A Bad Case of Horse Fever

I will admit it: I have been a victim of horse fever. Some of you may be able to relate. You can't stop looking at sale ads and counting your pennies. Every horse looks like a possibility. Sound familiar? Buying a new horse is one of the most exciting parts of being a horse person. I've bought several horses in the past few years, but I'm going to tell you about one time in particular I made some big mistakes and learned some valuable lessons.

A few years ago, my husband and I were looking for a horse for him to ride, and horse fever had hit me hard. We had done our research, had a budget, and had a set of criteria in mind for the perfect horse. We planned on purchasing a horse we had previously viewed at a ranch dispersal sale: a big, stout palomino with lots of ranch experience. When the day of the sale came, my husband ended up needing to stay at work, so I convinced my brother to go with me for moral support. Instead of patiently waiting in the ring for my horse to come up, we browsed through all the young colts and fillies awaiting their ring time. My perfect palomino walked into the ring and I patiently waited on the edge of my seat to bid. The numbers started going higher and higher until I ultimately was out of my price range. I was disappointed, to say the least. Instead of leaving immediately afterward, however, my brother convinced me to stay and watch more of the auction. A skinny, wide-eyed colt came in the ring. Only a couple of people raised their hands. The ringmen had their work cut out–until they spotted me. My sad eyes spoke more loudly than I had intended, so they pounced on me and my broken spirit. My brother turned to me and eagerly pointed out what a great deal I would be getting. One more look at the sorrel colt and I caved.

I called my husband and delicately told him I did not, in fact, buy him the gelding we had originally come for, but instead I would need him to bring the trailer to pick up my new sorrel project. He arrived and warily led the little colt to the trailer. Needless to say, it was a long drive home in silence. We pulled up at the barn and I opened the back door. Without unlatching the lead rope, a sorrel lightning bolt flew out the back of the trailer and proceeded to gallop full speed around the property, broken lead rope waving in the air like a victorious flag of freedom. My mouth (and spirits) dropped.

The next year was a blur of frustrating days. Some days it took at least an hour to catch him, and when I finally did, we started from scratch with groundwork and trust-building exercises. Finally, I saddled up and rode. We had good rides in the beginning. He was quick, athletic, and smart, though at times he could easily switch to being untrusting and flighty. Between his personality and my being a greenie with young, athletic colts, we were doomed from the start. After a bad fall and a trip to the emergency room, I decided to throw in the towel and rehome the colt. We simply were a bad fit and had been from day one. I found an excellent home for him with a former border who enjoyed his athleticism and challenges. A year later, tears rolled out of my eyes as I saw them pass by in the OSU Homecoming Parade. Not only had Scout grown up and graduated, but he also had the perfect partner to guide him.

I'll never forget that horse and the valuable lessons he taught me. It was challenging, but I don't regret any minute of it. I learned never to be hasty in buying a new horse, and that you get what you pay for in the horse world. I learned how to recover my confidence after a bad fall. And I can now say I have the skills and patience (and good walking shoes) to catch even the hardest-to-catch of horses. Most important, I learned that nothing matters more than choosing a compatible horse you'll develop a bond with forever.

When is enough, enough in the show pen?

Every day I experience something new with all the horses I have on the property. Whether it be a scrape, lump, bodily discharge, or lameness issue there’s always something going on. In recent months, however, I’ve come across two accounts of ulcers and both have proven to be an eye-opening experience for me.

To begin with, both horses showed the same preliminary symptoms. They quit drinking and their eating habits were off. They both had an overall lack of appetite and seemed lethargic as well. Initially we assumed mild colic, but there were no outward colic signs such as rolling, pawing, sweating, or heavy breathing. They just seemed uncomfortable. The first horse exhibited more colic related symptoms, if any, so we called the vet. They decided to run a fecal blood test (FBT) and found that he had trace amounts of blood in his feces, indicating an ulcer. The second horse never laid down, but acted extremely grumpy and refused to eat. Since we had seen something similar before, we specifically asked for a FBT and sure enough, it came back positive. In retrospect, we’ve (and by we, I mean, myself and the horse owner) decided in both cases there were signs we should have spotted leading up to these more serious episodes. We noted an attitude change in both horses, irritability under saddle, and in one horse a drop in weight.

