Lemme Tell Ya’ ‘Bout My Best Friend

Adding a new member to an existing herd can be risky. When bringing a new horse home there are several things to look at and consider. First, where is the horse coming from? This question is the first crucial question as you want to evaluate risk of disease. There is always a risk when bringing a new horse home. Does the horse have all of its shots? Was it around horses that were potential carriers of anything? How do you know it’s safe? When getting a new horse it’s highly advisable to have the horse in quarantine, away from all your other animals (not just horses) for 30 to 60 days. This will allow any diseases that may not be showing symptoms at the time of purchase to come to blossom. It helps keep the rest of your herd safe, healthy, and your vet bill down. Auctions and feedlots are great examples of places that should absolutely have animals quarantined before interacting with established stock. Private homes where horses don’t go many places and are current on all vaccinations are less of a threat.

Once the new addition has passed the health check phase you can proceed with introducing horses. I don’t keep my horses stalled together (exception: the mini stallions) as I don’t have a stall big enough. If I could, however, I would. I do try to have co-turnout for my horses though. Horse-horse interaction is a vital requirement for the healthy mentality of a horse. As any horse obsessed person knows: horses are herd animals. They’re social. Beyond the company of another horse co-existing in the same yard they need physical contact with the other horse. Like humans, not every horse will get along with every other horse. Some do: some get along with any horse you introduce them to, others are not okay with any horse they’re introduced to, and the rest fall somewhere in the spectrum between the two extremes.

It’s best to go slow, wade into the water, than to just dive in head first. Horses are not small animals. Their hooves can do real damage to each other. I like to know my horse’s personality first: where would they sit in a herd? Is your horse submissive (do they give in easily during training)? Are they more dominant (constantly challenging you, pushing into you, or not moving)? Are they somewhere in between or a combination thereof?

Before turning two horses out together I like to, ideally, have them share a fence line. With sharing a fence the horses can be evaluated for how they interact (to a degree) but still have safety to prevent any terrible fights. They longer they share a fence line, the better.

With Kahlua and Juno I didn’t have the luxury of shared fence line due to the way stalls are set up and occupied. I’ve had Juno for almost a year and in that time I’ve come to know her goofy personality pretty well. She’s kind of… Head in the clouds. She’s extremely smart but book smart. Common sense she is just so…blonde. Every horse (and human) is her new best friend (according to her). She doesn’t understand personal space and comes on very strong. Thankfully Juno is submissive so in the end I’m never worried about her. Even though I haven’t had Kahlua that long I have the luxury of knowing her second hand through her former/first owner/mom. She’s easy going, not necessarily submissive but not the aggressor. More of a stand up for herself kind of mare. She gets along with nearly any horse, provided they’re not aggressive. It sounded like a good match so… I tried it.

It worked wonderfully.

The mares did amazing together. As of now I’ve turned the girls out together several times and they’re nearly best friends. Kahlua gets a little touchy when food is involved (such as right before I bring her in from turnout for breakfast). Though I can leave the girls alone while I do chores and not worry about them. They pal around the arena together with calm interactions. I know they’re on the path to being inseparable.

While the girls were getting along so famous I decided to take things one step further: turn Flint out with them. Flint and Juno get along so well. He’s a fairly docile guy but does still think he’s a stallion… I armed myself with a whip and brought him to the arena too. The whip is key: should a fight break out it allows me to intervene without putting myself in harms way.

Well, true to my thoughts Flint tried to be big bad stallion. While he didn’t come over to Kahlua guns blazing with aggression he did act like a teenage boy in love. Kahlua was quick to put him in his place with a few warning kicks. Flint was just a quick to back off and simply pal around with Juno. There were a few moments where it looked like Kahlua was almost trying to get between Juno and Flint and “protect” Juno from Flint. Another reason I think they’re on their way to being such good friends.

Horses are social animals and need interactions but as important as interactions are for horses safety is equally important.


Horse show and Welcome home Kahlua!

It’s only now that I’m finally caught up on sleep and the days have returned to normal (with 90 some 5th grade trudging through my classroom doors) that I’ve begun to reflect of the blissful chaos of this past weekend (and week really!).

