you do when you camp - it's for the ride!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Meet Our Customer

We want you to meet one of our very special friends. She’s 6 yrs old, she’s from Texas, and her favorite color is definitely pink. Her name is Darcy Cassidy. When Darcy was 5 years old, doctors discovered that she had ATRT, one of the rarest and deadliest forms of brain cancer. She had emergency surgery and has been going to St.Jude’s Hospital for treatment ever since. Darcy and her family recently received the good news that she has been cancer free for over a year!

We came into contact with the Cassidy’s last November when Darcy’s mom Cathy called us looking for a saddle with a pink seat for a Christmas gift for Darcy. Well, Darcy got a new Dakota dk300 saddle with a pink seat. According to Cathy, Darcy sat on the saddle all morning and didn’t stop smiling. Here’s a picture of Darcy on her horse Doc last Christmas after receiving her saddle.

Cathy shared with us, “We believe in the plan that God has and we'll see it unfold as he wants us to.” We’re thankful to God’s kindness to the Cassidy's.

Darcy was featured on the Today Show on Tuesday 11/23/10. Click here to see it.

To keep up with Darcy, you can click here

Glossary of Horse Terms

Hock: Financial condition of all horse owners.
Stall: What your rig does at rush hour in an unfamiliar city on the way to a big trail ride.
A Bit: What you have left in your pocket after you’ve been to your favorite tack shop.
Fence: Decorative structure built to provide your horse with something to chew on.
Horse Auction: What you think of having after your horse bucks you off.
Pinto: Green coat pattern found on freshly washed light colored horses left unattended for 2 minutes.
Well Mannered: Hasn’t stepped on, bitten, or kicked anyone for a week.
Rasp: Abrasive metal tool used to remove excess skin from ones knuckles.
Lunging: Popular training method in which a horse exercises their owner by spinning them in circles until dizzy.
Gallop: Customary gait a horse chooses when returning back to the barn.
Nicely Started: Lunges, but not enough health insurance to even think about riding him.
Colic: Gastro-intestinal result of eating at horse fair food stands.
Colt: What your mare gives you when you want a filly.
Easy to Load: Only takes 3 hours, 4 men, a 50lb bag of oats, and a tractor with loader.
Easy to Catch: In a 10x10 stall.
Easy Rider: Rides good in a trailer; not to be confused with "ride-able".
Endurance Ride: End result when your horse spooks and runs away with you.
Hives: What you get when receive the vet bill for your 6 horses, 3 dogs, 4 cats, and 1 donkey.
Hobbles: Walking gait of a horse owner after their foot has been stepped on by their horse.
Feed: Expensive substance used to manufacture manure.
Dog House: What you are in when you spend too much money on grooming supplies and pretty halters.
Light Cribber: We can’t afford to build anymore fencing or box stalls for this buzz saw on four legs.
Three Gaited Horse: A horse that… 1) trips, 2) stumbles, 3) falls

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Before the Snow Falls: Getting Your Barn Ready for the Winter

By: Darlene M. Cox

While it may be hard to fathom during late summer or early fall that snow will be blowing; winter will be here before you know it. Now is the time to prepare your barn for the winter months. Anticipation for the cold season ahead and advanced preparation for such will make the transition into the winter season much easier and safer for you and your horses. Here are a few suggestions on how to transition your barn from summer to winter:

  • Clear the clutter. Clean out your tack room. Inventory your tack and grooming implements. Toss the ones that are worn or broken. Recoup some cash for those that you may have duplicates of (Ebay, garage sale, tack auction, etc.). Clean up aisle ways, wash bays, indoor arenas. Remove stall fans to storage, inspecting them for any damage to electrical cord and components, Discard if any are noted. Store light-weight sheets and blankets, replacing them with winter blankets to have readily available for those cold and frigid turnout mornings. If any blanket needs to be repaired, now is the time to do it. If the aisle way to your barn is pea gravel, you may consider bringing in a new load and raking it smooth to provide for stable and dry footing over the winter months. Warm weather delivery serves the dual purpose of advance preparedness and prevents muddy tire trenches that may result from winter time gravel delivery.
  • Inventory your medicine cabinet and cleaning/grooming supply chest and remove any items that will freeze or somehow be adversely affected or damaged by cold temperatures. This would be a good time to take note of what medical or grooming supplies you might need to replace or purchase explicitly for winter-time usage.
  • Indoor air quality is very important to horses and humans alike during the winter months. Dispose of old hay and bedding. Sweep out dusty hay loft floors; de-cobweb stalls and aisle ways, particularly around lighting fixtures.
  • Inspect all electrical components. Make sure your outlet boxes are cleaned of cobwebs and dust, and are securely mounted. Inspect outlet ports for power, noting those that are not working properly as the wiring may need to be inspected by an electrician. Inspect wiring for any wear and tear. If damage is noted, contract a licensed electrician to replace. Inspect electrical cords of any electrical implement that may be used. Replace all fuses and double check that the correct fuse is installed appropriately (i.e., if the slot in the electrical box calls for 10 amp fuse, don't put a 30 amp fuse in). Check the circuit box for weak circuits. Fire/electrocution hazards can be prevented by replacing weak circuits and blown fuses. Inspect fire extinguishers for charge. Replace batteries in existing smoke detectors. If you don't have smoke detectors, consider installing them. Inspect any electric water-heating devices for wear and damage. Discard and replace if any is noted.
  • Insulate any exposed water pipes with spray polyurethane foam, do not use electrical tape. Replace water hose with one that does not freeze.
  • Prepare stalls for usage by installing stall mats or bedding that will alleviate the build up of excessive ammonia from urine. Ammonia can damage your horse's lungs and be a major contributory factor for upper respiratory infection. The rule of thumb is: if you can smell ammonia, the damage has already been done. Re-working the stalls will also provide better footing and prevent possible casting incidences.
  • Check all the hardware (latches, hinges, etc.) on stall doors to ensure they are not damaged or in need of replacement. Horses have been seriously injured by damaged stall door hardware.
  • Eliminate excessive draftiness. While you do not necessarily want an air-tight barn, neither do you want one that is so drafty your horse may be inordinately chilled. Seal any major air leaks in stalls by repairing/replacing boards and/or window shutters.
Being proactive and prepared for the upcoming winter season will ease you into winter with a lot fewer worries during those cold winter nights when you know your horses are comfortable and warmly bedded down in their stalls. Happy trails!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Meet Our Saddle Experts: Linda

Linda is our saddle expert in charge of our used saddle division. Here she shares with you how she became a horse owner. The pictures feature Linda with her current horse, Scout.
When I was a little girl, I had always loved horses. After I had "proved" that I was responsible enough to keep my cats and dog fed, my parents agreed to let me have a pony. Because my Dad was raised around horses but never had a real "love" for them and my Mom had a "healthy" fear of them, this was quite an accomplishment in my eyes. I never thought I would get my first horse until I was out on my own and then I was going to have alot of them. As a kid, you have no concept of expenses!!

