January 2020 Letter From Julie


Dear friends,

Happy New Year! I’m reluctant to see another year end, but I’m enthusiastic about the opportunities the new year brings. I’m a planner, so I like looking ahead; I’m an overachiever, so I love to see how much I can accomplish and plot the new directions I will take. Each New Year represents a fresh new start. That’s why I like to make multiple NY’s Resolutions, in different categories of my life. That way, if I slip one resolution, I still have a few to conquer.

This year, I’m sharing my resolutions with you—always a risk, since now I am on public record with my good intentions. I plan to rise to the occasion! I hope that you, too, will make and share your resolutions—get them on the record, say them out loud-—and you’ll be more likely to achieve them! 

Here’s a look at my 2020 New Year’s Resolutions…

Health: In 2020, I resolve to get a mammogram and a colonoscopy. This will be my hardest resolution to conquer since I am generally healthy and tend to avoid doctors, so it’s easy for me to neglect these important preventative measures. But not this year!

Fitness: In 2020, I am going to acquire roller blades and add that to my cross-training regimen. The aerobic activity is great for my fitness and for heart health and it conditions my legs for skiing. The balance required to stay on my feet keeps me tuned-up for riding horses. Plus, it’s very high on the fun meter!

Personal Betterment: In 2020, I resolve to consume fewer disposables, in every corner of my life—from the office, to the house, to the airport; from printer paper to coffee cups, to everything plastic. I’m committed to the environment, and I’m enacting change at the individual level, starting with me.

Professional Achievement: In 2020, I will develop new online training programs with a goal of helping horses all over the world, one human at a time. My online horsemanship academy has opened doors for a lot of horse owners. I will expand that platform with online short courses on the handling, care, riding and training of horses, to help horse owners everywhere increase their knowledge and skill-level.

Personal Horsemanship Goals: In 2020, I will start Pepperoni, my now 4-year-old gelding, working cattle and haul him on at least four road trips. It’s not necessarily my goal to be competitive or attend horse shows, but to further his training so he develops competitive skills, and to increase his road experience so he learns to be a better traveler. This horse was bred to work cows, so I’m excited to finally start down that path with him.

Household: In 2020, I resolve to clean out all the expired condiments, spices and cooking ingredients from my refrigerator, cabinets and pantry. I do so little cooking anymore, yet my cabinets and appliances are full of peculiar one-off ingredients. I’m guessing there’s stuff that’s been in there for more than a decade. ‘Nuff said.

This year is shaping up to be busy for me, and not just because of my ambitious resolutions list! I’ll also be a headline presenter at horse expos in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Wisconsin. I’m teaching at horsemanship clinics in Colorado, Virginia, Massachusetts and Ireland. See my full 2020 schedule here

I’m excited about our new programs at the C Lazy U Ranch—the Couples’ Riding Retreat (co-taught with Barbra Schulte and her husband) and the Horsemanship Immersion program. And I’m thrilled to be returning to Ireland for a fabulous riding vacation and clinic. I hope you’ll join me on at least one of these adventures!

 

 

Now that I’ve revealed MY New Year’s Resolutions, it’s YOUR turn! 

Step 1: Decide on your resolutions (some hard, some easy, some fun, some serious) 

Step 2: Go to the #HorseGoals or Bust Facebook Group and post your resolutions (post them on your fridge too) 

Step 3: Make it happen! And share your success stories with me.

Let’s do this together! It’s a whole new decade—the 20s! This year and this decade will be what we make of it. I wish you peace, happiness and success in the coming months and years.

Enjoy the ride,





Hi Julie,

I just read about your NY resolutions.

Regarding your health goals and tests, please do them sooner rather than later.

Last year at this time I was in  ICU, fight to stay alive from a  ruptured colon and
septicemia. As you say, we horse gals tend to ignore things. I  had been
symptomatic for about 6 months but blew it off to “eating too may
peanuts” or change of diet. Turned out I had Diverticulitis and the
“healthier” I ate, salads with nuts and lots  of raw veggies, 21
grain breads, etc is what ruptured it!

I never really felt  “sick”, just a little cramping a d low grade fever, but
would rest and  seemed to resolve. Even the day I went into the hospital,
I didn’t feel bad until I started vomiting uncontrollably. If a friend hadn’t
answered my text for help in minutes, I’d be dead.

Had Colostomy bag surgery, then intestines quit functioning. 2 surgeries and 6 months in bed.

All because I ignored the fact that I “just wasn’t right”…..Take care!

Best to you!!

Jeanna Santalucia 

Hi Jeanna,

I’m so sorry to hear
of all the health problems you’ve encountered this past year. OMG, what a
nighmare. My sister had septicemia stemming from a bladder infection and she
nearly died. Was in a coma for days. Jeanna, you have really been through a
lot! I hope you are on the mend now. Thank you for sharing your story and this
would be a great comment on the blog itself. Do you mind if we post the comment
wihtout your name on it? I think this really illustrates the point of what I was
trying to say. Us horse women are tough and stubborn, not always good traits.
Alright, I am on a new mission now, to get my appointments made.

Thank you for
sharing. Take care of yourself!

Best,

Julie

December 2019 Horse Report

I’m happy to report that after several cycles of injury/treatment/rehab and two months of stall rest and hand-walking, the Adventures of Pepperoni are back in full swing! Thankfully, we were able to start turning him out with the herd and riding again last week, because stall-rest and hand-walking was getting old for Pepper (and for those of us on the end of the lead trying to stay clear of his “airs above the ground”).

The good news is that he is now sound and healthy, and his under-saddle training is picking up right where we left off. Pepperoni is coming 4 years old now and his maturity is starting to kick in—less silliness, more coordination, more responsiveness. Time off doesn’t cause a horse to lose its training—it stays right where you left it. Poor handling and riding will un-train a horse fast (or train him something different) but leaving him alone does not. Sure, he may be a little fresh when you return to riding, but he knows exactly what he knew before the layoff.

Pepperoni is an unusual horse in many ways. He’s wicked smart and a lightning-fast learner. Be careful what you wish for. If you don’t make many mistakes, the smart horse excels in his training. But mistakes are often illuminated in a very smart horse. Pepper is exceptionally aware of his surroundings. Not in a distracted way—he’s very calm and focused and he’s always taking stock. He rarely displays fearful behavior; but he has an intense curiosity. These are traits bred into the cow horse, and while they may sound good when you read it on paper, do not be fooled. These are the very traits that cause some to say cow horses are “difficult” and “challenging.”

Pepper also has a very strong sense of right and wrong (some might call this bull-headed, but it is a trait I like). Most of the time we agree on what is right, but occasionally there is a dispute. At times, when he believes I am wrong and he is right, his red-headed temper flares. In those moments, I’ve learned to 1) check to see if I was wrong (it happens) and take responsibility, and 2) do not yield to a tantrum but do not throw gas on the flame.

Sometimes us riders find ourselves at odds with a horse and in those moments, it’s important that we prevail, lest the horse learn he can do whatever he wants. But it is never wise to start a fight with a horse, because it may be a fight you won’t win. At the end of the day, they are much larger, faster, more athletic and more lethal than humans.

Pepper is not argumentative, difficult or challenging to train. In fact, he is full of enthusiasm for the job—any job, eager to please and a joy to ride. But he is not a horse that will suffer fools and not a horse you want to fight with. Most of the time when he gets testy, there’s something I’ve done to contribute. I’ll admit that on occasion, I am the one that gets testy or impatient first, and his subsequent ire is justified. I can always count on Pepper to let me know when I’ve made a mistake. He makes me a better rider.

I’m super happy to be back on track with Pepperoni and I am hopeful that he will stay out of trouble for a while. He’s lost a lot of conditioning in the past few months, so we are in a rebuilding state now. We lose conditioning much faster than we gain it, so I expect that it will take 2-3 months to get him back into shape. Right now, our daily rides consist of a long walking warm-up, then 10 minutes of long-trot on a free-rein, followed by 5 minutes of collected trot in a “training frame,” followed by five minutes of canter on each lead. If he’s not completely gassed out by then, I’ll work on bending, shoulder-in and/or leg-yielding at the walk and trot.

By this time next month, I hope to be back to collection at the canter, departures and lead changes. But I am patient, and I have no deadlines looming. It’s all about the joy of training, about building a strong relationship and developing a high-level athletic partner. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Consistency Counts

Photo by: Tina Fitch

On one of my many visits to southern California, I was conducting a horsemanship clinic in the town of Norco, renowned for its horse-friendly lifestyle. On any given day in “Horsetown USA,” you’ll see horses being ridden on the dirt sidewalks along Main Street  or parked at a tie rail in front of a shopping center, or even in line for the drive-up window at McDonald’s.

While there, I was invited to tour the Circle D Ranch, home to Disneyland’s herd of gorgeous draft horses. Having worked behind the scenes of the horse operation at Disney World, on the other side of the country, I was not surprised to find an immaculate, state-of-the-art horse facility, that was custom-built to suit the exceptionally high standards of Disney.

The ranch is home to 18 draft horses, who work 3-4 days a week in the theme park, some thirty miles away, where they are stabled in a similar barn while “on duty.” The horses come to the Norco ranch for rest and pampering on their 3-4 days off. Aside from the incredible horse flesh and the five-star facility, I was most impressed by the consistency with which the horses are handled. Strictly enforced, detailed policies and procedures are designed to make sure the horses get handled exactly the same way every day, by each of the many employees tasked with their care, both in the theme park and at the ranch.

From the way the horses are haltered and led, to how they are tied, to the order of the brushes used, to the process for turning them out or to their daily hand-walking– it was done exactly the same by every handler, in the same order, at the same time, in the same places. There’s almost no stress for these horses, because of the consistency. They always know what to expect and what is coming next. They never have to guess or question. There is great comfort in order and predictability.

Horses are prey animals and it’s easy for them to feel like victims in a chaotic world, when there is a lack of consistency or predictability. Small changes in a horse’s known environment can send him into a tailspin. For the same reasons, horses thrive on routines, law and order and consistency. It makes them feel safe and calm when they know what will happen next.