It started nearly two weeks ago when a little (okay 15hh and not so little) buckskin mare that I had admired for the better half of nearly two years became available.  She was in need of a loving home first and foremost as her situation wasn’t bad (at all) but her owner had come to the decision that the mare needed better. Better. Better how? A home that would love like her owner did, where she could be cared for, safe, loved, and potentially work. She had a bucking problem but a kind eye. She’s had plenty of days of professional training and was beyond beautiful. WIth a few discussions I messaged about her. A few moments later I was set up to meet her. A week later the news came that our home was selected and we’d be getting her. It was between the first message and the good news that I decided to enter her in the local mustang show. I’d have no time to work one on one with Kahlua, the new mare, before the show. I figured she was trained and I had a fair amount of horse sense. It would work. We win the extreme trail course and take home the money. It was a perfect plan. We didn’t need a bond. We both had past experiences.

I will never underestimate the bond between my horses and I and what it does for us again. Until I forget and I do underestimate it’s importance at least!

Don’t worry; we did not win.

Kahlua is going to be a phenomenal mare (in most aspects she already is). But we didn’t have the critical bond, the trust, needed to succeed.

This show was a scary one for me at first. I was going to enter with a horse I barely knew, on my own, and show out of my car. What was I thinking?

In case you’ve never seen a scion packed for a horse show, here it is! Hay, buckets, grooming tools, tack, and everything shy of the horse itself all thrown into the hatchback.

I was nervous. A horse I had only met once, I my friendship with people at the show was Facebook friends at best and even then only a small handful, I was on my own without my show assistant/mom. I was excited. The horse I was entering was drop. Dead. Beautiful. I was confident in my ability. I was confident in my mare.

Well… That bond is crucial. Kahlua was a good girl. Kahlua was an amazing girl. Nothing spooked or phased her. When she was concerned she simply lifted her head and stared as she evaluated the situation. She stood tied,unflinching and unmoving when I had to use the restroom or get a drink of water. But we didn’t have that trusting bond despite her saintly behavior. We didn’t have the established relationship and roles of who’s is truly lead mare and who is supposed to listen. She didn’t know to trust me, to listen, when I said “let’s go” in an uncomfortable situation. Trail obstacles that presented a challenge were met with a refusal. A soft, kind, mule like stubborn refusal. I’ll take that over rearing, kicking, bolting, etc but I know had we worked and practice it could have been better.

Trust with a horse comes from time. It takes time to get to know a horse, time for a horse to get to know you, and time working together. It’s through working together that a partnership is formed-a team created. Round pen work is where I like to start, followed by in hand walks and trails. Trick training is another favorite of mine as they’re quick exercises that get a horse’s brain to engage differently than when you’re simply asking for physical tasks such as walk, trot, canter. Kahlua and I will work on these just as Flint and I and Juno and I.

The show itself was an absolute blast. It was different than any show I’ve been to before. I’ve found that often, with breed based shows, people tend to look out for their own and their own alone. This isn’t to say helpful people can’t be found but it’s… different. With the miniature horses I met plenty of friendly people, a few helpful, but most stuck in their own cliques that seemed to form around barns, stables, and/or trainers. The mustang show was a world apart. Everyone was willing to help out everyone else. When Kahlua refused to move into the wash rack the nearest person offered to step in and help with pressure from behind. The same when loading her into the trailer. People were happy to help hold horses, offer training advice, help out with a difficult horse, set up props, and just plain check on a newly-met-friend/former stranger’s well being. It was a community family of support. We all understood the trials and tribulations that come with wild horse ownership/training/domestication. Everyone wanted everyone to succeed. There was still the edge of competition but it was offered with such a supportive network behind it that the experience was nothing short of magical.

It leaves me waiting for the day I can return with Kahlua (and Juno and Flint) to experience it all over again but this time win.

The Feed Regime

If you ask a horse owner “what should I feed my horse?” you’ll get as many different answers as there are colors of horses and then some. Every one has their own opinions: some are rooted in research, others aren’t, some are done because that’s the way it’s always been done, and others can’t seem to find a reason but that’s just what they do.

We’ve come a long way in equine nutrition since the days where horses were building civilization. There is much research to be found about different forage varieties, supplements, vitamins, and other concoctions. Growing up I attended horse seminar after horse seminar with my Mom. I took in all kinds of information about horses: safety, anatomy, wound care, disease, tack fitting, and nutrition. My mom has always done as much research as she can for the welfare of our animals.

My mom and I feed our horses nearly the same things. My feed regime is catered to my horses, especially Mr. Picky-Pants (Flint McCoy) as any animal’s diet should be. What is below is my opinions based off advice from my horse’s vets, my incredible mom, and my own research.

Pictured is my “big horse” feed set up. The minis have their forage stored with my big horse’s feed, however, their “grain” is near their pen. I use the term grain loosely as none of my horses get true grain, instead they all have some type of pelleted feed or combination of different pellets.