My Aunt and Uncle had a pony that no one paid much attention to unless I went over for the weekend. So they said I could buy him for $75, saddle included (those were the days). I was elated. I knew this wasn't going to be easy because at the time, we really didn't have a place for him to stay; so the $75 soon grew into a couple hundred, since Dad had to build a little barn and fence for him. Eventually it all came together and Sandy came to live with us. I rode him all over the fields and neighborhood. But there was one problem: I was growing taller and he was not. I soon would need a bigger horse. It was not going to be easy again to convince my folks of this because a bigger animal means a bigger appetite.

Friends of ours knew my situation and wanted to give me their old mare. I didn't see any problem with this but, again, had no concept of the expense. The barn was big enough for two, because I didn't want to give up Sandy, but more pasture had to be fenced in. I remember going out to help Dad work on the fence one afternoon and he was going along putting the insulators on the fence posts while my pony was going along right behind him pulling them off. I thought this was a hoot but Dad didn't see much humor in it!

Well the day finally came to get my mare, Cindy. (Isn't that funny, Cindy and Sandy?) They came named that way. We didn't have a horse trailer so we borrowed a truck with stocksides on it (it looked like wooden gates that extended up to make a box on the bed of the truck with an open top so the animal didn't feel completely enclosed. Well, we got her loaded and as soon as we got going down the road, she started whinnying and stomping. You would have t
hought she was a wild mustang. In the cab of the truck, there was a very tense silence. No one talked, although you couldn't have heard each other with all the racket in the back anyway. I thought Dad was going to stop the truck and just let her out to be free.

We did make it home. All our neighbors knew we where coming before they even seen us. She was loud and not happy!! We got her unloaded by having to back up to the driveway because that helped to make the drop out of the back of the truck not as steep. That went fairly smoothly, but now Sandy and Cindy had to meet. Sandy was a little gelding and Cindy was a mare - this was quite another show to be seen. Dad lead Cindy up to the stall door where Sandy had his head sticking out waiting anxiously to see this new friend. All went well the first minute then Cindy let out the normal mare scream, which none of us had ever heard before, and stomped her front legs. She stomped in the only mud that was around and guess who got covered in mud - you guessed it - my Dad. I don't remember much after that except that I must have run for my life because why would he go through all this for an animal that he didn't even care for? I never knew until now. I have my own kids now and you do things for them that you normally wouldn't think of doing. It's not for the animal, bike or activity, it's for the kids.

I'm so thankful my folks had allowed me to have horses even though it's not what they were in to. Those horses kept me busy and mostly out of trouble...or maybe they got me into trouble! They brought me so much joy and happiness and still do. I've had horses ever since and hope to for along time yet. What's your story?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Santa, I Want a Horse for Christmas

By Darlene M. Cox

Yes, mom and dad, your little one may indeed be considering asking the jolly, old elf to bring him a horse this Christmas. But, how do you know he is really ready to have a horse of his own? Is he ready for the responsibility of horse ownership? A horse isn’t like the bicycle he received for his birthday that now forlornly sits resting awkwardly against the side of the garage, unnoticed and unused for weeks.

Realistically, it will be you, mom and dad, who will bare the lion’s share of caretaking responsibility for any equine that Santa and his reindeer places in your barn. Are you ready for the task? Therefore, when Santa’s assistant contacts you to advise you of your child’s Christmas wish, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does my child possess a real desire to own a horse? One way to be affirmatively assured of your child’s love for horses would be his incessant conveyance about wanting a horse of his own or other outward indications that he truly enjoys them. Does he ride stick horses around the yard? Does he draw pictures of horses in play? Does he pretend to ride a horse when he watches a western on television? Does he often point out pastured horses as you speed by them in your car?
  2. What is your child’s experience level with horses? Has he been exposed to horses on a regular basis? Perhaps you own other horses. Does your child assist with grooming or feeding chores? Will he require riding lessons? If so, from whom will those lessons be given? I recommend that lessons be obtained from a reputable trainer who has experience with teaching children to ride. Lessons given to children students are offered in a different format than those given to adult students. I would recommend that you interview the trainer and visit their barn to determine their level of training experience. Steer clear of your neighbor down the road who happens to own a horse and would be more than willing to let your child learn to ride on his horse. If your child has spent some time in the saddle, what riding experience level has he reached? Will the gift horse match your child’s experience level? It is important that you purchase a horse that will match the child’s level of riding experience. A horse that is too advanced will intimidate your child, and may even pose hazardous risk of injury.
  3. How committed are you to the care the new horse will require? Where will the horse be kept, at your own barn/property or at a boarding stable? If in a boarding situation, will your monthly finances support the care and upkeep required? The purchase price of the horse will be the least expensive when stacked up next to the care and upkeep over a period of time.
  4. What ultimate goal do you envision for your child and his horse? Trailriding, 4-H Club, showing, jumping, Jr. rodeo?

Basically, it all comes down to your parental judgment and personal assessment of your child and his true desire to own his first horse. If the questions above can be answered truthfully and with positive answers indicating that conditions are right; and if you know your child to be one who handles responsibility and commitment well, then have no doubts he will be able to understand the important aspects of horse ownership. Then by all means, approve the Christmas wish list and tell Santa which stall he should leave the horse in on Christmas Eve.

Oh, and don’t forget to have plenty of film in your camera to catch those special first moments when your child discovers his very own horse looking at him from over the stall door.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Trails!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's that time again

Time to make Christmas history.

If you want to be the hero this holiday season, now is the time to start saddle shopping, especially if you'd like some custom work. Many of our manufacturers are ready to create something unique for your favorite someone!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Understanding the Needs of a Rescued Horse

This article is from our October monthly newsletter. Go to to get it straight to your inbox.

By: Darlene M. Cox,

When we fall upon hard economic times, our animals are the first casualties to suffer. Nothing is more evident of this than the vast number of horses that are being surrendered to horse rescue organizations or worse yet, neglected horses that have yet to be seized or surrendered.

Many of us who love horses have opened our hearts and barns to rehab a neglected horse. It is important that the needs of a rescued horse be understood because we may cause more harm than good. A neglected horse may present with many issues that need to be dealt with: starvation, bad teeth, over-grown feet, skin fungus, parasite infestations, etc. Each one of these afflictions can be cured, but you cannot tackle them all at once.