Horses always do better with consistent handling and regular routines. They learn patterns quickly and they love to be able to predict what is going to happen next. Most horse owners have learned the benefits of feeding and turning out horses in the same order, and how quickly you can train horses to a routine. Professional horse trainers tend to be very consistent and systematic in the way they ride and handle horses, and their horses are usually a reflection of that. But I often see a lack of consistency in novice horse owners, particularly when it comes to establishing boundaries, communicating clearly and displaying consistent leadership to the horse.

Draw a Line in the Sand
If a dog has poor manners and jumps on you, rubs against you, roots his nose under your arm so you’ll pet him or jumps in your lap uninvited, it may be obnoxious but it’s probably not going to kill you. When a horse has no boundaries and no manners, it’s downright dangerous and is a problem that will snowball. Remember, one way that horses establish dominance is to move the subordinate out of their space.

My horsemanship clinics typically start with groundwork. This is my opportunity to get a feel for the horse’s temperament, to evaluate the relationship between horse and handler and to refine (or establish) the horse’s ground manners. Since horses basically do what you’ve taught them to do (for better or for worse), it’s often the way that a horse is being handled that is leading to the problems.

Typically, in groundwork sessions I see a lot of inconsistency in boundaries or no boundaries at all. Sometimes the person stands too close to the horse, constantly in the horse’s personal space, and choking up on the lead. But when the horse gets irritated and starts throwing its head or nipping, it’s often wrongly concluded that the horse is the problem.
People are sometimes totally unaware of space and boundaries when it comes to horses. Just like a toddler, horses will push on you until they find the limit of their boundaries. If the person is unaware of her own personal space and has no boundaries, the horse will react to that by pushing until he’s slinging his head at you, dropping his shoulder into you and moving you out of his space. Even then, sometimes the person is unaware of their own boundaries.

It’s unfair to be in a horse’s face, kissing all over his muzzle, and standing up under his neck, but then get mad at him when he crowds you, nips at you or worse. To be effective (and safe) with horses, you need to be very clear of your own personal boundaries and diligently enforce the boundary.

My personal boundary is as far as I can reach around me with my arms outstretched. If the horse moves any part of his body into my space uninvited—even just his nose—I will correct it. If I’ve set a forward boundary of where the horse should be while I am leading him and he crosses the line, I will reinforce the boundary—100% of the time. A boundary is

only a boundary if it is consistently enforced. If you are clear on where the boundaries are and you consistently enforce it, the horse learns quickly.

Say What?
Horses are very communicative animals—that’s a big part of why they became domesticated to begin with and why they have remained an integral part of human society for thousands of years. Although they have some communication through sound (audible signals), most of their communication is through postures, gestures and gazes. Yes, it can be subtle, but the information is there if we look for it.

Horses are more adept at reading people than people are at reading horses. As verbal communicators, we put far too much stock in the spoken word and often miss the subtleties of body language—both in our horses and in ourselves. Learning to be in command of your body language and use appropriate gestures, will help you send the right message to your horse.

For instance, when a horse is shying away from something or refusing to go in a certain direction, the rider often does the opposite of what they should do—staring at what the horse is spooking at or looking in the direction the horse wants to go. What you do with your eyes is very meaningful to the horse in these moments—your eyes will reveal your determination (or lack thereof), your intentions (where you want to go) and your confidence level. If you say one thing with the reins (go this way) then the opposite with your eyes, you’ve contradicted yourself.

When doing groundwork with horses, our goal is to move the horse out of our space, in order to reinforce who is in charge. Yet, time and time again, I see handlers approach the horse as if to move him off, but then withdraw if they think the horse is not going to budge. Often, the person is completely unaware that they are withdrawing or even stepping back—but the horse always sees it. Always. Even the smallest retreat will be detected. Being in command of your body language and sending intentional nonverbal signals to the horse will bring your communication to his level.

Perhaps the biggest area of miscommunication with the horse comes when we are riding. Complex cues for movements and guidance require skill from the rider, yet it’s usually the horse that’s blamed for a poor response. A horse can only perform to the level of the rider and when the horse is not performing well, it’s usually the rider that needs fixing.

Conflicting signals and inconsistent expectations are often to blame for a horse’s poor performance. Pulling back on the reins at the same time you want the horse to move more forward is super frustrating to horses and I see it in every clinic I teach. Pulling on two reins to turn is another frustrating example of miscommunication, often seen when people are riding two-handed. If I want to turn right, and I pull both reins to the right, my right hand is pulling his nose to the right, but my left hand is pulling his nose to the left, once it crosses the withers. How can he respond correctly to that?

Another example is when I do training demonstrations on canter leads at horse expos, most of the time the “lead problem” is fixed by simply clarifying the cue the rider gives. The horse doesn’t have a lead problem, the rider has a cueing problem. Clarifying your cues and using a consistent sequence in your cues will get you the response you want. You could teach a horse almost any cue, by consistently applying the cue and reinforcing it. But if the cue is a little bit different every time or if you fail to reinforce your cues consistently, the horse will fail to respond.

Think about the cues you give to your horse when you’re riding—cues to walk, trot, canter, stop or turn. What are the precise aids you use? In what sequence do you apply the aids? How is the trot cue different from the canter cue? How do you prepare a horse or warn him that a cue is coming? How does your body change when you are tense, upset, tired or nervous that may change the clarity of these cues? When you are clear and consistent in the way you cue your horse, your horse will respond like clockwork.

Following Your Lead
You don’t have to be around horses very long to figure out that you want to be the one in charge. It’s not a good idea to let a one-thousand-pound scared rabbit call the shots. Horses seek out leadership because it makes them feel safe and protected. But there is never a void of leadership in a horse herd. If the leader falls down on the job, either figuratively or literally, another horse will immediately step in to fill the void. You’re not the leader unless you act like the leader all the time.

A comment I often hear from horse owners is, “every day, I feel like I am starting over with my horse.” They do the groundwork exercises, designed to establish authority and control, and get a good response in the moment, but the authority does not stick. The next day, the horse is challenging their authority again. It’s not the horse that’s the problem—he’s just doing what horses do. It’s a lack of consistency in their leadership (and therefore a lack of leadership).

If it is a daily battle to be in charge of your horse, you’re doing something that is eroding your own authority. Are you controlling the actions of the horse? Or are his actions dictating what you do? It’s a simple equation—action and reaction. If you are making an action, to which the horse is reacting, you are in charge. If the horse is making an action, to which you are reacting, the horse is in charge.

It amazes me how often I see handlers work hard in the arena, during the clinic, to establish good ground manners and authority over the horse, then throw it all away the moment the session is over and they leave the arena. Walking back to the barn they let the horse get in front and pull them to the barn or get impatient and start fidgeting and fussing. Rules of behavior must apply all the time and be enforced all the time, or they are not rules.

Little things can erode your authority or leadership with the horse– letting him grab the hay out of your arms when you feed him, hand feeding treats, letting him rip away from the halter when you turn him loose, stepping back when he moves into you. Being the leader to your horse is a full-time job.

Without question, horses will make us better at being humans, if we rise to the occasion and resist the temptation to blame the horse and instead look to ourselves. Consistency in defending your boundaries not only keeps you safer around the horse, but also helps the horse accept your authority. Achieving command of your body language and the subtle signals you constantly send to your horse, helps you communicate to the horse and may help you receive the subtle signals he’s sending you.

Nothing is more important to your horse than your consistency of leadership. Horses yearn for a strong and fair leader, but it’s not always easy to be the one at the top. As the leader, you’re not really allowed any down time. It’s a hard job—to be consistent in praise and reinforcement, to be consistent in your rules and expectations of behavior, to be consistent in your emotions and confidence, to be consistent in the way you communicate. It’s not an easy job, but the payoff is huge. When the horse puts all his faith in you and is willing to follow you anywhere, it’s a feeling like no other.

December 2019 Letter From Julie

Dear friends,

As the year ends, I’m resisting looking back and wondering where the days/weeks/months went, and instead I’m focused ahead on what the new year will bring. I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, and I’m already busy crafting mine. I operate with multiple resolutions—personal betterment, professional goals, horsemanship, household, recreational—that way I am sure to accomplish some of them! Next month I’ll share my New Year’s resolutions with you—at least the ones I can share publicly.

2020 is shaping up to be a busy year for me, with horse expos in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Wisconsin. I’m also offering two new programs at the renowned C Lazy U Ranch in Colorado. In addition to the Women’s Wholeness Retreat that I co-teach with Barbra Schulte, we are offering a ground-breaking program—The Couples Riding Retreat—which will be led by Barbra and her husband Tom, and my husband Rich and me. We’re super excited about this vacation program for couples and already getting tremendous response.

Also new at C Lazy U for 2020, is the Horsemanship Immersion program– five days and four nights of immersive study of riding, horse behavior, conformation, training and health care, with a herd of 200 horses as our laboratory! The Ranch Riding Adventure program at C Lazy U is back by popular demand; I think there will be some openings in this program, for those of you who have patiently waited to get in. Your dream vacation awaits. www.juliegoodnight.com/clazyu Click Here – C Lazy U Ranch

I can’t wait to go back to the magical country of Ireland in September 2020, for a fabulous riding vacation sponsored by Connemara Equestrian Escapes. We had so much fun there in 2018, that I just had to go back. We’ve had so much interest in the Ireland trips, and space is quite limited, so I wanted to go back to Ireland and offer this ‘trip of a lifetime’ to more of you. With an intimate group of eight riders, we get to know each other well. In addition to spending our days in lessons and hacking through the Irish countryside and seaside, we’ll also enjoy cultural tours, dining at authentic Irish pubs and getting to know the local characters. Imagine yourself riding in Ireland! Click Here – Ride with Me in Ireland

For now, I plan to make the most of every day that’s left of 2019. Rich and I are getting a jumpstart on the ski season and the snow conditions are epic! Since I won’t have to get on an airplane in the immediate future, I’m able to get caught up on some back-burner projects and ride my own horses more. I’ll spend a few days teaching up at Colorado State University Equine this month, helping with the Legends of Ranching colt-starting classes. It’s always a treat for me to work with young horse professionals and help the colts progress through the program. And occasionally I become smitten with one of the Legends colts, and they end up in my barn after the Legends of Ranching Sale (Eddie and Pepperoni both came from this horse sale). Click Here – Legends of Ranch Riding

Don’t forget to think about your horse as you shop for Christmas gifts! We’ve got a lot of great items that your horse will love and that will make your horse life easier. I hope you enjoy some quality time with friends, family and horses over the holidays and don’t forget to think about your resolutions!

