Horse Grooming kit and Tack room chat

I have always wanted to write about my tack room. So, let’s get started with my boots, I have 3 pairs of boots, two of these are my practice boots, I don’t feel comfortable riding without my boots, but I can ride without them anyway. While the third one is my competition boot. They’re technically a show boot super shiny super nice really easy to clean.

The next thing in my tack box is 2 sets of equine bandages, and I have their bandages with matching saddle pads. I have the black under bandage which I use for practice and warm-up, while I use the red one for competition. They are clean, really long and I love them.
The next one my nice double Bridle, I got this few months ago and I love it, it’s a nice brown leather a little bit different for dressage to have broad leather but I like it.

We cannot forget about horse grooming kit. I use Equeenex kit which has everything you might need for your grooming needs. From face brush to curry comb and sweat scraper.

Okay now, what I have next is my saddle, I have 2 of them, the general-purpose saddle and the dressage saddle, I use the general-purpose saddle for practice while I use the dressage saddle for competitions.

Then I’ve got my pink riding helmet, it’s super cool and I love it. And this is one thing I cannot ride without, I don’t feel safe riding without my helmet. I feel protected by it.
Next to my helmet is the grooming kit, it contains; the grooming kit bag, dandy brush, water brush, tail brush, body brush, hoof pick, metal and rubber curry combs, mane comb, and sweat scraper.

I also have different riding jackets, they include a rain jacket, thick jackets, thin jackets, and riding jackets. I get to change jackets depending on the environmental condition.

I’ve got a gag I’ve been using it for a while now, it is the oldest of my tack, it is very old and super heavy, and it’s a little bit softer on the sides. Next is the breastplate, I like showjumping when I’ve got the breastplate on.

with a saddle pad, I’ve got all sorts of different saddle pads, they are very nice, I could know if I am riding a horse without the saddle pads.
Well, I can’t without mentioning of ibuprofen, I’ve always got this in my tack box because you never know when you might need it.
And so that’s all I’ve to go in my tack box.


Is your horse acting like a baby?

I think that this discussion we’re about to have regarding “baby behavior” may be one of the most oft-repeated topics at my clinics. It seems to me that most horse owners are unaware of how the horse is basically designed to move from babyhood to adulthood and the affect that can have on training and horse/human relationships.

Understanding how baby behavior works in horses is really important for a horseman, I think. The great thing about baby behavior is that it is not a permanent character fault and does not mean that a horse is a “bad” horse in any way. He’s just hanging onto some baby behavior. Horses who are hanging on to baby behavior are often called “disrespectful” or are said to “have an attitude” or to be “lazy” or “unpredictable” or “fun loving”. If it’s baby behavior, it doesn’t have to be permanent.

So let’s start at the beginning. Horses are herd animals. Left to their own devices, they’ll live in groups, and in their world, the community is more important than the individual. This is unlike humans, especially here in America, where we tend to value the individual over the community. It’s shocking to us that a feral stallion would kill an ailing or weak baby horse so that the mare would leave it and the group could move on to feed or water or safety together. I think this can be a very fundamental misunderstanding between people and horses.

When a baby horse is born, he can do whatever wants, whenever he wants, pretty much. He can eat whenever he wants, sleep whenever he needs to and he can play however he wants. Babies are allowed to crash into other horses, to put their feet on other horses, to climb on their mothers. There just aren’t a lot of rules, boundaries or limitations early on. Being a baby is great!

So here we have this baby horse who is just having a bang-up time getting into all kinds of cute mischief, and he is mostly being tolerated by those adult horses around him. In a wild or feral horse herd, this would all change at about a year old or when the mother chose to wean her baby. Right then, the baby would become a member of the herd, a grown-up with grown-up responsibilities. In a herd, this transition is done very quickly and with very little drama.

The herd (community) would show the new grown-up horse how to become a functioning member of the herd. He would learn about boundaries. He would fit into a slot in the herd hierarchy and would then be expected to yield to the horses above him in the hierarchy. He would be expected to eat when the others ate, drink when the others drank and to not draw the attention of predators to the group. If he became a liability to the community, he could be ostracized or killed.

The grown-up horse who functions in a community understands how to take direction from others. He feels good about taking direction, and he follows well. He yields when he’s asked to yield and does not draw undue attention to himself with flamboyant or irresponsible behavior. He fits in and blends in.

It is important to understand that the baby horse is supposed to become a grown-up in order to survive. But he is not equipped to do that transition on his own. He is designed to be grown up by the community, by the herd, who shape, modify and model grown up horse behavior. With horses, it does truly “take a village” to grow a baby into an adult horse.