Veterinarian Assistance:

Contact your vet to examine and assess the rescued horse and to develop a rehabilitation plan. Also have your veterinarian provide you with a letter of care, which defines your role in rehabilitating the horse back to health and indicating that the horse is under veterinarian care. This letter may well protect you from the auspices of a concerned animal lover who happens to spot a malnourished horse on your property and reports it to animal cruelty organizations.


Our first thought upon seeing an emaciated, skeletal horse is to feed it; however, you cannot feed a rescued horse like you would a healthy horse. Keep in mind that it has taken this horse weeks if not months to deteriorate to such a body condition. His body has effectively been consuming itself in its quest for nourishment. If you immediately begin feeding grain and large quantities of hay, you will most likely cause a colic episode caused from impaction. This is because the horse's body is still in "starvation" mode. Rather, you have to change the body's way of thinking, moving it from "starvation" mode to "nourishment" mode. You can do this by first re-introducing clean grass hay or an alfalfa/grass hay mix. Feed about a pound of hay every three to four hours for the first three days. If the horse tolerates this feeding with no incidence of diarrhea or incidence of colic, you can gradually increase the amount of hay fed and decrease the number of feedings. By day number 7 and through day 13, you should be feeding around 3 to 4 pounds of hay every 6 to 8 hours, which totals around 12 to 13 pounds of hay each day. Again, if the horse is tolerating this amount of hay, you can offer free choice hay on day 14 on.

Grain should not be fed until the third week of rehabilitation and then only in small amounts (one handful) twice a day. Low protein grains (nothing higher than 12%) should be fed. As with hay, grain should be slowly increased over time; however, for grain this window of time is 30 days before arriving at a normal sized feeding, which should never exceed 5 pounds of grain.

Worming and Teeth Floating:

After a month of TLC and feeding as stated above, your rescued horse may be well enough to worm. Work with your veterinarian for the worming method that is best for your horse. Half-dose wormings may be called for to avoid problems caused from a large parasite load kill off.

If it is warranted, the horse's teeth can also be floated at this time.

Hoof Care:

Provided the horse can balance itself, you can treat thrush or other fungal infections of the hoof shortly after rescue. Trimming should wait until the horse is stronger. Overgrown hooves are best addressed by trimming a little at a time to prevent the horse's feet from becoming sore.


Vaccinations should not be given until the rehabilitated horse is well on the mend and has put most of its weight back on.

Rehabilitating a horse can be a long process, but you will find nothing more rewarding than knowing you have given him the opportunity to live and continue his days in good health.

Happy trails!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Answering a Cast(ing) Call

By Darlene M. Cox

As a horse owner, one circumstance you will most likely encounter will be assisting your horse when he becomes ‘cast’, which means when he has laid down in some fashion and is unable to get his feet under him in order to stand.

A horse can be severely injured and even die if he lays cast for a long period of time.

Horses are not designed to lie down for a long period of time and will have difficulty breathing if cast very long. Weight and the physical make up of his body will put a lot of pressure on his lungs causing suffocation. A horse may also twist a gut when thrashing around trying to free him. Cuts and abrasions may also be sustained from his struggles.

Casting situations may present themselves in a variety of ways. A stalled horse may find himself cast when he lies down and rolls. This most often will occur in stalls with dirt floors that have a dip or swale in them. The horse’s back will be in the depression with his hind feet against the wall. A similar scenario can happen in a paddock or field, with the horse finding his legs cast under a fence railing or through the wire mesh. Occasionally, a horse will find himself cast in a field when he lies down on an incline with his head pointing downhill and feet uphill. I’ve most often seen field casting in mares heavy in foal and older arthritic horses. I’ve even seen a horse cast in a trailer.

Depending upon the horse, this can be a pretty scary situation, both for the horse and his owner. Desensitizing your horse to having his feet entangled or held down by something will be valuable training if he finds himself cast, as he will remain calm until help arrives to free him from the predicament.

Don’t panic if you find your horse cast. Assess the situation before going in and trying to free up your horse. If your horse is in a panic and is thrashing his legs wildly, do not get around his feet, as you could be seriously injured. Cover his eyes with something (e.g., a towel), as this will be somewhat calming, and speak softly. In some casting situations, moving the horse’s head and shoulders will be enough for him to get his feet under him and allow him to stand. For others, it may be necessary to pull a leg or two around. Do not directly approach your horse’s legs. Instead, it is best to approach your horse from behind his back and loop a rope around the fetlock of the leg that is against the ground (or wall). Occasionally, you may need to loop ropes around both the front and rear ground-sided legs. Do not tie the rope. The loop will prevent the horse from injury as he struggles to stand or if he becomes more panicky. A tied rope may tighten causing injury or your horse may become further entangled in the rope whereby exacerbating the problem and causing additional panic. Once the loop(s) are in place, simply pull the horse over and away from the object that may be casting him. Step back quickly after you have rolled the horse free, as he will be in a hurry to stand.

Once your horse is standing and has calmed down, assess him for any injury that may have occurred from any struggles while cast. Pay particularly close attention to the heel bulbs, coronet bands, fetlocks, pasterns, knees, and hocks. Check for cuts, abrasions, and swelling.

I hope this article will be helpful to you if you answer your cast(ing) call.

Happy Trails!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Foal Watch: The Signs of Foaling

By Darlene M. Cox

Many of us who have owned broodmares can attest that there are certain signs that indicate foaling time is near. These signs most generally will fit into a time frame ranging from weeks, days, and hours to foaling.

It is best to start out with a general knowledge of when a mare was bred. Foaling is most likely to occur when a pregnancy reaches the gestational age between 320 and 370 days. Some folks may believe their mare is overdue once she reaches 345 days, with day 340 or 341 being the mean average. Remember that the gestational clock is run by the foal's internal battery, which will induce labor once the foal has adequately and sufficiently developed in utero.

Impending birth signs and their time span prior to foaling are estimated as follows:

  • 2 to 6 weeks - the mare's teats and udder will begin to swell and enlarge. Sometimes (in maiden mares, particularly) the udder and teats may swell and recede a couple of times. I've never noticed this occurring with established broodmares.
  • 1 week to 2 weeks - The croup muscles around the tail dock and vulva of the mare will begin to relax and feel "spongey." The vulva may appear swollen when it is relaxed.
  • 4 to 6 days - The mare's udder will fill with milk and the teats will become engorged.
  • 2 to 4 days - Waxing (leaking or streaming of colostrum) will form on the teats.
  • Hours to minutes - The mare will appear agitated and restless, even colicky-acting. She may bite or kick at her sides, or lay down repeatedly. Sweating may be obvious.

These signs, in their entirety, may or may not be exhibited by all mares. Most particularly of these are waxing and milk engorgement. Some mares do not wax at all and may not show signs of milk engorgement until shortly before birth.