Enjoy the ride,
Julie

Looking Back: The Journey of Goodnight Training Stables

Photograph of Pepsea and Julie

Photograph of Pepsea and Julie

It was about 34 years ago that I took the big plunge and started my own business, Goodnight Training Stables. Back then, I simply imagined a fun and active life, training and caring for horses. Little did I know, that a few decades later, I’d be a TV personality and own a media production company. I didn’t really see that coming.

Horses are still our central focus, but my how times have changed! Keep in mind that when I founded my business, the internet had not been invented yet, football-sized cell phones were just coming on the market and most people didn’t even use computers. Business operations were much different back then!

I graduated from college in New Mexico in 1984 and moved to Colorado to chase my other passion—snow skiing.As was always the case with me, I got offered horse jobs as soon as people learned I had experience (there’s no shortage of horses that need help with their humans). I worked as a trail guide and hunting camp wrangler, then as a trainer and barn manager at an Arabian breeding and show barn. All the while, I was trying to figure out what I should do for a living. If not horses, then what?

Eventually, two important thoughts became clear to me: 1) since I am now two years out of college and still working horses, perhaps I should consider a career with horses, and 2) if I am going to last in the horse business, I have to be working for myself—doing things MY way. That is the basis on which Goodnight Training Stables was founded, clear back in 1985.

I was fortunate to find a vacated stables owned by a property owners association and I got a great deal on the lease—all I had to do was provide trail riding to the public and fix up the run down facility. It was a win-win for all of us and in no time the facility was ship-shape and full of happy horses there as boarders, training horses or dude horses.

A few years later, I started a girl’s riding camp—a popular program for horse-crazy little girls (a subject I could relate to), and I knew exactly what they wanted—to eat, sleep and breathe horses. Soon, the moms started asking me to do riding camps for adults, and a new aspect of my business emerged. Eventually I was conducting eleven week-long clinics for adults each summer, managing about 20 school horses and training outside horses on the side.

Photo Credit: Lucy Koehler

As the demand grew, I began traveling more and offering clinics on the road. Soon it became clear that it made more sense for me to travel to the horses than to make them come to me, in this remote little Colorado mountain town. About 15 years ago, I stopped doing clinics at home, re-purposed all of the school horses, and started teaching exclusively on the road. Today, I travel about 130 days a year, teaching people and training horses, both domestically and abroad.

Early in this business game, I learned that developing products to help people ride and manage their horses better, would be important to sustaining and growing a business. Just so you know how long ago that was, my very first product was an audio cassette tape. We thought we were really going high-tech when we switched to CDs. And yes, my first videos, Goodnight’s Principles of Riding, were only available in VHS tapes! Fast forward to today, even DVDs are dinosaurs as we all learn to consume our media online and through streaming videos on-demand.

The information and education on horses and riding are just as pertinent today as it was then, it’s the technology and how we consume the information that has changed. My entire career’s worth of work– every article I’ve written, every audio I’ve recorded and TV shows and training videos are available online, by subscription.

Who knew that having a horse business would require you to stay on top of technological advances and the changes in human behavior that result?

In 2008, I had the opportunity to start a TV show, Horse Master with Julie Goodnight, where I took the biggest detour in my business and jumped into broadcast TV with both feet. There was a steep learning curve at first, but fast-forward eleven years and 260 episodes, and we had it down to a science. Horse Master became a super popular, unscripted, how-to horse training show, where I work with a different horse/rider pair in each episode.

The TV show has opened a lot of doors for me and set the stage for bigger things to come. We’ve now begun production of a brand new TV series about the horse lifestyle and how horses have remained relevant in our society, more than a century after the combustion engine rendered them obsolete.

Today, I operate an online retail sales and a media production company, all centered on horses. I train horses and teach people almost every single day, but the engine that drives my business is retail sales and media. We will never lose sight of how important horses are in our lives and in our business. Everyone on my team is a horse lover and a rider.

We all love going to work every day and we’re fortunate to be involved in a business that we’re passionate about. We’ll never lose sight of the fact that our customers are passionate about horses and that this is a labor of love. We focus on products that make your horse life easier and better. Our motto is, “Helping horses, one human at a time.”

Thank you to everyone who has supported my small business for the last 34 years and counting!

November 2019 Horse Report

Since this time last month, I’ve been away from home for 25 days, in the normal course of my job attending clinics, expos, conferences and teaching at CSU Equine. Fall is a busy time of year for me. Needless to say, it hasn’t left me much time to work with my own horses. Fortunately, Melissa manages and rides my horses in my absence and helps keep them fit and pampered (and she occasionally stands in as my body double, LOL).

Pepperoni is still confined with no-turnout, lest he get wound-up, running hog-wild, and re-injure something. It’s probably just as well because we’ve had a lot of snow, ice and single-digit temps in the last few weeks and the footing is sketchy at best. He gets 30-40 minutes of hand-walking in the indoor arena every day and for the most part, he has settled into his new reality. He’s a little froggy at times when he gets bored with walking and airs-above-the-ground seem more appropriate. Fortunately, those episodes are short -lived and he is happy to get back to walking. In a few days Pepper gets his next checkup from Dr. Potter, Elite Equine, and we hope he is cleared for riding.

Annie, Dually and our newest herd-mate, Casper, are all fat and happy and hairing up for the winter. Rich and Casper are still getting acquainted and Rich is introducing him to gunshots (in preparation for mounted shooting). I haven’t even had a chance to ride Casper yet, since I’ve been gone so much. I hope to rectify that soon.

Annie remains my go-to finished horse and she is a sweet ride, as always. Often I only have time to ride one horse a day and I usually opt for the youngster (I’m a glutton for punishment), so Mel keeps Annie tuned-up for me. Dually doesn’t do much these days, but keep the herd in-line and occasionally pose for photos. He’s earned his retirement and he’s enjoying it fully.

November 2019 Letter from Julie

Dear friends,

Winter has descended on us rapidly, here in the high mountains of Colorado—we’ve already had several snows and single-digits. We always appreciate the snow (not so much the single digits), no matter when it comes, but especially now since we’ve had a wildfire burning in the wilderness near our town for several months. It’s a fire only Mother Nature can bring to an end. We’re reliant on snowfall for skiing and white-water rafting—the lifeblood of our area. And more importantly, for the water and irrigation that the snowpack provides. So let it snow!

Last month, I had a fabulous clinic in northern California—fun people, beautiful horses and a awesome clinic facility. Can’t ask for more than that! Then we headed up to Granby, Colorado, to the C Lazy U Ranch (recently named the 2nd best resort in the country), and as always, a good time was had by all. In 2020, I’ll be doing four programs at C Lazy U, with two brand new programs that I am really excited about—the Couples’ Riding Retreat and Horsemanship Immersion. Check out the details on my 2020 programs at C Lazy U here. www.juliegoodnight.com/clazyu

I’ve got one more event this year—the grand-daddy of horse expos here in the U.S.—Equine Affaire, November 7-10 in Springfield, MA. I’ll be doing clinics and demos on horse behavior, riding the horse with too much go or too much whoa, riding without the bridle, becoming the rider your horse wants, safety checks, and re-training the high-headed horse. I’ll offer personal Q&As and autographs at both the Cosequin booth and the WF Young booth, and hopefully we’ll be able to bring you all some FaceBook Live posts from the event, so even if you cannot come, you can experience some of the fun.

After Equine Affaire, I settle into winter mode. Looking forward to enjoying some skiing, winter hiking, and the holidays. This time of year, we are grateful to have a toasty indoor arena and be cozy while riding inside. After a few months of that, we’ll be ready for the thaw!

Enjoy the ride,


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

 
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Do You Have a Codependent Relationship with Your Horse?

Horses are very clever animals—quite adept at training people to do what they want. If you think you’ve never been trained by a horse, you probably aren’t paying attention. In every clinic I do, I see riders that have developed what I would call a codependent relationship—a horse that is constantly threatening disobedience and a rider that is playing along with the horse’s threats.

I see riders that cannot keep their horse going at trot or canter—the horse is constantly threatening to break gait and the rider is constantly saying, “No, don’t do that.” I see horses cutting corners and the rider pulling the outside rein. I see horses pulling toward the gate/barn/buddy and the rider seemingly oblivious, pulling the horse in the other direction but never confronting the issue.

Horses are sneaky about this stuff and long before the rider realizes she is playing along, the horse has trained the rider to keep pedaling the horse to go or keep pulling the outside rein to stay on the right path. By playing along, the rider is complicit in the horse’s disobedience and proving to the horse that she will tolerate the disobedience, rather than address it. Or worse, demonstrating to the horse that she is unaware of its disobedience.

Generally, the biggest problem in a codependent relationship is that the rider is unaware of the horse’s behavior—riding in a way that tells the horse that she is blissfully ignorant about the way he is supposed to act. It helps to know how a properly trained horse is supposed to act, but the most important thing is to become aware of the horse’s disobedience, call him out on it and break the cycle of codependency (often easier said than done).

What is an Obedient Horse?
A properly trained saddle horse should travel in the speed and direction the rider wants, until the rider says to do something different. Once you tell the horse to do something, let’s say slow-trot in this direction, the horse should continue trotting in that direction, at the speed the rider dictates, without pedaling or pulling, until the rider says to do something different—like turn, slow down or speed up.

Obedience in a riding horse means that it goes on the path dictated entirely by the rider, at a speed chosen by the rider, without micromanagement from the rider.  The horse should have no decision-making authority in this regard (imagine letting a thousand-pound flight animal go in the speed or direction it wanted). If the rider is constantly telling the horse to slow down, speed up or stay on the path, it means the horse is constantly threatening disobedience. The horse is holding the rider hostage and making the rider complicit in its disobedience, while the rider seems blissfully ignorant of the horse’s actions.