What does this mean for us in a training or relationship context? Well, most of us own domestically-bred and raised horses who were maybe born in a backyard or at a breeding farm. If they were the product of a backyard or small-farm breeding program it’s possible that when the baby was weaned, he went by himself for a while, and then maybe went in with one or two other horses, stayed by himself or maybe even went back in with his mother once her milk dried up. If the baby grew up on a big breeding farm, he might have gone into “the weanling field” with all that year’s weanlings. Then it would become “the yearling field” and then “the two-year old field”.

In neither of these common domestic models is the family unit intact nor is there a sizeable community available to teach, shape and model adult horse behavior to the weanling or young horse.

The upshot of this situation is that by the time training starts, many young horses have had few rules, boundaries, limitations or experiences of yielding their decision making to others. They have not had their community to grow them up, and therefore it’s possible that they’ve just stayed babies. And in a baby’s mind, he can do whatever it wants, whenever he wants.

Horses are experts at being horses. They are not, though, born experts at being horses around people. That’s where they need our help. In order to be safe and useful around people, a horse needs to understand rules, boundaries, limitations and the yielding of decision making.

What horsemen tend to see is a lot of young horses with baby behavior. It’s worth mentioning that even young horses should be checked for physical issues , saddle fit and teeth trouble (a given with young horses!). We don’t want to mistake pain, stiffness or discomfort for baby behavior. Baby behavior can look similar to any of the following, among others:

  • Sometimes absolute refusal of requests
  • In extreme cases, aggression toward people
  • Extreme curiosity and desire to go see/touch/mouth interesting things.
  • Pushiness, lack of personal boundaries with people, “poor ground manners”
  • Nipping/mouthing/chewing on people’s belongings
  • ”Emotional” behavior or reactions, “drama”
  • Frustration in the form of head shaking, foot stomping, kicking out
  • Extreme distractibility, “ADHD”
  • Inability to take direction without frustration
  • Making seemingly arbitrary executive decisions about speed, direction, etc

So what can we do to help a horse with baby behavior? If you ever get a chance to watch a herd (7 or more horses, in my opinion) in action, take it. Watch how they give each other direction and what behavior they see as acceptable and not. Watch a horse ask permission to eat or drink or be in a space.

If you can’t do that, understand that as long as you have a picture of how a grown up horse is supposed to behave and operate around people, you can start to shape baby behavior. A lot of dealing with baby behavior is about showing the baby horse how a grown up horse would do it. “This is how we’re going to need you to do that,” will become a familiar refrain. Since a baby doesn’t have any idea of what the finished product is supposed to look like, it’s not necessarily useful for him to have a lot of creative input. Leave that to the well-broke, grown-up horse.

We have to remember that the “baby horse” can be any age – even in his teens or twenties. They can just go through life like that if the village never shows up to grow them up. Also remember that the adult horse is in there, and it wants to come out. But again, the village needs to show up. The baby horse raised with no role models or direction from a community has no picture, nothing to shoot for and no idea how to be different.

Some babies will really struggle to stay babies, and it seems like it’s hard on them to leave the baby behavior behind. I think that in the horse world, this transition isn’t very hard for horses emotionally, as the herd is very unemotional, absolutely consistent and direct about it. They do it early, usually around yearling time. I think we people are not nearly as unemotional, consistent, direct or early about it. We think baby behavior is “cute” or shows “personality” or “creativity”. We think the horse, like a human teenager, will seethe with self-righteous indignation at being asked to yield decision-making. We think we’re taking the joy of childhood from the horse.

The horses I tend to see who are struggling with baby behavior are not happy, joyful horses. They are often confused, unsettled and generally stressed horses. They don’t know where to be or how to do the things grown up horses need to do in a world filled with humans. They want direction and help growing up. They want the skills that will enable them to negotiate their way through the human world they live in. It’s our job as I see it, since we put them in this world, is to give them the tools to operate safely and usefully in it.


My favorite Equestrian Film

In this blog, I want to talk about my Favorite equestrian film. There are several equestrian movies out there, but my favorite among all is “Mustang Hidalgo”. Once a long time there was a washed-up soldier whose great gift was an unusual affinity he had with his horse. The man and the horse entered race after race and won them. One day a great Arabian sultan heard of their reputation and invited him to ride in the longest, most grueling horse race in the world, The Ocean of Fire. Though he was an inferior human being and his horse wasn’t a fancy purebred, he was American and he had more spunk, plus a lot of inspiration from his Sioux ancestors, so of course, he won the race, the affection (if not true love) of the Sultan’s daughter, and the Million-dollar prize money.