Of particular noteworthiness is how each mare individually exhibits these signs. The impending birth signs a maiden broodmare exhibits will most likely stay with her throughout her breeding career. Interestingly, a mare will tend to deliver around the same timeframe, give or take an hour or two.

For those who are awaiting new arrivals this spring, good luck to you during your foal watch. I hope you are able to be witness to such a splendid event.

Happy Trails!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Beating the Heat: Keeping your Horse Cool during the Dog Days of Summer

Note: This article was featured in our recent newsletter. Didn't get it? Click here to subscribe for tips, coupons, and horse care information.

By: Darlene M. Cox,

The dog days of summer seem to have come early this year, with temperatures soaring well into the 90's and humidity levels hovering in the 70 percentile range as early as June. One can only guess what August temperatures may be.

Keeping your horse cool during hot days is important not only to his level of comfort, but also his health. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion can occur quite easily in horses when temperatures and humidity levels soar.

You can keep your horse cool, happy, and healthy by doing the following:


Plan your riding or training activities during the cooler parts of the day, either early in the morning or in the evening. If the heat index is at or above 150, plan on light riding or workouts only. You can determine the heat index using the following formula: Temperature + Humidity - Wind speed.

If you trail ride, take breaks from riding often and offer your horse water at each available watering site on the trail. Remember to allow all horses in your group the opportunity to drink before starting down the trail again.

For training sessions, break up training into 15 minute segments with a rest period in between and offer water between each segment.


Supplementing with electrolytes is very important when riding or working your horse during hot weather. Electrolyte supplements replenish the salt your horse loses during sweating and will encourage water consumption. Low electrolyte levels in your horse may cause fatigue and cramping. Colic may also be caused by an electrolyte imbalance.


Always have cool, clean water available for your horse. Place pasture water troughs in the shade and re-fill regularly to keep the water fresh and clean. Horses do not like to drink stagnant water.

Daytime Stalling:

If you prefer to stall your horses during the day and turn out onto pasture at night, place box fans on each stall and a large utility fan in the barn aisle to circulate air throughout the barn. Stalling during the day also cuts down on fly/insect aggravation. Water buckets should be kept filled with cool, clean water.


Pastures and paddocks should offer some form of shade for your horse, whether it be from a tree line, a run-in shed, or shade from the side of the barn. If there is no shade to be offered, do not turn your horse out until the cooler part of the day.


Nothing feels better than cool water from a hose on a hot day. We knew this as children and our horses enjoy the cool water, too. Concentrate the water flow on the major blood vessels in the legs, under belly, and neck. Cooling the blood will also lower your horse's body temperature.


If you must trailer your horse during the summer months, plan your travels during early morning or evening hours. If the horse box of your trailer has ample room, install a box fan to blow air over your horse and circulate around the box. Make sure all windows and vents are open. Stop often to offer water. Keep dampened beach towels on ice and place over your horse during rest breaks.

Heat Stroke: Know the Signs:

Heat stroke does not only happen to horses that are being ridden or worked. Pastured and stalled horses can also succumb to heat stroke, particularly if they work up a sweat from stomping at biting flies and insects or are kept in a stuffy, hot stall. Increased, or worse yet the absence of, sweating as well as elevated respiratory/heart rates and body temperature may well indicate heat stroke. If you see these signs accompanied by lethargy presume your horse is having a heat stroke and immediately stop all activity and if possible, get him out of direct sun and into shade. Hose off the large blood vessels in his body (legs, under belly, and heck) with water. Call your veterinarian if heart/respiratory rates do not improve or his condition worsens!

Summertime with your horse can be quite an enjoyable season and keeping him cool and happy will ensure that you will get to enjoy the fall months of riding that are just around the corner.

Happy trails!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Think Before You Dose

By Darlene M. Cox

It is interesting how we horse lovers and owners can equate human-related health incidents into equine-related health issues. Recently, my daughter had a throat infection for which the doctor did not prescribe antibiotics, as he thought the infection was viral. Viral infections, caused by viruses, do not respond to antibiotics as these medications are explicitly used to combat bacterial infections.

While it may seem proactive to treat acute illness with antibiotics, such treatment may be contributing to a greater harm – the development of super germs that are antibiotic resistant. This resistance occurs when the bacteria changes its metabolic form making it impossible for the antibiotic to be effective in weakening or killing the bacteria allowing the horse’s natural immune system to battle it .

Have there been times when you may have self-diagnosed your horse and placed him on antibiotics you had in your tack room medical box? However, is this the right antibiotic to use, and is it the right dose? With the growing misuse and over-prescribing of antibiotics, more resistant strains of bacteria are developing. Such resistant strains can be very difficult to treat as the majority of antibiotics are not effective against them; therefore, it is important that antibiotics be prescribed by a veterinarian who has examined your horse and can determine which specific drug, if any, is best suited to treat the infection. The best way to determine what organism is the culprit in an infection is to culture it.

Antibiotic use can also cause problems of their own: pain, swelling, and abscess at an injection site, diarrhea in young horses, and allergic reactions to certain drugs are the most obvious problems that come to my mind. While these medications are greatly effective, it is best they be prescribed by your veterinarian.

Proper use of antibiotics will ensure effective and successful treatment of many bacterial infections and will most importantly abate the creation of additional super germs that are threatening not only our horses, but also we humans.

Happy trails!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Leading a Horse To Water: Prevention of Dehydration while Trail Riding

By Darlene Cox

One of the most important requirements of your horse during trail riding is keeping him hydrated. Dehydration may lead to your horse to a bout of colic, tying-up (azoturia), or heat stroke. Dehydration severities can range from mild to life threatening, or even death. Maintaining the proper balance of water and electrolytes for your horse is imperative to his health and your peace of mind. There is no fear greater to any horseman than to be miles out on a trail and have your horse in peril of dying.

Hydration needs of your horse while trail riding are different than when he is at home relaxing in his pasture. Traveling and trail riding are stressful and you may find your horse refusing to drink while on the road, on the trail, or in camp. There may be many factors in the equation that keeps your horse from drinking: the water may not taste the same; he horse is too excited with his new surroundings and will not be calm enough to drink; he may be overheated; or he may have an imbalance in electrolytes.