What is so interesting to me about these two cases is the fact that both had similar beginnings. They were bred as show horses, grew up in show barns, and started training early and hard. It’s old news that a staggering percentage of show horses develop ulcers, but the lasting effects of these ulcers is what really concerned me. Neither of these horses had been seriously shown or trained for about two years, yet both were still feeling the effects of those stressful times in their early days. The stress they were experiencing in reality, such as starting to ride daily again or being moved to a new barn, was unrealistically magnified by their bodies and minds because of what they had already been exposed to. It frightens me to consider what they must have been exposed to, or pushed to do when they weren’t ready. And yet, as I said, this is the norm for the show horse industry. I also have to wonder whether or not they were treated for these ulcers the first time around? In both cases, I’ll never know.

I think it’s past time to start considering that weanling classes and yearling classes and dare I say, two year old futurities, are becoming detrimental to the future of our show horses. If I had to venture a guess, these same horses will be getting injections earlier than they should, and require more maintenance joint care than the average leisure horse. When is enough enough? Will the breeding giants step up and make a stand for these great animals? Only time will tell, but something tells me that the big green-eyed monster might win out.

If you suspect your horse might have ulcers, here is a great resource I found online. It is a drug-sponsored website, but it has great information.


Barn owner, mom, newspaper columnist?

I’m super excited to announce that I’m going to start writing a monthly column about horses for our local newspaper, the Stillwater NewsPress! It will be featured on the Farm/Ranch page. I’m hoping to add a new dimension to the page since it is normally written with male voices and almost always about cattle. Us ladies need to speak up, y’all! I’m posting my first column installment today that will be published on Sunday January 25th. If you have any ideas for me to write about, please send me a message!

Happy Trails "Setting and reaching goals with your horse"

Because I'm a goal setter, January is one of my favorite times of the year. Without goals, I feel lost and wandering, especially when it comes to my horses. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to set new goals for your riding or horse-keeping and develop strategies to achieve them.

Start by naming the goal, and be specific. For instance, simply stating that you want to be a better rider is too vague. You can never reach a goal without knowing the specifications. Narrow it down to something for which you can create a starting point and can measure. Building your confidence in the lope is a better goal, and loping the length of the arena with rhythm and cadence is even better.

Create a timeline. Set short term goals in weekly, monthly, three-month, six-month, and yearly increments. If building your confidence in the canter is your long-term goal, then perhaps start with a two-week goal of having a friend help you longe your horse at the canter while you're in the saddle, or even take a couple of lessons. Once you achieve that goal, move on to the next step in the process. Having a set of check points such as these along the way will break up a seemingly insurmountable project into realistic stages.

Don't use shortcuts. As horse owners, we know that many things take time. We are dealing with 1,000 pound animals, after all! Resist the urge to use shortcuts in order to reach your goals faster. If your goal is riding related, remember that the use of some training aids can be highly effective in light experienced hands, but they can be equally damaging in heavy hands. If your goal is related to creating a better living space for your horse during 2015, choose quality materials instead of the cheap ones. I have one shed in particular blow over two separate times during storms because of that very reason, and every time I shake my head, wishing I had spent the money on something better. Try not to make shortcuts, because they will always cost you in the end.

Be flexible, and be patient with yourself. Two years ago I made a goal to always pick up the correct lead with my horse, Hot Rod. In particular, he had trouble with the right lead. I took lessons, and had my trainer work with him until we finally realized it was a medical issue. Boy, did that throw off my schedule for the year. I had to be flexible and patient with the situation, and after dealing with the root cause, I can now say Hot Rod knows his leads very well.

Lastly, don't be hard on yourself! Remember that when it comes to horse-keeping, there is no such thing as a failure, only a result. Train yourself to see these results as opportunities to learn and grow.