Everyone who has ever taken a horsemanship clinic from me, has heard me talk about “The Golden Moments.” It’s the time at the beginning of the ride when the rider should test the horse’s level of obedience and make her expectations abundantly clear to the horse. If the rider is not proactive at this time, the tables will turn. The horse will test the rider to see what it can get away with, and how aware the rider is of the horse’s actions.

Awareness is the Answer
Horses are herd animals and are very aware of the actions and emotions of the animals around them—including humans. Since most of their communication with other horses is through postures, gestures and body language, they are particularly adept at reading others—again, including humans. They are relationship-oriented animals, so they have a high level of awareness of how other animals are acting.

Humans, on the other hand, are often oblivious to the vibe they are giving off to a horse. The rider often lets her self-doubt, lack of confidence or lack of skill/knowledge show, by not following through on directives and overlooking small infractions. The rider tends to be overly focused on herself, how she’s sitting, what she’s doing with the reins, heels down, eyes up, hands in front of the saddle…. Gradually, the horse starts pushing boundaries, to see what it can get away with, until the rider notices.

Once the rider becomes more aware of the horse, its actions and its motivations, the game is over for the horse. It’s the rider’s lack of awareness that gives the green light to the horse to act however he wants.

Turning the Tables
Once the rider is aware of the horse’s disobedience, it’s easy to bring the game to an end. Part of his strategy involves the rider’s lack of awareness, so simply calling the horse out on his behavior—treating it as a violation—will go a long way to stop the behavior. In general, horses do not want to get in trouble. The rider should scold the horse in such a way that he gets the message, “I know what you are doing, now knock it off!” 

In addition to recognizing the disobedience, it’s also important to understand the motive. Why is the horse acting this way? How does he benefit? What does he want? By understanding the horse’s motivations, it will be far easier to correct him in a manner that takes away all the benefits. Perhaps a few examples will help.

If I detect a horse is veering from the path I dictated by pulling toward the gate/barn/buddy, I now know that 1) my horse is in a disobedient frame of mind, and 2) that he wants to go in a certain direction. My first goal is to let the horse know, I know what he is doing. So instead of politely steering him back to the path I chose, I will scold with my voice (calling him out) and maybe bounce/slap my leg on his ribs, perhaps bump one rein. Then, and most importantly, I’ll make sure I turn the horse a few times—with each turn being AWAY from his objective. I want to be very careful that my horse does not gain any ground and in fact ends up farther away from his objective.

If I am riding in the arena and the horse is pulling toward the middle, refusing to stay on the rail unless I hold him there, my first step is awareness. If I just go around the arena holding the outside rein so his nose is to the wall and he’s going around the arena counter-bent, the horse thinks I don’t know what he’s doing. So I may bump the outside rein as I bump/slap with my inside leg and scold with my voice. Then, I will make a few changes of direction, turning him into the fence each time—never turning him toward the middle. The changes of direction are abrupt and cause him to come closer to the rail with each turn. Then I’ll put him back to the rail, relax my hands and see if he decides to stay there without me holding him. If not, scold and turn into the fence a few times. Once he learns that every time he leans into the middle, it will buy him 3-4 abrupt turns into the fence, he will give it up.

Beware of Whack-a-Mole
When horses misbehave, they generally do the same thing at the same place, every time. They tend to be predictable in their disobedience. This is good because it gives the rider the opportunity to think ahead of the horse and be proactive—take charge BEFORE the horse does his little trick. Being one step ahead of the horse lets him know that the rider is onto his antics.

However, there is a saying in horse training… “it always gets worse before it gets better.” This refers to the fact that if a horse has been getting away with disobedience for some time and you address it—call him out on it—he is unlikely to just stop and never do it again. Especially if it’s a tactic that’s been working well for him; he’s reluctant to give it up so he might put up a little fight before he totally caves. It’s important to stay-the-course, even if he gets mad.

Often, when a horse is acting up at a specific place—either in the arena or on the trail—and you address it, that same disobedient behavior will pop up in a new place. This is quite normal; it’s a tactic the horse has reason to believe will work again, so he tries the same thing someplace else. When you call him out on that, he may try it again someplace different. But eventually, he will give it up.

If a horse has gotten away with disobedience for some time, it may make him mad that his tricks aren’t working. It may temporarily exacerbate the disobedience or cause a bit of a tantrum. The job of the rider is to stay the course without throwing gas on the flame. In other words, be insistent and persistent, but do not agitate the horse further. No need to fight; just wait for the horse to give it up.

Horses may not be great problem-solvers, but they can be very clever in their disobedient tactics and very manipulative of others. Often this manipulative behavior leads to a co-dependent relationship, causing the rider to hold the horse on the path or hold the horse in a speed. But once the rider is aware of the horse’s manipulations, calls the horse out on it, refusing to succumb to the tactic, the game is usually over for the horse. 

October 2019 Horse Report

I rode my horses a lot less than I’d hoped last month, since I was on the road more than home. We were not able to take the horses up to C Lazy U for the Ranch Riding Adventure, due to an outbreak of Strangles at the ranch and because of an outbreak of contagious disease elsewhere around Colorado (vesticular stomatitis). All indications were that it was a good time to leave the horses home. I really missed having my horses there, but I also have a great horse at the ranch that I enjoy riding. So, it just was not worth the risk to our herd’s heath.

Speaking of health, we’ve had our ups and downs around the barn, recently. My three-year-old, Pepperoni, is proving himself to be a high-maintenance horse. No sooner did we get his S-I joint feeling better and his back strong enough to start riding again, than he developed some minor soreness in his suspensory ligaments (possibly from some exuberant bucking in the round pen). Right now, he is on stall rest, with 30 minutes of hand-walking daily. That can be a bit of a wild walk with a young horse that’s full of himself! People often ask me how to deal with this type of situation (hand walking an injured horse that is wound up), so I thought this might be a good time to make a video on the subject.

The other horses are great. My little mare Annie continues to be my go-to horse, since she’s the best trained and most sound horse I have. At 14.0 hands and quick as a rabbit, she’s a blast to ride. Although guilty as charged, as far as being a mare, we’ve managed to train her away from most of her “mare-ish” behaviors. She’s a horse I can put almost anyone on, at least temporarily, and she’ll take care of them. If it’s a novice rider, she’ll eventually figure out she can get away with stuff but at least for a while, she’ll be a good mount. I don’t do that very often, but it’s nice to know that I can.

Dually, one of the best horses I’ve ever had, is fully retired now. He’s got one crooked knee that has serious arthritic changes, and it is now bone-on-bone. He runs around and carries on out in the pasture, but riding isn’t really an option anymore. We’ve done years’ worth and thousands of dollars’ worth of advanced medical treatments, which bought me a few more good years with him, but now it is clearly time for him to rest on his laurels. We still get him out occasionally, to model in front of the cameras, and it makes him feel important. He still occupies the best stall in the barn and gets all the preferential treatment, so in his mind (and in my heart), he’s still #1.

Rich’s new horse, Casper, is clearly becoming the dream-horse he thought he was when he bought him last month in Montana. He’s settled in nicely to our herd and Rich is really enjoying riding and getting to know him. It takes a long time to get to know a horse, especially one with a lot of training (a lot of buttons you must find). This horse is kind, steady and has a solid work ethic. Over the winter, weather permitting, Rich will start hauling him about, maybe to a reining show or two, since that is his primary training. His goal is to start mounted shooting off this horse, but he will take his time to introduce him to that sport. It’s best to stick with what the horse knows while you get in-sync with him, before venturing off on a new path.

Winter is rapidly approaching up here in the high mountains of Colorado, so the riding season is winding down. We’ve already had our first frost (which was late this year) and the pasture is changing slowly from green to brown. Thankfully, we have a toasty indoor arena to keep us going through the winter and I am hoping that over the coming few months, I can get Pepper back into shape so that we can start him on cows later this winter.

October 2019 Letter from Julie

Dear friends,

It’s a busy time of year for me, traveling to conferences, clinics and horse expos from one end of the country to the other. We had a fantastic clinics in Minnesota and Colorado last month, and this week I am heading to central California to work with a new bunch of horses and riders. I’m fortunate that the people who attend my clinics are dedicated to improving their horsemanship and being a better leader to the horse. Horses are amazing animals because when the person changes (improves), the horse changes right along with them. It’s rewarding for me to see the increased connection between horse and rider and the drastic improvements to the horse’s performance, when we just tweak little things in the rider/handler at a clinic.

Later this month, I head to upstate NY for the CHA International Conference, where I will offer a workshop on developing a good work ethic in both horses and riders, a mounted keynote speech on achieving collection, and a keynote speech at the awards banquet called “Trainer to TV,” were I’ll talk about my journey from a horse trainer to producing TV shows. Anyone is welcome to attend the CHA Conference; it is a place where riding instructors, trainers and barn managers, as well as the general horse-loving public, come together to network and study.

Next month I head to Massachusetts, for Equine Affaire, for one of the best horse fairs in the country. Four days of clinics, seminars, demos, and shopping (plus the best fair food anywhere!). This year, I have presentations on horse behavior, regulating your horse’s speed under-saddle, becoming less reliant on the reins (riding bridle-less), improving your equitation, tack and safety checks, and fixing the high-headed horse. That will keep me busy! Additionally, I’ll be signing autographs and answering your questions on the trade show floor– visiting with attendees when I am not in the arena teaching. I sure hope to see you there!

Enjoy the ride,


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

 
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Join Group

 

New Kid on the Block: Introducing a new horse to the herd

Whether you keep your horse at home or at a boarding facility, there will be times when new horses must be integrated into an existing herd. Generally, this involves a lot of posturing between the horses– chasing, biting, and hooves flying. Horses take this event quite seriously and it’s a scary proposition to the new horse and its owner.

Horses are herd animals by nature; they form bonded relationships within the herd, vie for status and fight amongst themselves. Acceptance of a new horse is never granted easily by the herd and the addition of one new individual can totally disrupt the hierarchy of the herd. 

The more you understand the horse’s herd instincts, and the ways that domestication complicates matters, the easier it is to make smart decisions. Taking the time to introduce horses slowly and strategically will help the integration of the ‘new kid’ go smoothly, reduce the risk of injury and keep fireworks to a minimum. 