While riding, we should be ever vigilant of our horse's hydration, and there are several ways that you can test to make sure he is hydrated:

  • Skin pinch test - Pinch the skin over the point of the shoulder. If your horse if fully hydrated, his skin will pop back immediately. However, the skin will remain tented (pinched up) the more dehydrated a horse becomes.
  • Capillary refill test - Press your thumb against your horse's upper gums. Once you remove it, count the seconds it takes for the area to return to the same color (the depressed area will appear white right after you remove your thumb). It is best to have a baseline number in mind taken at a time when you knew your horse to be fully hydrated. The longer it takes for the capillaries to refill, the more dehydrated your horse is.
  • Mucous membrane test of inner eye lid and gums - Observe a baseline color of gums and inner eye lid. This can probably range from pink to a pinkish-yellowish color. Gums should be moist. If the color is dark red, then your horse is dehydrated. Again, you are looking for a deviation in color from the baseline.
  • Jugular vein refill test - Squeeze off the jugular vein for a moment before allowing it to refill. Count the elapsed time before refill. Again, having a baseline reading is important.
  • Gut sounds - If you are proficient with the use of a stethoscope, you can listen to the upper and lower gut sounds to determine hydration. Obtain a baseline reading first. Reduced gut sounds are indicative of dehydration.

There are several steps that we as responsible horse owners can take to insure that our horse is adequately hydrated during trail riding.

  • Introduce your horse to electrolytes or other flavorings (Kool-aid, Gatorade, etc.) in his water several days prior to trail riding. This will get your horse used to the taste of the electrolytes and/or flavoring additives, and he will not hesitate to drink them while on the trail ride. Electrolytes will generally stimulate a horse to drink because they are salty. If your horse does not like the taste of the electrolytes or flavorings, bring along a small salt block or add salt to his feed while in camp to encourage drinking.
  • If possible, bring water from home and offer to your horse during rest breaks while trailering. Some horses will not drink water from different sources, because it tastes different. However, bringing along the water that he is used to may prompt him to drink. Offer water several times during each stop.
  • As soon as you get to camp and off-load your horse, fill up his water bucket and get him settled in before moving off to other things. Keep in mind that your horse will be stressed from the drive, being in different surroundings, and around other horses.
  • While on the trail the cardinal rule to remember is to NEVER PASS UP WATER! Each time you need to stop and allow your horse an opportunity to drink. If you are riding in a group of horses, it is important that all riders understand they must remain close at hand to allow every horse an opportunity to drink. If the first riders water their horses and then move on down the trail, those horses left behind will not want to drink for fear of being left behind. Be courteous and thoughtful; always make sure that all horses drink their fill before leaving the watering source.

Some younger horses that are not used to drinking from trail water sources (creeks, ponds, lakes, rivers) may not initially venture to the water because of their uncertainty. Having a been-there-done-that horse in the group go into or to the water first will show the more timid horse that it is okay. This actually mimics horse herd dynamic behavior as often one horse will drink first before the others follow.

Bring along a tube of electrolyte paste in your saddle bags to use in an emergency while on the trail. The tube I always brought along was often time needed either for my own horse or someone else's horse.

Incorporating the above steps will keep your horse happy and well throughout the trail riding season.

Happy trails!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sarcoids in Horses

By Darlene M. Cox

When I purchased my appaloosa gelding five years ago, he had a warty-like blemish under his eye. At the pre-purchase exam, my vet told me this was a sarcoid, which is the most highly diagnosed type of benign (non-cancerous) tumor a horse can have. A second sarcoid later appeared on his canthus. Some breeds of horses are more prone to sarcoids, and of course, appaloosa was amongst that list. My vet advised me to keep an eye on it and that we wouldn’t need to do anything to it unless it started to grow.

I researched the equine sarcoid and learned that while the cause is not necessarily known, although it is suspected to be a papillomavirus most likely akin to bovines, it can be a very tenacious tumor to get rid of. There are four types of sarcoid: flat (occult) that looks like a flat, scaley lesion; verrucous (warty), appearing like a raised wart; fibrablastic, appearing as an easily irritated mass, subjected to bleeding; and a mixed form, one with two or more of the four types. The flat and sometimes verrucous types of sarcoid may not grow bigger or evolve into the fibroblastic type; they may remain statis or may even regress. The fibroblastic type, however, is the most aggressive type, and the one less likely to respond well to treatment. Skin that has received some type of trauma (cuts, injuries, incisions) may be prime sites for the formation of sarcoids. Many geldings present with sarcoids on their scrotal sac after having been gelded. The prime areas for sarcoids to appear are anywhere on the head, on the belly, or legs.

Since my gelding’s sarcoid was increasing in size, I decided it was time to investigate the types of treatment available for them. I was greatly concerned that even with treatment the sarcoid may come back. Treatment options range from surgical removal, cryotherapy, and immunotherapy. I found all of these options very pricey and equated through research that they may have to be repeated several times before the sarcoid was completely removed.

Luckily, my research and digging around led me to a product called Xxterra, which is an all natural, herbal remedy for equine sarcoids. I phoned the Colorado-based veterinarian who developed the product and discussed this treatment option with him. I purchased a jar of the Xxterra ($110) and began applying it over the sarcoid for five days straight. After the five days, I applied it every other day for a total of 10 treatments. After the fourth day, you could see the sarcoid and surrounding skin react to the topical dressing. After the 6th treatment, the skin was beginning to slough away and was hard and dry to the touch. After the 10 treatments, the old skin had completely sloughed off, but I could still see the ‘base’ of the sarcoid.

I bought a second jar of the compound and applied it as I did the first. At the end of this treatment session, the sarcoid was completely gone.

After the treatments had ended, I placed another call to the vet in Colorado and discussed the treatment plan.. I provided him with some positive feedback that I felt the application process should be modified to discontinuing the applications until the old, dead skin sloughed off, and treatments resumed with the product being placed on the base of the sarcoid after the first sloughing period ended. Doing it this way would possibly require less usage of the product and a reduction in expense.

While I don’t know if my treatment recommendation, why appreciated by the vet, was actually placed on the jar (there is a loss of revenue to be realized here, right?), I do know that others to whom I have referred use of this product and who subsequently used my treatment regimen, were able to rid their horses of sarcoids with only one jar of Xxterra.

Regardless, this product and treatment is much less expensive and invasive than the other options available.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ugly Photo

We recently became official dealers for Alamo Saddlery. We're excited. Yet we knew that photos like the one below were not going to cut it for our customers. This saddle in person is very beautiful, with unique conchos and elegant styling. This cut and paste, low resolution shot was all we were able to scrounge up before we got our saddle in to get professional pictures:

Please, don't zoom in; we beg you. We get excited about new, high quality saddles in our stock, so whenever we get one in and are forced to put a low-quality show on the website, there's a general rush to get pictures. Sometimes the photos we have to put up in the meantime are just...embarassing! Here is one of our shots of the same model:

That's what we're talkin' about!! Feel free to check out the other shots of this saddle, as well as see what other Alamo's we've got stocked, over at the saddle shop.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Top 10 Questions to Ask When Purchasing a New or Used Saddle

Ready to buy a saddle but now sure what you should be looking for? Here are our top ten suggestions of what you should consider whether you're buying new or used.