This movie made me set a goal to win an equine riding race competitions. I remember practising for the racing competition the day after watching this movie. It also reminds me of how I got to get a lot of new friends when I started riding, and the movie was the inspiration that brought me this far, I also learned to bond with my horse.

I don’t know but the guy’s a born star as far as I’m concerned but the idea that apparently Frank Hopkins is known to have been a bit of a storyteller he in fact is a long-distance horse rider in reality however these stories about a 3,000 mile race on the Arabian Peninsula, there’s parentally no historical proof at this race ever took place that’s essentially a tall tale but that doesn’t concern me, legend is more important than fact you know legends inspire us, they teach us lessons and because of the nature of our world where we have science and we have round-the-clock news coverage it’s hard to have heroes of our own so movies sort of become that placeholder where people used to tell stories tell tales, I think Hidalgo is a great one whether it is fact or fiction I love it, it brings back feelings of a lot of those great tips and movies they don’t make so many anymore, e.g The Mummy, Indiana Jones, but you get my point this is a family friendly sort of action-adventure, the type of film that they don’t make enough of anymore unfortunately, but we can still track them down on DVD or stream and enjoy them for decades to come.

Here are some top interesting equine movies out there I recommend you to watch; Snowy River, Secretariat, Black Stallion, Seabiscuit starring jeff bridges, Warhorse, Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron, Flicka filmed in the Rocky Mountains, National velvet, and Black beauty.


My horse riding Falls

Over 3 million people have ridden a horse at least once in the last 12 months, that’s about 6% of the UK population. Over five years, 3% of all spinal cord injuries were due to horse riding accidents. Head injuries are the most common accident among horse riding enthusiasts, horse riding can be dangerous.

Today, 4th of August marks five years since the day I nearly died, I was competing with my horse “Star”, and the day has been a few weeks to the regional team competition, I was 14 during the time of the accident.

During the show, we placed fifth or sixth in the dressage showjumping went well, I left the starting box, Star and I were sitting in the first place, but then at the last jump on the course something went seriously wrong, the last jump on the course was a really large straw hay bale and it wasn’t secured properly, the 95 hay bale which is the one that I was jumping and there was the meter 5 hay bale which had wooden stakes behind it, the 95 was wedged in between the other two we think Star had the jump with his front legs and because it wasn’t secured properly it rolled meaning that his front legs got trapped underneath him and he wasn’t able to put them down to the ground.

From what I remember of the accident, we slipped off, and I remember seeing the ground and then seeing Star coming down on top of me, and then I was screaming and then it went black, I was taken to hospital, later, it was clarified that I’d broken my left arm in three places, in the bone of my wrist, was displaced which is different from being dislocated, I underwent a procedure, they opened up the joint in my wrist for them to be able to knock the bone back into place after they did this they let the circulation back into my arm put a cast on and then x-rayed at the time, the most significant injury was to my arm and we were also told to monitor for a concussion after the event, I also found random bruises on my body, it took a while for my arm to heal.

Six months later and I’d been medically cleared. after three months I competed in a sprint race athletic competition, while racing, I felt weird, my vision went on yellow and orange, my heart was pounding so fast like it was going to explode out of my chest and I couldn’t breathe.

While riding although a rotational fall is one of the scariest things you can go through as a rider. I’ve learned a lot but, one thing I do want to say is that horses are animals with the mind of their own the bond between horse and rider is irreplaceable, that’s what kept me going and I never for once felt I should quit horse riding.


How my relationship with horses evolved

As many of you already know, I spend my winters with my horses and my friends Jim Wooldridge and Sara Dill at Timber Creek Farm in Camden, South Carolina. At Timber Creek I relax, work horses and pick my friends’ brains.

Many of you have heard me tell the humbling story of how my mare Daisy and I started our relationship together. For those of you who haven’t heard it, I’ll tell it here, as it’s key to what we’re going to talk about this month. I learned a lot from Daisy very quickly – mostly how far short my horsemanship was from where I wanted it to be.

When I bought Daisy, I had not yet seen or met her. I bought her based on photos exchanged via e-mail and the report that a friend who went to see her in person sent me while I was teaching in England. Daisy’s breeder/owner told me, truthfully, that she “hadn’t done much with her.” I did not ask her what she meant by that.

Daisy was 3 years old, about 15.3 hands and about 1000 pounds when I picked her up. She’d lived on the same farm and with the same horses all her life. Based on her age, her size, and her quiet and friendly nature, I assumed that she would at least lead, load, tie and do feet.