Herd Dynamics

Horses are instinctively gregarious animals, meaning that by nature, they’re drawn to the herd. A horse banished from the herd will always seek acceptance in another herd, because his survival is at stake. A horse is dependent on the herd for its own safety and comfort.

Gregarious behavior is present in all horses, it’s one of their strongest instinctive drives, although we often speak of it as an affliction (herd bound, barn sour, nappy, etc.). Although a horse without a herd will always seek acceptance into a herd, the existing herd always rejects a new member, until the new horse proves it is worthy of acceptance. The new kid is guilty until proven innocent.

A horse herd has a distinct structure and hierarchy of leadership. What horse owners often refer to as the “pecking order,” animal behaviorists call a “linear hierarchy.”  Simply put, every individual in the herd is either dominant over or subordinate to every other herd member. There is no equality in a horse herd; there’s a horse at the top, and one at the bottom, the rest are lined out in-between. Even amongst bonded individuals (buddies), one of them is dominant and the other is subordinate.

The most dominant horse often becomes the leader of the herd and this horse is designated “Alpha.” The next horse in the line of hierarchy is called “Beta.” The horse all the way at the bottom of the pecking order is designated “Omega.” Truly alpha horses are strong, fair leaders that the other horses admire and feel secure in its presence. Alpha individuals may be male or female, an unusual trait in the animal kingdom. Beta horses tend to challenge authority and may act like bullies, but often do not have the leadership qualities of a true alpha horse. The omega horse usually accepts its fate at the bottom of the hierarchy, it rarely challenges authority and tries to stay out of the fray.

By nature, horses are born with a temperament that may be high or low on the scales of fear, confidence, curiosity or dominance, among other traits. A horse is born with its temperament, which will largely dictate where it sits in the hierarchy. But horses are extremely fast learning animals as well; they may learn to manipulate other horses to gain more status. Sometimes horses gain status in the herd from an affiliation with another horse, so adding or subtracting one individual can often disrupt the hierarchy.

An existing herd is always reluctant to accept a new member, unless and until it shows contrition and a willingness to respect the leadership and be a good citizen in the herd. As predictable as the tides, when a new horse seeks acceptance into the herd, the existing herd members will aggressively drive the horse away, as if to say, “We don’t like you and we don’t want you.” 

The new horse continues to seek acceptance, feeling as if his life is dependent on being accepted. He lowers his head in a contrite and subordinate posture, as if to say, “Please, I’ll do anything if you let me in. I’ll follow the rules, respect the hierarchy and be a good herdmate.” 

Eventually, the existing herd members will back off and allow the new horse provisional membership in the herd. The new kid will work his way up the hierarchy to its rightful place and may become bonded with other herdmates. 

Relationships are Complicated

In a stable herd of any size, feral or domestic, the horses all know their position in the herd and are accepted members. Large herds of horses usually have factions, or smaller sub-herds of horses that like to be together.  

Within a large herd there are horses that like each other and others who do not; there are friends, rivals and enemies. Horses prefer to hang out with their buddies and bonded horses will have each others’ back. There are many cooperative and philanthropic behaviors that occur between bonded horses, including protection and fighting off an aggressive horse.

Within any herd of horses, individuals may form a specially bonded relationships with one or two other individuals. In natural herds, bonded individuals (who behaviorists refer to as “associates”) are often related by blood. Stallions can be extremely possessive of mares and entirely hostile towards marauding stallions. 

Horses in the herd, either domesticated or feral, can be possessive of some horses and jealous of other horses.  Sometimes domesticated horses may become possessive over their humans and are jealous or combative if another horse approaches or gets attention from its human.

Forced Marriages

In domestication, horses don’t get to choose their herdmates. Usually humans make that choice, organizing herds according to their own convenience, often without regard to the horse’s natural behavior. Consequently, the horses may not like each other, sometimes bullies are in charge and/or the hierarchy can be unstable. Often, adding or subtracting one individual can change the herd dynamic in surprising ways, because there were false or forced relationships to begin with.

There is never a void of leadership in a horse herd, either domesticated or feral.  If the alpha individual is suddenly removed, another horse will immediately step in as alpha—theoretically, the strongest natural leader emerges, either male or female. 

But what happens if none of the horses in a forced herd are natural leaders? What happens when there are multiple beta horses, all scrapping for dominance? In domestication, although there will always be a leader in the herd, it may not always be a good one. 

Geldings, although neutered, can often display stallion-like behaviors when it comes to possessing mares, fighting off other geldings and even mating. Of course, mares are usually not neutered and therefore may display unpleasant behaviors in estrus, wreaking havoc in the herd for a 4-5 days every few weeks. Interestingly, in feral herds, the mares usually only come into heat once a year, shortly after foaling, then are pregnant again for the remaining 11 months of the year. Domesticated mares that are not bred may cycle most or all of the year, causing a lot of frustration and angst in the herd.

Many large horse operations segregate horses by gender, to avoid the unpleasantness of a mixed-gender herd. I’ve seen it plenty of times—a large group of geldings co-existing peacefully, and the same of mares. But put one gelding in the mare pen or one mare in the gelding pen and there’s kicking, squealing, chasing and hair flying. But for many horse owners, segregating horses by gender isn’t a realistic option.

Even horses that don’t like each other may become a tight-knit herd, when that’s their only choice. But they may never become bonded associates. A horse’s preference or disdain for another horse can be hard to know in a small, forced herd where they have no choice but to hang out together. In larger herds, it may be hard to know which horse are enemies because horses that dislike each other don’t have to interact. 

A manger of a herd of 200 saddle horses once told me that they bought about a dozen horses a year and those horses were quarantined together, then at some point, integrated to run with the larger herd. Because the horses were quarantined together and then were pitted against the whole herd as the “unwanteds,” they often became their own faction, staying together as a sub-group for the rest of their tenure at the ranch, as if that traumatic experience had bonded them for life.

Relationships between horses can be complicated and the preferences or disdain they show for others can play out like a B-rated soap opera at times. This makes integrating new horses into a herd a huge challenge. It pays to be very deliberate, move slowly and test the waters carefully, so horses don’t get hurt.

Flight or Fight

Flight is the most defining characteristic of the horse, a trait that made the equine species difficult to domesticate some five to ten thousand years ago. Horses generally choose flight over other options, but when motivated to fight, they are very well equipped. 

Horse fights are extremely violent, and stallions may even fight to the death. In a normal herd setting, horses constantly make threatening gestures to others or lash out with a kick or bite. Minor horse-on-horse aggression is normal; but if the herd is in a constant state of argument and aggression, some rearrangement may be needed.

A horse has three weapons in his arsenal—his teeth, his front feet and his hind feet. Biting, striking and kicking are the horse’s arsenal and his teeth are his most deadly weapon. When horses fight to kill, they generally bite the jugular. Consequently, when male horses spar, or play-fight, they often bite at the throat.

It’s important to distinguish between aggressive kicking and defensive kicking—most often it’s the latter that we see. When a dominant horse attacks a subordinate, the subordinate kicks out in defense, often with one leg, and then runs away. The kick buys him time. 

Aggressive kicking is typically accompanied by squealing (a terribly loud scream) and the horse is usually kicking double-barrels and backing into the other horse (who may be doing the same). Horses kicking butt-to-butt are very serious about the fight and this is a very dangerous situation.

When two unfamiliar horses meet, they generally come nose-to-nose and smell each other’s breath, then go nose-to-genitals and smell there before coming back head-to-head. At that point you may see aggressive posturing (raised neck, arched back, swishy tail, stomping) and hear a squeal, which means aggression may ensue. 

Any result is possible when two unknown horses meet: they may be indifferent to each other, like each other, hate each other or want to kill each other. Most often, horses are indifferent or get along. When they don’t, sparks may fly and horses may get hurt.

Mitigation Techniques

Introducing a new horse into a herd is best done slowly and with calculation, to minimize the risk of injury. There are so many variables in the herd size and dynamics, the facilities available and the temperament of the horses, that it is difficult to offer suggestions that work in any situation. But over the decades, I’ve learned some tricks that may help ease the transition.

First, I like to quarantine the new horse for a week or two. Not only does this help reduce the spread of illness, it also allows the horse time to get used to his new environment and become acquainted with his new human family. It allows me time to get to know the horse and evaluate his temperament before introducing him to the rest of the herd. 

Next, I like to let the new horse be in a pen that shares a common fence with the herd. I want the fence to be tall (at least five feet) and solid (to hold up to kicking, striking and leaning on both sides). I may only do this for short periods while I observe what horses are friendly and which are aggressive. I may leave the new horse next to the herd for days, as he gets to know the players.

Since more horses are friendly than aggressive, chances are good that some of the horses in the herd will be interested in making friends with the new horse. As I observe the initial interactions over the fence, I can determine which horses will be jealous or possessive and which horses are interested in the new horse. 

If I can, I will allow the new horse to meet one or two of the friendly horses without the fence in between—turning them out together for some time before introducing the rest of the herd. That way, the new horse may have a friend when he meets the whole herd. Sometimes it’s feasible to add one horse at a time to the new horse’s pen, until the whole herd is together.

Often, identifying the one dominant horse that is causing the conflict and removing that horse from the equation, allows everyone else to get along just fine. I would keep that horse isolated from the herd for a week or two, while the new guy settles in and finds his place. Be careful not to break up alliances in the existing herd, as you introduce the horses one at a time. A jealous, dominant horse may come uncorked when he sees his BFF with the new guy.

If I have any concerns about aggression when I put the horses all together, I’ll recruit help from one or two friends. Armed with training flags or whips to wave and make noise, we’ll referee the first meeting. If the horses become aggressive, we’ll shout and wave the flags to break them up and then remove the trouble-makers. A little solitary confinement may make the aggressive horse rethink his behavior next time, while the new horse gets comfortable with the rest of the herd. Fighting horses are scary and dangerous, so proceed with great caution. 

Most importantly, take your time when integrating a new horse into a herd and employ a strategy. Do your best to know the temperaments of the horses and who the main players will be. Most of the time, horses will work out their differences and find a new order in the herd, in a matter of hours, but occasionally, horses can be injured. Whatever you can do to reduce the risk and stress level, will help the horses.