1. Where is it made?

We recommend only American-made saddles. Our chronicles of the imported saddle and why it’s a bad idea can be found here. Imported saddles can cleverly disguise vinyl, pressed paper, and nickel as high quality. We’re not fooled, and neither are the people who fell for one.

2. What is it made of?

This often goes hand in hand with where it’s made. Leather and Cordura are reliable, quality materials. The hardware should be stainless steel or brass. Anything else is not worth your money. Trying to decide between a leather, Cordura, or combination saddle? Check out our help article here.

3. What size is it?

You want your new saddle to fit you and your horse correctly. Do you know what size seat you ride? What size tree your horse fits? We have lots of helpful articles on saddle fit so you can easily find out. Our downloadable gullet templates have helped hundreds of customers fit their horses quickly and efficiently.

4. What is it made for?

Take a look at the function of the saddle you’re interested in. You don’t want to buy a Cordura trail saddle to do roping. Every saddle is built for a purpose and some saddles are built for a specific type of horse. Make sure your saddle fits how you want to use it. Confused about the different types of saddles? Check out our article here.

5. How much does it cost?

Grandpa isn’t kidding when he says, “You get what you pay for.” Here at Horse Saddle Shop it’s true in one sense. All our products are high quality, but a Cordura saddle is not going to last as long as its leather counterpart. Short on cash, but still want a quality saddle? Get a used leather or new Cordura. Want to use your saddle and take it to the grave decades later? You need leather.

6. How much is shipping?

Anyone knows that when you make a large, heavy purchase online, you're likely to pay high shipping costs. Make sure you compare shipping costs as well as any other fees such as taxes or handling fees. We like to make cost comparison easy, so we offer free shipping on all saddles to all 50 states and we do not add handling fees.

7. Can you return it?

You got your saddle, but it doesn’t fit your horse. Can you return it? We wouldn’t recommend buying a new or used saddle without a return policy. It’s just too much of your money to risk. All our new and used saddles are returnable. If you come across a saddle shop that does not take returns, beware. High quality saddles generally do not get returned very often, so if the shop is selling good saddles, there’s no reason not to take them back.

8. Are you getting good customer service?

Does the person on the other end of the phone call or email know what they’re talking about? Do they treat you with courtesy and offer good service? If not, don’t buy. A saddle is a big purchase—-too big to make from a bad company. Especially beware of companies that have little to no customer service, or employees that cannot answer your questions in a timely fashion. Some online “saddle shops” are merely drop shippers who have never handled the product, sometime never even pet a horse. There’s a reason why we call our employees saddle experts. They’ve fit all shapes and sizes of horses and riders for years (some of them, for decades). They know the products, they know horses, and they know riders. We believe customer service should serve you, giving you the information you need to make a good choice.


9. Can you customize it?

So you’ve narrowed down your choices and you have a few you almost like. Many saddle manufacturers have customizable options for their saddles. These options can include seat material and color, concho choices, and tooling designs. Call our saddle experts to see what’s available.


10. How much has it been used?

Whoever is selling the used saddle should be able to tell you how much the saddle has been used. Leather saddles can stand up to years of use if taken care of properly; Cordura saddles cannot. A good indication of how much it has been used is how clean the fleece is. If the fleece is dirty, pass on the saddle. Clean fleece is a good indicator of a saddle that has been taken care of well or only lightly used.

This article is taken from our saddle help section. Be sure to check out our saddle fitting help articles.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Our friend Dan Files

At, we have the privilege of working with some wonderful customers. Occasionally, we like to let you know the stories of some of the people we have the pleasure of assisting.

Dan Files loves his horse Dollar. In corresponding with Dan, he wrote, "My horse and I are so connected. … I will walk before I hurt him." You might not think that’s a big deal…until you know a little more about Dan. Dan is a totally disabled veteran of the Gulf War who lives is West Virginia. His legs are numb from the knee down and his arms are weakened. His face and chest are numb also, leaving him unable to speak. BUT he is able to ride his horse.

Dan told us about a fellow disabled veteran and paraplegic, Mike McGowan, who is a horse trainer and travels all over the US giving horse shows and clinics. He is an expert with folks that are disabled. He picked out Dollar for Dan 20 months ago. Speaking about Dollar, Dan says, “it is like riding a horse with power steering and a very slight touch with my legs or hands and he does what I ask, I cannot talk or make a sound. He responds to signs from my hands and touch and legs. He is so quiet I take him to nursing homes and the school for Deaf and Blind here in West Virginia.”

Dan riding Dollar

Dan has a lot of support from friends who help him pursue his love for riding. “My wife has to get me ready to go - she has never left my side in all these years. I have to be helped or use a ramp to mount my horse. Our good friends at our bank help us out and keep track of our funds each month. We know all of the UPS drivers that come to our home. They are like friends, they usually just bring the orders in and put them where we keep the items.” Just recently, McGowan helped Dan pick out a new saddle for Dollar. (In case you’re curious, it’s Fabtron’s new Easy Trail Homesteader Saddle – the dropped rigging was one of the deciding factors). Dan is also selling his used Textan saddle on consignment at You can see it here:

Dan with wife Joan and Dollar

Due to a recent fall which injured his shoulder, Dan won’t be able to ride for a while. But that didn’t stop him from getting a new saddle. “Folks ask me why I keep going to the farm. I refuse to sit around and do nothing. My horse is the best and I will go until my body won't move.”
We’re proud of you Dan! You are an inspiration to us all.

Click here to see a recent article on Dan Files: or check out the May 2009 issue of the APHA Magazine

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tying-Up: How to Identify, Manage, and Prevent this Condition in your Horse

By: Darlene M. Cox

Now that warm weather has returned, we are all chomping at the bit to get our horses back into shape and ready to take on the many trail rides of the season. In our eagerness to return to the trails, we may skip a step or two in the conditioning process for our horses or perhaps speed up the process, working them a little longer and harder than what may be prudent.

Overworked horses may experience a condition called "tying up", which is also known by a host of other names, such as: azoturia, rhabdomyolysis, exertional myopathy, and Monday morning sickness. While the science of this condition is not fully understood, it basically boils down to the horse having an all-over-the-body muscle cramp caused by toxins that build up in the muscles.

Exercise is the predisposing factor to the onset of tying-up and muscle degeneration resultant from high levels of lactic acid and low oxygen in the muscle tissues. Feeding a high-carbohydrate diet during training down times (i.e., feeding the same amount to your horse at leisure as when working) will put your horse at risk of tying up. There are other mitigating factors that may figure into susceptibility, and these include: electrolyte balance, vitamins, and stress levels.