Forage for all my horses consists of Bermuda grass hay. I know there are many horse owners who choose to feed alfalfa. Personally I love the way alfalfa smells though as a forage feed I find it too rich-especially in protein. My smallest mini doesn’t process alfalfa well which makes my decision not to feed it an easy one.

My “grain” is what is in those buckets: purple for Juno and teal for Flint. The minis (unpictured) get Purina “Mini horse and pony feed.” It’s so easy for such small horses to put on weight with any type of pelleted feed but I’ve found with Purina’s line for the small equine they can easily maintain their sleek figures (or in my boy’s case, cushy!) but receive all the nutritional benefits from guaranteed vitamins and minerals (hello glossy coat!).

Both Juno and Flint receive alfalfa pellets. I know, I know, I just stated I don’t feed alfalfa but that’s as a forage feed and the bulk of the diet. These pellets are sun cured (no molasses) pure alfalfa pellets. My vet advised having some alfalfa in their diet so they were not only Bermuda (not enough variety could potentially cause it’s own set of problems). They’re also the only pellets Flint will eat. The only pellets he will eat. Even the smallest of others he will spit out. It’s an impressive albeit annoying feat. It’s a nice bonus that I can use these pellets as treats during trick training or other training.

Juno gets a bit extra. While I feed Bermuda as their forage and main part of their diet I know Bermuda alone doesn’t provide everything they need. That’s where Purina’s “Strategy GX” comes into play! Purina offers two types of forage supplemental pellets in their strategy line: GX for grass hay and AX for alfalfa. While Juno absolutely loves her GX pellets these teeny little pellets of goodness are absolutely detested by Flint.  Oh well. Maybe one day (probably not though, honestly!).

These two little supplements are my secret weapons in the feed regime war: apple cider vinegar and garlic powder. Together I’ve found a noticeable difference in the amount of flies on Juno. Flint to a barely noticeable extent as he does try to avoid eating anything contaminated with the fly-repelling duo. On it’s own garlic can be a hotly debated supplement in any animal diet. Testing through various researches has shown in large amounts it can lead to anemia, however, the amount that has to be given is far more than any normal horse would consume or owner would try to feed. Apple cider vinegar on its own is a wonder. From helping to break down intestinal stones, to producing a shiny coat, to helping regulate insulin resistant horses, apple cider vinegar is my go-to horse supplement. Equine Wellness wrote a great article about ti’s benefits located here. This amazing tag team of supplements goes directly onto Flint and Juno’s pellets.

There are many times when prepping the equine meals for the day I feel as if I’m some sort of mad scientist, chemist, or crazy pharmacist thrown into a gourmet salad kitchen surrounded by the smell of garlic and vinegar. While there are hundreds of way to create a horse’s diet I’m happy with mine. So long as you’re happy with yours, the reasons supporting it, and your horses are healthy then you’re diet is just as great!


What’s in a name?

Hippology, the non sequitur study of the preposterous pony-or something of the sort. Hippology. It sounds like it deals with hippos, perhaps the study of hippos. Maybe an odd offshoot of Anthropology, selling hipster attire to the overly indulgent hippo. But alas, it is not!

So what is this “hippology” business? Beyond this blog the word hippology means “the study of the horse.” This makes sense when the word is broken down into its Greek roots. “Hippo” translates to “horse” and “ology” means “the study of.” Hippology: the study of the horse. That brings us back to hippos. Shouldn’t horses be called hippos and hippos be called something, anything else?

Hippopotamus can also be broken down into directly translated greek roots. As mentioned before “hippo” is horse-already hippos seem to be horse related. “Potamus” in Greek means river. Hippopotamus: river horse. It’s easy to see why they would garter such a name and why ancient Greeks thought they must be related in some way. The reality is far different. Hippos are more closely related to whales than horses! Horses are related more closely to Rhinos than hippos. Yet, even still, I refer to my horses as hippos and not just due to some of their weight. It makes for fun teasing at meal time to call them “hungry, hungry hippos.” Albeit I’m not inaccurate when calling them hippos, at least according to the ancient Greeks.

That very word explanation brings us to the point of this blog. To the non sequitur study of the preposterous pony. I was raised by a horse loving, neigh, horse obsessed mother and I followed right along in her footsteps. Along the adventure that has been horsemanship the two of us have learned many things; made mistakes; made the best decisions. We have shared adventures with our horses, some funny others difficult. There have been tricks we’ve picked up along the way, tidbits of advice we wish someone had shared with us, and other little useful musings. All things we are happy to share, to pass long, in a sometimes non sequitur manner centered around those horses, those preposterous ponies, my mom and I love so much.