September 2019 Horse Report

It’s been a busy month around my barn! We welcomed a new member into our herd. Well, Rich and I welcomed him. The other horses, not so much. Rich and Mel drove twelve hours to Montana, rode a bunch of horses, watched a bunch of roping and cow work, and then drove 12 hours home with the prize—Casper, a 6 y/o AQHA gelding, trained as a reiner but schooled in all phases of ranch work. He’s a lovely horse with a stellar temperament and Rich has already really bonded with him. I did have to lay down the law with Rich to say that Casper could not sleep in our bedroom.

We are letting Casper settle in slowly and get rested up after a long period of hard training and a long trip to his new home. But Casper has already starred in his first video! It was about reducing the static shock build-up in your blankets by using the right blanket wash and by spraying your horse with ShowSheen. Around my barn, horses have to be camera ready!

Pepper is recuperating from yet another injury, making me wonder, how big of a roll does bubble wrap come in? Honestly, I could be back to riding him now but I am taking some extra time to get him in better condition first. Between the green grass that’s lasted all summer, the lay-offs from injuries and my travel time, one of us has gotten a bit soft (and it isn’t me). I’ll spend about another week just doing conditioning groundwork, then I’ll start the same program under-saddle. Hopefully by this time next month, we’ll be back in full gear.

Meanwhile, my good horse Dually continues to rule the roost and look pretty—this is what he does best now, and we occasionally pull him out to model for the camera. Annie has become my #1 go-to horse rather reluctantly (it’s way more work than being #3). Although I like to joke about her marishness, I’m very happy to have such a lovely little mare who can do anything I ask and at a moment’s notice. She’s right-sized for me and a blast to ride, so what more can I ask? I can find something to love about any horse. Can you?


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

Troxel Helmets becomes Official Helmet of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association

Contact for additional information and images:
Jenny Beverage 208.740.4964
jennyb@weaverleather.com

Troxel Helmets becomes Official Helmet of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association 

Mt Hope, Ohio- Troxel helmets is excited to announce a new three year partnership with the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) as their Official Helmet. With over 4 million helmets in the field and a safety record second to none, Troxel continues to partner with forward thinking organizations to help break the stigma regarding helmet use in western riding disciplines.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with the WPRA as their Official Helmet.  It’s an honor to have Troxel be part of such an iconic women’s association that understands the long term value of increasing rider safety in order to continue to grow the sport into the future,” said Jenny Beverage, Troxel Brand Manager.

To further encourage helmet use among members, Troxel and the WPRA will be offering a new $500 added money Helmet Incentive during the 2019 WPRA World Finals on October 24-27 in Waco, TX.   “This is our first time offering an incentive like this at the WPRA World Finals. We are so pleased to be able to promote rider safety with Troxel at such a large event and reward our contestants for participating,” said Doreen Wintermute, WPRA President/CEO.

It’s been over four years now since Troxel Athlete and WPRA member Fallon Taylor stormed into the Thomas and Mack Arena at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas wearing a helmet.  History was made as Fallon Taylor won the 2014 Barrel Racing World Championship, all while wearing a helmet.  “When you ride a bike, motorcycle, go snowboarding or do other wild things, people don’t look at you like you are crazy for wearing a helmet.  We ride 1200 pound animals on hard ground…think about it, it doesn’t seem all that crazy to wear one!” exclaims WPRA member Fallon Taylor.

Troxel is proud to keep paving the way with their athletes and the WPRA in the world of rodeo, to encourage riders to proudly wear a helmet.  

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About Troxel Helmets

Troxel is the world’s leading provider of ASTM / SEI certified equestrian helmets for competitive, schooling and recreational riding. Established in 1898, Troxel is recognized for its innovative design and research leadership in helmetry. Based in Mt. Hope, Ohio Troxel has provided over four million helmets to the equestrian market. See the extensive line of Troxel helmet styles, fit and safety education at www.troxelhelmets.com.

About Woman’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA)

World Championship Barrel Racing is brought to you by The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association which was formed in 1948 when thirty-eight cowgirls came together to create an organization dedicated to the promotion and advancement of women in the sport of rodeo. The WPRA features barrel racing and roping events as well as a junior and futurity/derby division. The WPRA is the oldest women’s sports association in the country and the only one governed entirely by women. www.wpra.com

Whole Food Options to Boost Protein Quality

http://www.gettyequinenutrition.com/

Whole Food Options to Boost Protein Quality

By Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.

Protein is not a popular subject. Most “nutrition-talk” revolves around carbohydrates – sugar and starch, to be specific, because they impact metabolic conditions that are a very real concern for many horse owners. We also talk about fat – types of fat, essential fatty acids, omega 3s, you know the terms – because horses require a daily supply of essential fatty acids and they also benefit from fat to fulfill high energy needs for weight gain and exercise.

 

But protein? Just check the “percent crude protein” and figure it’s enough, right? Not necessarily. There’s a lot more to it than that. To guide you, let’s start by looking at what happens to the protein in your forages and feeds, when your horse eats it.

 

Proteins in the feed are digested down to amino acids. There are 22 individual amino acids – “building blocks” your horse’s cells put together to create new proteins. There are literally hundreds of proteins in his body, all of which rely on not only enough total protein, but enough amino acid variability.

 

Forages have protein, but their variability is limited; they have lots of some amino acids and not much of others. If a single type of grass as hay or pasture is the only protein source in your horse’s diet, the pool of amino acids available to your horse’s body will be deficient in several amino acids, making it difficult for him to stay healthy.

 

Think of it like a beaded necklace

 

Imagine a bowl full of red, blue, yellow and green beads. You want to make a long necklace with a very specific color pattern. As you progress in stringing this necklace, you notice that you’ve run out of yellow beads. Uh oh… now you cannot make the necklace you planned. You either get more yellow beads, or you end up with a bracelet instead of a necklace!

 

Protein molecules are like long, beaded chains of amino acids, in a very specific order, depending on where the protein is located. Muscle protein looks different than joint proteins. Hemoglobin in red blood cells, looks different that digestive enzymes. The DNA within each tissue’s cells dictates the order of amino acids needed to produce that specific protein. If there are enough amino acids available, the protein can be created. If not, then that tissue goes without.

 

And what about all those unused amino acids – those red, blue and green beads?  Can’t they be saved for later in the hope that you’ll feed more “yellow beads?” Unfortunately, no. Instead, they get destroyed and cannot be used for protein synthesis. They can be used for energy, glucose production, or stored as fat, but that doesn’t meet your horse’s protein need

 

What about wild horses?

 

Horses in a wild setting travel for miles each day, grazing on a vast assortment of feedstuffs – grasses, legumes, flowers, fruits, berries, seeds, leaves, edible weeds, shrubs, and bark, offering a mixture of nutrients, including proteins. Can we duplicate this in a domesticated setting?  Not usually, unless you have many acres of untouched land. Therefore, our goal should be to improve the horse’s protein quality of the diet by offering more protein-rich feeds.

 

How do we know if we are creating a high-quality protein?

 

We need to pay attention to the amino acid profile of the entire diet. Of the 22 different amino acids, your horse’s body is only able to make 12. The remaining ten are considered essential, meaning the body cannot produce them, or cannot produce them in adequate quantity. Therefore, they must be in the diet. The 10 essential amino acids (EAAs) are methionine, arginine, threonine, tryptophan, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, valine, and phenylalanine.

 

We do not know the specific requirements of each EAA for horses. The only one that has been evaluated is lysine, because it is considered “limiting.”  This simply means that the amount of proteins produced will be limited by the level of lysine. If lysine is low, it’s like not having enough yellow beads (going back to our beaded necklace analogy).

 

There are two other limiting amino acids: methionine and threonine. Exactly how much the horse requires is unknown, but we do have an idea of the levels relative to the lysine content. The general thinking among equine nutritionists is that there should be 2 to 3 times more lysine than methionine, and threonine content should be about the same as lysine.

 

Most animal proteins are higher in quality than those found in plants. This means that they contain more than enough amino acid building blocks to build tissues for vital organs as well as peripheral, non-vital tissues. But horses do not naturally consume animal protein sources, so we have to get a little creative by mixing several plant protein sources so that they ultimately reflect the amino acid profile of an animal source.

 

Most grasses have a similar amino acid profile. Cool season grasses, such as timothy, brome, orchardgrass, rye, fescue, and Kentucky bluegrass, tend to have more amino acids than warm season grasses, such as the popular Bermuda and Teff.  To improve the protein quality, you can add a legume such as alfalfa (lucerne), clover, and perennial peanut grass (grown in some southern areas of the US).

 

Consider adding whole foods to the mix

 

Adding alfalfa to grasses will certainly help, but many horse owners choose to avoid it.  Or even if you do include it, the EAA content may not be sufficient for your particular horse. For example, feeding 18 lbs of grass hay plus 4 lbs of alfalfa may meet the EAA need of an average horse on light activity, but it may not if the horse has any compromised health issues.

 

Adding whole foods to your horse’s diet will not only improve the overall protein quality, but can add valuable vitamins, antioxidants, trace minerals, and fatty acids that your horse might not otherwise consume. Here are some examples:

 

1) Dehulled soybean meal. This is the most commonly added protein source to commercial products. Economical and rich in protein (47%), it is easy to see why it is used to boost the protein content of many feeds and ration balancers. But there are several potential problems with soy:

  • Its fat content is high in linoleic acid (an omega 6 essential fatty acid) and low in alpha linolenic acid (an omega 3 essential fatty acid). High amounts of linoleic acid in the diet can increase inflammation.
  • Its high phytoestrogen content could possibly impact horses’ behavior
  • It is goitrogenic, meaning it has the potential to damage the thyroid gland, making it important to monitor iodine intake.
  • Many horses are allergic to soy, exhibiting respiratory and skin issues.
  • Unless organic, almost all soy grown in the US is genetically modified to withstand being sprayed with the herbicide, RoundUp (Bayer). Glyphosate, its active ingredient has been implicated in potentially damaging the microbiome and interfering with mineral absorption.