Most occurrences of tying up are fairly mild, but sometimes the condition can lead to severe kidney problems or death. It is important that veterinary intervention be obtained immediately to avoid resultant muscle/kidney damage. It is important that you be able to recognize the signs of tying-up, which may present similar to those of colic with the exception that tying-up will always occur after a horse has been worked.

The most common signs of your horse tying-up are:

  • Notable discomfort - flared nostrils, anxiousness, pawing ground, sweating, pale gums
  • Short-strides/muscle stiffness, particularly in the hind quarters
  • Bunching up/cramping up of muscles across the croup and hindquarters
  • Elevated pulse/respiration
  • Dark colored urine, or straining to urinate several times

What you should do if you believe your horse is tying-up:
  • Call your veterinarian immediately and provide him with a synopsis of vital signs: pulse, respiration, etc. Describe to him what your horse is experiencing.
  • Blanket your horse to prevent chills, which will exacerbate the muscle cramping
  • Offer your horse water and encourage him to drink. Water will flush his kidneys of the toxins built up in his muscles.
What you should not do if you suspect your horse of tying-up:
  • Do not move your horse, as any movement will further damage his muscles
  • Do not allow your horse to lie down
  • Do not administer any pain or other meds to your horse without veterinarian approval
What to do to prevent your horse from tying-up:
  • Feed a low carbohydrate/high fat diet
  • When not working your horse adjust the amount of grain fed.
  • Warm-up your horse before exercise, and then cool him down afterwards. 10-15 minutes of walking before and after should adequately warm-up/cool down your horse.
  • Do not over-exercise your horse.
Responsible horse ownership dictates that we are ever vigilant and knowledgeable about what conditions may afflict our horses. Recognizing the signs above and knowing how to react will potentially save the life of your horse.

Happy trails!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Have You Seen My Horse?

By Darlene M. Cox

Recreational trail riding and camping has increased exponentially over the last few years, with many avid horse lovers making the necessary purchases to enjoy the welcoming pleasures that exist for them in the numerous state and federal forests.

Those who delve into this wonderful past time spend a fair amount of money on the required wares; namely, horse(s), truck, trailer, tack, and other supportive accoutrements. As with any item of value there is always the risk of theft.

If you are unfortunately victimized, report the theft immediately. If your horses are missing from their pasture or barn, presume they are stolen and report it to the appropriate authorities. After you have placed the call, then go look for them. If you find them in your neighbor’s hayfield enjoying an afternoon snack, no harm, no foul. You had initiated the wheels of action in the event they had been stolen.

If you arrive home to find your horses and tack missing, phone in your theft report and do not disturb anything while you wait for the authorities to arrive. Fingerprints can be taken from stall doors, gates, etc. to help the authorities apprehend the thieves. Responding law personnel are trained to interpret crime scenes and any disruption of involved items may skew their interpretation.

The tried and true saying of “the best defense is a good offense” is a good strategy to employ in keeping your property safe, or in the event of thievery, being able to identify your belongings. After the theft has occurred, your horse(s) and tack can be difficult to find unless you can positively identify them.

Photographs can greatly simplify any identification process. Photos coupled with a written detailed description enhance the ability to prove ownership. Engraving and/or marking your name, address, driver’s license number, and/or social security number on saddles, bridles, blankets, etc. will further assist the identification process. I would recommend making such engravings in an inconspicuous place; one not easily noticeable and therefore subject to erasure or scratching out.

Color photographs of your horse are most important. Take the photos from every angle and every side, including a photo of their head. Make sure you get photos of all markings and significant details (scarring, eye color, etc.)

Branding and/or tattooing your horse(s) is an excellent identification tool to prove ownership.

Housing your tack behind a sturdy, padlocked door will deter would-be thieves, especially if you use the type of padlock that cannot be cut. They are a little pricey, but well worth the investment.

Sturdy locks will also protect any belongings you may have in your horse trailer while you are on the trails. If you have an entrance to the living quarters part of your trailer from the horse box, padlock the exterior stock door to prevent outside access. Placing a hitch lock on your trailer will prevent someone from driving away with it.

Motion sensor lights in and around your barn will thwart some thieves who prefer to do their dirty work under the cloak of darkness. Security cameras can provide evidentiary video tape to aid in identifying suspects and vehicles. I have also seen strategically placed baby monitors as effective theft deterrent tools.

Driveway access gates are a deterrent to thieves who prefer to have their vehicle within easy access. While a padlocked gate may be a small headache for you to navigate on a daily basis, an electric gate may be a nice pain reliever, as well as an effective tool preventing uninvited access to your property.

Always be aware of any ‘strangers’ or strange vehicles in and around your barn. Someone innocuously petting your horse through the fence may actually be ‘casing’ your barn. Some unknown, friendly person striking up a conversation and asking you questions about your horse may be filing away the information for later use. Write down license plate numbers from any vehicles such unknown persons may drive off in. Advise your neighbors that you have seen suspicious people in the area, making them aware to promote their watchful eyes, too.

If you board your horse at a communal barn, know which horses belong to whom. Unrecognized visitors should be questioned about their being on site and association with any horse they may have on the end of a lead shank. How easy can it be for someone to confidently walk up to a horse and load it into a trailer and drive off? Just like some housing districts have neighborhood watches, barn watches can equally deter would be thefts.

Nothing protects a barn better than a barking dog. Many thefts have been thwarted by yappy canines. Remember, thieves prefer to quietly come and go. A barking dog greatly heightens the probability of them being caught in the act.

Pasture bound horses are an easy target for thieves. Driving up to a roadside gate or simply cutting a fence will allow access. Don’t make it easy for the thieves. Place heavy chains and padlocks on all gates. Routinely check the chains and locks to ensure their stability. Do not put watering troughs or feed buckets on or near exterior roadside fences. Horses will congregate where they are fed or watered. How much easier could it be for would-be thieves to take the horses from where they stand? Instead, feed and water the horses along an interior fence or at the barn. A would-be horse thief is less likely to walk across a 60-acre field to steal a horse.

Taking appropriate measures to protect your prized investments will allow you to sleep better at night.

Happy trails!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Effective Pasture Management for Small Acreage Farms

By Darlene M. Cox

Living close to and working in the Horse Capital of the World (Lexington, Kentucky) provides me many opportunities to drive through 'horse country' and enjoy the beautiful picturesque views of horses grazing on rolling carpets of thick, lush, green grass from virtually weed-free pastures. These beautifully maintained pastures are in stark contrast to the ones that may be found on farms of smaller acreage that many recreational horse owners have. It is possible, however, for your small, family-owned farm to mirror, on a smaller scale, those Kodak-moment inspired pastures of Kentucky 's Thoroughbred industry.