Happy Trails!

Winter Wounds

January 3, 2015

Winter is officially here. The local weather has so far lived up to it’s predictions for having below average temperatures and above average precipitation this season. The high today was 19 with high wind gusts. Ouch! That really cuts into riding time. Since about Christmas we’ve also had some extremely heavy fog and mist all throughout the day.

I have one other change in my life that has cut into horsey time, and that is…I’m pregnant! Baby number two is on the way! Our next little girl will arrive mid may. Wearing coveralls and several layers of clothing isn’t so fun these days. But, I’m not going to let this stop me. Yesterday I bundled up and went outside to brave the cold and check on my ponies. I haven’t been able to do much at all with them because of the weather besides feed them and give them a scratch, so they’re both out of shape. It’s amazing how long it takes to get into shape compared to how little time it takes to get out of shape. For exercise, Kona rode in a lesson and I longed Hot Rod.

It’s always good to take off your horse’s blankets frequently during bad weather to groom then and give then a good check for wounds. While grooming Hot Rod I ran into this little problem. It had obviously happened a few days before I was able to get to it, unfortunately. Caring for winter wounds has it’s ups and downs. I love that it was cold enough the wound practically froze, leaving it really clean. If this were summer it would be a gross, gooey mess. The downside is, I can’t just walk him over to the washrack and hose his leg down. He’d have an icicle for a leg! So I did the best I could and started by clipping the hair around the wounds so I could get a better look. I picked off all the scabs to check for infection and proud flesh development. I then disinfected it and ended by putting a thick salve on the scrapes.


A couple days later I washed the area with water and Betadine and this is how it looked. There are still a couple spots that might leave a tiny scar, but for the most part it looks good. I scrubbed all the proud flesh out of the wounds and applied more salve. If these wounds were deeper with more proud flesh I would not use a salve, but something more caustic. Thankfully, these were not deep. I can’t wait for warmer temperatures and more outside time. Enjoy the break while you can, Hot Rod and Kona!


2014 Christmas Wish List

Last year I posted gifts that you can make for your horsey friends, but this year I’m going to post a few horse relate items that I would love to get for Christmas. Hint, hint 😉 Most of these things are way out of my hubby’s gift price range, so it’s really all just for fun! A girl can dream, right? I found all this tack on Pinterest. You can find all the brand and purchasing information on my horse board at: Allie’s Horse Board.

1. Let’s just start this off with a bang, shall we? I’m in love with this saddle. This is a C24 Sonoma Supreme Reiner from Continental Saddlery. I love the detail in the leather-work and the small amount of silver. The skirting looks feminine and pretty. I have to say, it looks pretty comfortable too! All the saddles from Continental are beautiful.



2. If you’re going to have a new saddle, you’re going to need a new cinch, right? I love that these are 100% mohair and 100% creatively functional. One of these would add a little color to your set-up for the ranch pleasure class without being overly showy. No one else at the barn will have one of these babies, but I can tell you for sure they’ll all want one! Victoria Boyd, from Badger Creek Arts, hand-makes these exceptional cinches from start to finish. You can read all about them here: Badger Creek Arts.



3. This headstall from Running Roan Tack is a no-brainer for me. It has the matching turquoise gator that is also on my spur straps. I think these are fun and girly, but they don’t have too much bling. I’m a little bling’d out, y’all. I like the color and the studs…and the absence of rhinestones.


4. These wouldn’t necessarily match the headstall above, but man they’re cute. I think these would be best paired with a plain one-eared headstall. Again, I’m really into feminine yet functional details right now. I think a lot of women riders try to look tough and blend in with the men. Why should we do that? We can look pretty and still ride as well (IF NOT BETTER) than any of the men. These bits are from Mad Cow Company and can be found on the Running Roan Tack website.



About Allie

About Allie

Welcome to my blog! My name is Allie and my passion is caring for horses. My days consist of feeding, cleaning, and nurturing my two favorite things: horses and my little girl! I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures in equine ownership and life as a business-owning mommy!