 

2) Hemp seeds. High in protein (32%), they contain two main proteins:  albumin and edestin. Both have significant amounts of all EAAs. Some other aspects of hempseeds:

  • They have both essential fatty acids, linoleic and alpha linolenic acid (ALA), as well as a special fatty acid known as gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA belongs to the omega 6 family, but unlike the omega 6 found in soybean oil, it reduces inflammation rather than promoting it.
  • They are easy to digest, and highly palatable (great for the picky eater).
  • Can be found as a hempseed meal (with some of the fat reduced to make it appropriate for an overweight horse), or as the whole hemp seed fines, which include the ground up fibrous coating.

 

3) Flax seeds. With 18% protein, they make a good choice to include in the diet (make sure they are ground). But their real claim to fame is their essential fatty acid content which duplicates those naturally found in fresh, healthy pasture grasses. (Remember, the word, “essential” means that they cannot be made by the body and must be in the diet.) Adding flax will therefore, serve two benefits: provides necessary essential fatty acids, and offers a source of protein to boost overall protein quality in the diet.

 

4) Chia seeds. They are comparable to flax seeds in their protein content and nearly identical to flax in their essential fatty acid content. In fact, you can feed either ground flax seeds, or chia seeds, depending on your budget and your horse’s preference.

 

5) Split peas and pea protein isolate. Peas that are dried and split are a tasty way to add protein and crunch to the diet. They can be fed raw, but it is good to soften them a bit by soaking them in warm water for a few minutes. Though the protein content is high (24%), it doesn’t compare to the protein content of pea protein isolate, with 75% protein. I recommend adding pea protein isolate to the diet for horses who require extra protein due to aging, growth, intense exercise needs, pregnancy, and lactation.

 

6) Coconut (copra) meal. A good source of protein (20%), it is low in sugar/starch, and high in fat, from coconut oil, making it a good choice for a horse who is underweight or is heavily exercised. Keep in mind that the fatty acid content of coconut oil does not include essential fatty acids, necessitating supplementation from an additional fat source (such as flax or chia).

 

7) Pumpkin seeds. A tasty treat, supplying 34% protein, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, including a high amount of magnesium. They can be fed raw, hulled, or with the shells on.  When fed raw, they contain active digestive enzymes that are helpful for gastrointestinal tract.

 

8) Whey. Whey is a protein found in milk and is highly concentrated (80% protein). Because it is animal, and not plant, it is of very high quality. It can contain some lactose, and adult horses are lactose intolerant; therefore, they may develop loose manure.

 

9) Other feedstuffs:

  • Beet pulp is not concentrated in protein (only about 7%) but it is a worthwhile way to add a similar amount of calories as oats, without the concurrent insulin response that starch creates. It is a nice carrier feed for supplements. However, most beets grown in the US are genetically modified (GMO), so it is best to choose a non-GMO source.
  • Black oil sunflower seeds offer a similar level of protein as pumpkin seeds. However, they are very high in linoleic acid (omega 6) with virtually no omega 3s. Consequently, they can cause inflammation when fed in high amounts.

Please note: Whenever you add a new feed to your horse’s diet, it is important to starting slowly, taking two or three weeks to allow the hindgut microbial population to adjust.

 

Since each whole food has a difference density, the information below provides the volume measure equivalent to 4 ounces by weight of each product along with the protein grams.

 

  • Ground Hemp seeds: 1/2 cup; 30 grams of protein
  • Ground Flax seeds: 1 cup; 18 grams of protein
  • Chia seeds: 1/2 cup; 16 grams of protein
  • Split peas: 1 cup; 24 grams of protein
  • Pea protein isolate: 1/2 cup; 75 grams of protein
  • Copra meal: 1/2 cup; 20 grams of protein
  • Pumpkin seeds: 3/4 cup; 34 grams of protein
  • Whey: 1 cup; 73 grams of protein

 

How much protein does your horse require?

 

According to the National Research Council, protein requirements vary based on mature size, activity level, age of growing horses, and breeding status. On average, a 1100 lb (500 kg) adult horse at maintenance, will require a minimum of 630 grams of crude protein per day. As exercise increases, values can increase to approximately 1000 grams/day. Growing horses require more, and pregnancy and lactation can double the maintenance requirement.

 

But, and this is important… these values do not take into consideration that the amino acids in forages are not highly absorbed. The level of absorption is referred to as its biological value (BV).  The BV of pasture grasses and hays ranges from 45 to 80 percent.

 

That means that the NRC numbers may need to be increased by 20 to 55% to get a clear estimate of how much your horse is realistically absorbing. Here are some points to consider:

  • The higher the fiber, the lower the BV. If the NDF (neutral detergent fiber) value on your hay analysis report is much over 60% on a dry matter basis, the hay contains a large amount of fiber. In general, the more immature and softer the hay, the higher the BV.
  • Healthy, growing pasture grasses are higher in BV than they are during non-growing seasons.
  • If your horse is on ulcer medication (e.g., omeprazole, ranitidine, sucralfate), protein digestion and absorption will be diminished.
  • Inflammatory substances in the diet will diminish the protein’s BV. These can include vegetable oil/soybean oil, pesticides/herbicides, molasses, and high starch diets.

 

Bottom line

 

For your horse’s diet to contain quality protein, consider how many protein sources you are feeding. Adding one or more whole foods to hay and/or pasture will accomplish this goal. This will boost the essential amino acid content, allowing for every tissue in the body to get what it needs to thrive. Variety is key!

 

 

 

[1] Getty, J.M. 2018. Four directions amino acids can take – The importance of feeding several protein sources. http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/Library/theimportanceoffeedingseveralprote

 

 

Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an independent equine nutritionist with a wide U.S. and international following. Her research-based approach optimizes equine health by aligning physiology and instincts with correct feeding and nutrition practices. Dr. Getty’s goal is to empower the horseperson with the confidence and knowledge to provide the best nutrition for his or her horse’s needs.

 

Dr. Getty’s fundamental resource book, Feed Your Horse Like a Horse, is available in paperback as well as in hardcover and Kindle versions. All except the Kindle version are available at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com— buy the book there and have it inscribed by the author. Print and Kindle versions are also available at Amazon (www.Amazon.com); find print versions at other online retail bookstores. The seven individual volumes in Dr. Getty’s topic-centered “Spotlight on Equine Nutrition” series are available with special package pricing at her website, and also at Amazon in print and Kindle versions. Dr. Getty’s books make ideal gifts for equestrians!

 

Find a world of useful information for the horseperson at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com: Sign up for Dr. Getty’s informative, free e-newsletter, Forage for Thought; browse her library of articles and tips; listen to recorded interviews; and purchase recordings of her educational teleseminars and webinars.

 

Find a variety of quality supplements and whole foods at her online Free Shipping Supplement Store[i]. Reach Dr. Getty directly at:

http://www.gettyequinenutrition.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing with the Death of a Horse

Eddie and Julie's husband Rich, with his head bowed, black and white photo.

Eddie and Julie's husband Rich, with his head bowed, black and white photo.
It’s never easy to witness. There’s something about their power… their free spirit… the image of running like the wind, that makes it especially hard to watch a horse go down. Seeing a happy and carefree horse suddenly fall ill and struggle to survive or watching an old beloved friend suffer and grow weak… these are some of the hardest issues horse owners face. The death of a horse is not something we like to think about, but death is a part of life and when it comes to horses, it’s best to be prepared.

Recently, we lost our horse Eddie—suddenly and with no warning. He literally dropped in his tracks in the arena, the entire ordeal lasting only a few minutes from start to finish. To say it was unexpected is a gross understatement. A few weeks later, I shared our loss in my newsletter, and I was floored with the response—through emails, texts, posts, phone calls and in person— people were expressing condolences and often sharing stories about losing a beloved horse. It made me realize that death is part of life and that we cannot expect to enjoy the incredible gifts horses give us, without taking on this risk and responsibility.

Sudden death in horses, from causes like stroke or aneurysm, is not common, but not unheard of either. Colic is by far the number one killer of domesticated horses and although it typically comes on fast and hard, in some cases it can be a long slow death, unless the suffering is ended through euthanasia. Many horses live with chronically debilitating and degenerative diseases, until their owners recognize the time has come to end their suffering. On rare occasions horses just lay down and die peacefully of old age. If only it was always that easy!

No matter how, when or where it happens, the death of a horse is tragic and difficult. Having an action plan for end-of-life events, thoughtfully considered ahead of time, will help you navigate this difficult path when it is thrust upon you. Understanding the options in dealing with the aftermath of a dead horse can be quite challenging and unpleasant – don’t wait until you are charged with emotion and tears to know what they are. Finally, moving on to a new horse is a big step for some people, but it is possible to find another connection. I have some advice that may help.

Action Plan
When the time comes and the unthinkable happens—your horse is dying or needs you to consider its quality of life —what will you do? What resources can you bring to the table? Who will you call for help? Is a trip to a veterinary hospital an option? How will you get him there? What if euthanasia is the kindest decision? Will you be able to make responsible decisions, on the spot? Probably not, unless you have thought some things through in advance.

Your available access to mobile veterinary care, as well as access to equine hospitals and surgical centers, will play a large role in the critical-care decisions you make for your horse. For instance, it would be a three-hour haul through the mountains for me to get a horse to a hospital that could perform colic surgery. Horses sick enough to need colic surgery may die in-route or be too exhausted to survive the difficult and expensive surgery.

Emergency veterinary care for horses can run north of $10,000 in just a few days, so it is an unfortunate fact of life that financial resources will also have a bearing on the decisions you make. Consider setting up an emergency fund and write down what your wishes are for your horse in the event of illness, or injury. These kinds of decisions are best thought about in advance and not in the heat of the moment. Be realistic about your budget and what makes sense. Make sure friends who may end up in charge of your horse’s life, if you are suddenly out of the picture, know what you would want done for your horses. Of course, medical and mortality insurance are readily available for horses, which is a good idea if you have a large financial investment in your horse.