I recently had an opportunity to converse with a senior grounds keeper of one of the more prestigious and renowned horse farms in Kentucky about pasture management and how effective pasture maintenance plans could be utilized for smaller farms. Regardless of the number of acres to be managed, it all boils down to the same fundamental practices:

§ Soil samples should be taken to determine fertilizer requirements. Based upon the testing results, a lime-potassium- phosphorous fertilizer should be applied. This application can be done at any time during the year; however, it is important to have the soil sample results prior to fertilizing, because applying too much fertilizer cause harm to soil. Nitrogen should be applied to pastures late in the fall to set up the pastures for a healthy growth of spring time grass.

§ Fecal egg counts should be done on your horses to determine the number of parasites that may infest pastures. Along with adherence to a timely and effective de-worming schedule for your horses, you should also 'drag' pastures to break up manure piles and expose any parasitic eggs to the sun, which will effectively kill off the parasite.

§ Begin preparation and planning of your spring pastures in the fall. If you seed your own pastures with your own implements, make sure the equipment is in good repair and ready to go. If you hire it out to someone, schedule a firm date with no more than a week's window time to ensure the pasture prep work is done timely. Fall is best for seeding cool-season grasses (Kentucky bluegrass, orchard grass) and late winter or really early spring is best for seeding clover.

§ Managing damage control to pastures on small acreage farms is tantamount to growing season productivity. During winter and the early spring wet season, horses should not be turned out, as to stave off the mud and muck build-up and destruction of grass root systems. One viable alternative is to partition off part of the pasture for use during inclimate seasons. The reasoning behind this is it's best to lose part of your pasture than all of it. If this is not a feasible solution, you can also minimize damage by rotating hay feeding locations. It is also a good idea to limit any vehicle traffic (i.e., farm truck, tractor, manure spreader, etc.) during this time period.

§ The acreage size and the number of horses on your pastures will affect the amount of usage you get from your pastures. It is important to maintain an appropriate horse-to-acreage ratio. Farms with smaller acreage need to be more closely managed related to the amount of grazing time permitted. Horses are the ultimate grazing machines, as they were created with that specific purpose in mind. Horses are continuous grazers; simply put, if grass is in front of theme, they are going to eat it. A horse will consume as much as 2% to 2.4% of their body weight, per day, in grass, (i.e., a 1200-lb horse will eat between 24 - 28 pounds of grass per day). Effective rotation and/or dry-lotting your horses to allow your pastures time to rebound and will help keep them established. Pasture rebound time can vary between location and time of year. Generally, 20 days minimum should be allowed for pastures to 'rest' before horses are placed back on them.

§ The grazing season in Kentucky can run from March (when the cool-season grasses really start coming on) through November (when the first killing frosts of winter arrive). This is nine months of grazing time that requires proper management to keep the grass yield and health of your pastures at an optimal level to best benefit your horses. An effective pasture rotation system can be undertaken with the implementation of segmented pasturing, which breaks up the whole pasture into multiple segments from which the horses will be rotated from one to the next, allowing previously grazed segments to recover and gain new grass growth, while out competing the growth of new broadleaf weeds. Effective rotation cycles will also disrupt parasite cycles.

§ An effective broadleaf weed herbicide should be applied in early spring, while the weeds are still small. A high emphasis is placed on properly using the herbicide and applying the recommended amount. As with any chemical, read and follow all labeling instructions prior to use. I realize that many owners of small farms may be hesitant to implement an herbicide program on their pastures for fear of harm that may befall their horses; however, the efficacy of herbicide programs is quite evident when looking at Kentucky 's horse farms, which house the world's most expensive Thoroughbred horses. It is evident and apparent that an accurate and efficient herbicide application program can be successfully implemented whereas not to adversely affect the lives and well-being of horses housed on these farms.

Utilization of the above pasture- management principals will aide in keeping your pastures healthy and established throughout the year. You may even have the perfect green back-fall for your own Kodak moment.

Happy trails!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Overflowing Clearance

We spent hours dumping Circle Y, High Horse, and Tucker saddles into our clearance section. We've got all the bases covered: barrel, trail, reining, ranch, show. From ostrich seats to lime green suede, it's in there. Mosey on over and check them out.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Every Time, Every Ride, Helmets Save Lives

By: Darlene M. Cox

Whenever we saddle up and head out on the trails for a nice relaxing ride, the furthest thing from our mind is that we may end up having to spend time in a hospital emergency room due to a fall from our horse; however, those of us who are seasoned riders know that it is not a matter of "if" I fall from the saddle, but "when". We are subject to possible ejection each and every time we sit in the saddle. There are so many factors that can play into any unexpected dismount: rider error, terrain inconsistencies, unexpected stimuli causing a horse to react; tacking issues/problems, etc. The list could go on and on.

Traumatic brain injury is the most highly attributable cause of horse-related injuries and mortality events. Horseback riders sustain more head injuries than participants in other sporting and recreational events such as football, hockey, and bicycling. Yet, those who participate in the sport of leisure trail riding are less likely to protect themselves when enjoying the avocation of horseback riding.

Throughout the many years that I have actively campaigned for rider safety, I have heard many excuses from riders not wanting to wear helmets. Some of those excuses are: "I trust/know my horse", "My horse is well trained", "My horse is bomb-proof", "I'm a skilled rider", "Cowboys don't wear helmets", "You've got to go sometime", "I don't like helmet hair", "Helmets are too hot/heavy/cumbersome". It is evident that sometimes vanity, machismo, and pride prevent some from providing themselves with the life saving protection from riding accidents that helmets afford.

I was once one of those people who felt that helmet wearing was a sign of weakness; either in my own riding ability or in trust of my horse's training. That was until I personally witnessed someone who sustained and irreparable traumatic brain injury. My friend's accident occurred 20 years ago, and she remains wheelchair bound and cognitively challenged as a result of her brain injury. Her wearing a helmet on that fateful day those many years ago would have prevented such serious injury. It was a sobering moment for me, and from that point forward I have worn a helmet each and every time I have mounted a horse.

Many states within the United States, as well as other countries have laws and/or governing regulations that require children wear helmets when riding. Mandates within many public and private riding entities require helmets be worn by riders. While I would not be an opponent of a government implied law requiring all equestrians to wear a helmet, I would first like to see an increase in the number of riders who personally want to provide protection from head injuries for themselves.

Today's helmets are light weight and comfortable. There are several styles and types from which to choose, not to mention a myriad of colors. Riding helmets should bear the "ASTM" or "SEI" seal, which indicates they have been tested for protection and durability. Finding a helmet that you can comfortably ride in is quite possible if not ascertained.

I have read somewhere that it only takes 21 days of repetitious action to transform an action into habit. I would challenge each of you who currently do not wear a helmet when riding to begin developing this habit. Every time, every ride; the life you save will be your own.

Happy trails!