Well, the day I picked her up, it took about an hour and a half to load her. Assumption number one out the window. A couple of days later, it took 20 minutes to lead her out of a 3-acre pasture. Assumption number two gone. So what do I do? I tied her up and tried to pick up her feet! Assumptions three and four gone like the wind.

Thinking back on it now, I’m embarrassed at how many assumptions I made about that horse and how long it’s taken me to fix some of the problems that I created with her due to my assumptions. Leading and loading were the easy ones; it’s taken the past three years for us to get a handle on tying and feet. Those would have gone a lot smoother for us if I hadn’t ignored what my horse was telling me because of the assumptions I’d made that in had nothing to do with her.

That was poor horsemanship on my part, plain and simple. If I had simply looked at the horse for what she was at the time, it’d been OBVIOUS where to start with her. But I was blinded by my assumptions that were based on her age and her size. If it walked like a duck and quacked like a duck, it was a duck. If it acted like a horse who didn’t know anything and it looked like a horse who didn’t know anything, it probably didn’t know anything. Simple, really.

But we get pretty far from this. We can make lots of assumptions about horses based on a lot of things: age, breed, size, discipline, good looks or lack thereof, origin, who trained it, or maybe what it’s supposedly done previously. We assume a 9-year-old horse that’s been ridden is “broke”. We assume a big horse is heavy. We assume Quarter Horses are quiet and Arabians are spirited. We assume gaited horses are gaited.

And then there are expectations that can color our vision. Your horse doesn’t know he wears the mantle of “horse of a lifetime”. He doesn’t know he was bred to jump, or cut cows, or run reining patterns. He doesn’t know he sold at Keenland as a yearling for $500,000.

If I needed a reminder of the “Duck” rule, I got a colt in for training in late October who is reiterating the lesson. He looked like quite the conundrum when he came in; a foundation-bred four-year-old Quarter Horse gelding with a sweet, quiet, friendly presentation who had some training issues. I found myself wanting to complicate the process of figuring him out, but decided to take a few weeks to just see what he knew. Very little, it turned out. He didn’t lunge or ground drive, he was scared of ropes, he’d hold his breath for saddling. When I told the owner about the colt’s concern for ropes, he said he had photos of the horse being roped off of at two and a half years old. I don’t doubt it one bit.

Then I rode him. I rode him in the round pen, and he felt JUST like a first or second ride colt. Unsteady, unconfident, worried, happy to just stand still and think this through. And then it dawned on me. If it quacks like a duck… This colt FELT like a first or second ride colt. So treat him like one. That was the answer of what to do with him. If I could do that, we’d get all the holes filled in along the way. Here’s this colt who seemed like he should be further than he was, after having been under saddle for two years. But for whatever reason, he wasn’t. But perhaps, if we could meet him right where he was, he could come on through and not have to have troubles. If he had the tools to understand his job and understand his world and understand the cues he’d be given, maybe he could just feel better.

We’ll see how it goes. It’s worth noting that we also had the chiropractor and vet and farrier look at this horse before doing any training work with him.

The lovely thing about this colt is that he’s enabled me to spend a lot of time studying round pen and ground work. He was pretty troubled about ropes, so I have become familiar with handling a lariat, a tool I haven’t used before. We have worked a lot on the colt’s inside and outside turns, his push and his draw, and then using the push and draw to do really pretty, soft transitions and to have him carry a certain shape as he travels in the pen.

Some of you may have heard me say this year that after 34 years in horses, and 15 years of exploring what is commonly called “natural horsemanship”, I am just now beginning to actually see and feel the very real connection between what happens on the ground and what happens in the saddle. I’ve intellectually understood the connection, and I’ve certainly given it “lip service”, but it’s only in the past year or so that it’s become a reality for me. I assume there is a lot more beyond what I’m beginning to see now. Layers and layers, as always.

So if our horse looks like he’s broke and feels like he’s broke and goes like he’s broke, he probably is. If he can’t lead, can’t tie, can’t catch, can’t load, can’t pick up his feet, can’t saddle, can’t bridle, and/or can’t mount, he probably isn’t terribly broke. If we could just see these things with unbiased eyes, things would get a whole lot simpler.

We owe it to our horses to be thorough. If we leave a hole somewhere now, it’s the horse that suffers for it later. When we get in a hurry or we get those assumptions blinding us, our work becomes about us and not about the horse. If we look and listen and ask questions of him, he’ll tell us what we need to know