Euthanasia decisions are required to be made by most horse owners eventually – we tend to outlive our horses, for the most part. In the case of old age, crippling lameness, chronical illness or degenerative disease, we sometimes have months or years to make the decision to “pull the trigger.” One of the biggest fears for horse owners is, “How will I know when it’s time?” You’ll know when the horse’s suffering is too great, when he’s depressed and has lost the will to live. When he can no longer lay down or get up. When movement stops because it’s too painful. The worst mistake you can make here is to get greedy—to be unwilling to let the horse go—protecting your own self-interest and shying away or ignoring the needs of your horse.

When you see your horses all the time, it’s easy to miss the slow degeneration…your horse has lost weight, conditioning, his attitude has changed…but you don’t see it like someone else would who hadn’t seen your horse in six months. Track your horse’s weight, it doesn’t matter how accurate the weight tape is, just that it can register a change. Get a resting heart rate, so you can monitor his pain level. Become familiar with the subtle signs of lameness and understand that horses are programmed to hide weaknesses to survive…when they finally reveal a weakness/illness/lameness it is often a shock.

It’s not easy to know when it’s the right time to end a horse’s suffering, but to me, the greatest mistake is in waiting too long and losing control of a dignified death. Don’t wait until it’s an emergency. This decision might be made easier by considering “The Five Freedoms of Horses,” which outline five aspects of animal welfare under our control:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst.
  • Freedom from discomfort.
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease.
  • Freedom from distress and fear.
  • Freedom to express natural behavior.

When a horse no longer has all five freedoms, it’s probably time to consider euthanasia. Unfortunately, the decision to euthanize a horse sometimes comes with no warning or time for preparation. Here’s where your action plan can be most helpful. This is often the case with serious colic, acute laminitis or trauma. Call on those resources you’ve already identified – that friend, the vet or others knowing they have knowledge, experience and advice you can trust. The support of a horse professional or more experienced horse friend will also help you think through these hard decisions—call someone – you don’t need to go it alone. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give is to end the horse’s suffering and you should never feel badly about that. In the end you should trust your gut and listen to your vet.

Euthanizing a horse is not the easy way out and it is not a pretty thing to witness.  Say your goodbyes, then consider letting the professionals handle the job. It’s best to preserve the most beautiful memories you have of your horse. It’s good to rely on others at times like this. If you feel the need to be there at your horse’s side for his last breaths, realize that it can be a dangerous and unpredictable process. Listen to your vet and let them coach you on staying out of harm’s way.

Guilt is a Useless Emotion
Often when horses die, especially from an acute colic or sudden death, we have a need to seek answers and assign blame. Too often, the answers will never be available to you, so time spent chasing them can be fruitless. Assigning blame and second-guessing, whether it’s to yourself or others, rarely if ever helps. It’s always important to assess what happened, what could have been different and how we might change things for the future. But no amount of guilt, blame or self-punishment will bring the horse back to life. So be kind to yourself. This sentiment was eloquently stated by a staff veterinarian at Nutramax Labs, in a letter to me, after Eddie died:

Dear Julie, 

I’m so very sorry for your loss in Eddie. I know he was a fabulous horse and I also know that he had a fabulous life with you! I’m sure he couldn’t have had a better home than at your ranch! Unfortunately, we never know when their time will come to cross the rainbow bridge and sometimes it is far too soon. Find peace in the fact that he went quickly and did not suffer. There is nothing you could have or should have done differently for him. You gave him an amazing home and a wonderful life full of love! You and everyone on your team are in my thoughts and prayers!

Love and Hugs!!
Stacey Buzzell, DVM

Instead of feeling sad and guilty or angry and defensive, wouldn’t it be great if we could remember the good things about our time with that horse—reflect on the memories and savor the relationship we had? Another note I received from retired trauma physician—no doubt well-versed in knowing just what to say in times like this– was very meaningful to me and set the right tone…

Julie,  

I am so sorry about Eddie’s sudden death and just want to tell you I’m thinking about you and your “barn family” as you each grieve the loss in your own way.  Anyone who met Eddie immediately saw him as the epitome of a “Good Boy” and the love and respect and comfort he felt for you as his leader was so obvious when he was with you.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every horse were able to live up to his potential in a similar environment?  Give yourself a hug for the life that you and Rich gave Eddie.

Barbara Williams

Final Resting Place
Having to watch a horse suffer and making difficult, life-ending decisions is hard enough, and it’s followed by the challenge of physically dealing with the horse after he’s dead. Honestly, if you’re squeamish, it may be best to just skip this whole section of the article and find someone else to deal with it. But there will be decisions that must be made.

There may be renderers in your area that will come pick up the carcass and dispose of it in their own way. This is likely the easiest and cheapest solution, if it’s available to you. Also, there are cremation services for horses and generally the service you pay for (and it’s expensive) will come pick up the carcass and handle the cremation and return a large container of ashes to you.

Depending on where you live and the local and state laws that apply, your options for carcass disposal will vary. In many places, it is illegal to bury horses in the ground, in part to prevent contamination of the water table. If burial is an option on your property, then hiring a backhoe and driver to dig a hole may be an option, but it comes with a few caveats. If the driver has not buried a horse before, they will almost certainly make the hole too small. The size of the hole is way bigger than one might think. Getting the horse to the hole and fitting it into the hole is also not easy nor pretty and may require some wrestling.

If you are burying a horse that was euthanized with a needle, the carcass is highly toxic both to scavenger animals and to the water table. Chemically euthanized horses must be handled carefully to avoid spreading the toxins that are now in the carcass. Make sure the carcass is well-covered if some time will elapse before burial and use discretion in selecting a burial spot.

The local landfill may take horse carcasses but call them first so they can be prepared. I have on occasion, had a horse euthanized in a stock trailer so that the carcasses can be off-loaded easily and then immediately buried at the landfill. Again, this is not a pleasant thought, but sometimes, especially with euthanized horses, it is the most practical solution.
In many areas of the west, ranchers have “bone yards” at a remote location on their ranch where they take carcasses and let predators and Mother Nature do the job of decomposing. If you know a rancher that will allow it, this is not a bad way to go. It’s not an option for horses euthanized with drugs, but may be a viable solution for horses that die naturally or are euthanized with captive bolt or a bullet. Also, there may be uses for non-toxic carcasses in feeding zoo animals in your area.

Composting a carcass can be a viable solution, depending on how much land you have and the climate you live in. There are instructions available online and it’s an elaborate process. It takes six months to a year for the carcass to fully decompose, depending on the climate. Your veterinarian may know of other options in your area and your county extension agent should have some advice on carcass disposal.

There’s one more piece of advice that is not fun to talk about, but important to know. Removing a dead horse from a barn or stall can be ugly. If possible, you want to avoid having a horse die inside a building or area of confinement. It will require a large piece of equipment to move a thousand-pound carcass, which will need room to negotiate and lifting the carcass off the ground will require a tall reach. Once rigor mortis has set in, moving the carcass through door openings or out of stalls is nearly impossible and sometimes it can only be moved in parts if walls and fences cannot be disassembled.

These are certainly not pleasant issues to think about and investigate, but it’s far easier to get the information and choose an option well before you need it than in the heat of the moment.

Moving On
Just like with horses, humans can become so tightly bonded to one individual horse, especially when you’ve been partners for years, that starting over in a brand-new relationship with another horse can be a challenge. I’ve heard a lot of anguish over the years from people in this situation who’ve had trouble accepting a new horse—succumbing to the temptation to make comparisons between the horses and ultimately being disappointed in the new horse because they can’t let go of what they once had.

For many people, riding an unfamiliar horse is scary and leaving that comfort zone and heading into the unknown with a new horse feels like stepping off the edge of the earth. There’s no point in rushing into anything. Allow yourself to grieve. Give it time before moving onto another horse. For others, jumping back in the saddle with a new horse is just the right medicine, but could carry the risk of making an impetuous decision about a long-term relationship.

Whether you need to give it time or are ready to jump right back in, this is an opportunity for you to reassess your wants and needs, when it comes to your next horse. Before looking at any horses for sale or for adoption, think long and hard about your personal needs. What disciplines do you ride or want to ride, how much time can you devote to the new horse, your personal energy/activity level, and your skill level. What do you miss most about the horse you lost? What qualities do you wish to avoid? Create a list of must-haves and hope-to-haves and deal-breakers.

Rather than thinking of it as starting over, think of it as reinventing your horse life and a chance to create a new beginning and relationship. Make your lists and imagine your dream horse. Finding that horse will present a whole new set of challenges but knowing what you want is the right place to start.

Once you’ve found your new partner, be patient and allow your relationship to develop over time. Each horse and owner relationship is unique. Give your new horse time to adjust to its new life with you. Open your heart to this next step with your equine partner and avoid making comparisons with the horse you loved and lost. Know that it will take time to get to know each other, to build trust, to build a comfort level. Eventually, you’ll once again be able to focus on the power, the strength and the beauty that a horse brings to your life and simply enjoy the ride…

September 2019 Letter from Julie

Dear friends,

We spent Labor Day Weekend boating at the lake (one of my other passions). It was our 19th wedding anniversary, in addition to one of the last weekends of summer, so Rich and I were intent on celebrating. I learned to wake surf and absolutely loved it! I can see why people become addicted.

We’ve had a beautiful summer—plenty of irrigation water and enough dry weather to bring in good hay crops (hallelujah!). Hay should be plentiful this year, at least here in Colorado. Abundant horse-quality hay is good for the horses and for those of us who pay huge hay bills. Here in the high mountains, when it rains or gets cloudy the temperature plummets, so it hasn’t been too hot this summer. I’ve been hearing horror stories about heat waves elsewhere, and I know how tough it is on horses and riding. I hope you’ve managed to keep your horses cool!

Looking ahead to Fall, I’ve got horsemanship clinics coming up in Minnesota, Colorado and California. Plus, I’ll be in Baltimore, to give a keynote speech at a customer appreciation dinner at the Mill of Bel Air. I’m also heading to upstate New York in October to give presentations at the CHA International Conference, and then to Massachusetts in November for Equine Affaire. As always, I hope to see you somewhere in my travels!

When I’m home, my crew and I keep busy producing content for our online training programs, offering the solutions you need and keeping the content fresh. We’re always looking for new topics for my podcast and for horse training video tips, so be sure to message me with your ideas.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer and don’t forget… enjoy the ride!


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

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