Covid-19, my horse, and me.

Covid-19, my horse, and me.

I’m not sure where to start with this post.

Do I start on March 23, when the boarding stable where I keep my horse had to close to the public – not only for the riding school, but including owners of horses boarded there?

Or do I start with my growing anxiety about my 25-year-old horse,  who has been kept in pretty good physical condition through regular exercise, both by me with groundwork, and by the lovely woman who pays to half-lease him and rides him 3 times a week?

I know that I have been at home, alone with my dogs, for weeks now. I have actually lost count of the days.

But – I’ve been very worried about Chips (that’s his barn name ). I’m sure that at his age, going for weeks without exercise, he’s losing condition – older horses lose condition fast and put it back on slow, and it is my experience based on the years I have spent around and working with horses, that horses that are kept in regular exercise live longer than those who get put out to be “pasture potatoes”.

And even though I have an unshakeable and absolute knowledge that he is in the best of hands, he may not understand why we –  me and my half-boarder (he loves us both, such a fickle boy!) – are not there for him. (I’m not sure exactly how a horse’s brain works, but I do know that he recognizes my footsteps as I approach his stall, and gives a little ”huff” out his nose when he knows I’m walking down the aisle towards him).

I have been forbidden by the Government to see my horse for 6 weeks now. I know that as far as feed, water, turnout, and even his hoof care (  HUGE thanks to Annalisa – you ROCK!!) he is doing very well for his basic needs. This is more than can be said for several stables that I have heard about, where basic care is increasingly becoming beyond the abilities of the proprietors.

But – I am 66 years old, and Chips will be 26 on May 7th – we don’t have a lot of time left together. Being unable to see him, spend time with him,  and give him some directed exercise, beyond turnout – where he stands around eating hay – has been something I have been struggling to live with.

Several weeks ago my daughter suggested that I offer to ask if I could be hired on as “night staff”, to give the last feed of hay and the last check of the stables at night. This is something I have done in the past, as a voluntary thing when I happen to be the last person at the stables. But asking to make it an official duty? I resisted the idea, because I respect the owners, and I knew there was a limit to the people who were allowed to work as essential workers at the stables, and I didn’t want to push the owners into skirting the rules. So I let the idea sit in the back of my mind.

This week it finally became too much for me, and even though I knew it could put the stable owner in a shaky position, I finally asked them if they could “hire” me as “night staff”. I’d give the last hay feed, sweep the stables, make sure the horses in the paddocks were secure – and it would give me the opportunity to get into the arena when nobody could see me and at least lunge my horse, in an effort to try to keep him fit, for however long this will last. There would be no mention of remuneration – the permission to use the arena would be all I asked.

Well, with my usual impeccable timing (as always, embarrassing – if only I had waited one more day!), today Cheval Quebec sent out a very vague, but hopeful, communiqué saying that they were making strides towards allowing owners into barns. It’s still very open to interpretation,  but the owners of the stables, a husband and wife team, ( I cannot stress how happy I am that my horse is in their hands) have done a live video explaining things as they see them.
We’ll know more tomorrow, but for now, I’m very optimistic!

And I owe an apology to my barn owners, for even suggesting that they skirt the rules for me.



Covid-19, my horse, and me.

How Not To Sell Your Horse

This is a time of year when many horses will be changing hands for all sorts of reasons – a show rider who wants to move up to a more accomplished horse, a riding school expanding or reducing its herd, someone looking for a good family horse, a child having outgrown their pony…

Whatever the reason for selling, there are pitfalls in advertising your horse for sale. I can’t give you a sure-fire method to successfully sell your horse, but I can give you some pointers on how NOT to sell your horse…

Photos are so important.
Be sure to take photos of your horse when he is turned out, preferably after a heavy Autumn rain. If he is hairy and muddy people will be impressed that your natural horsemanship skills extend right down to the basics, and that you don’t use artificial aids like brushes or hoof picks to present your horse.

Try hard to take pictures when he is not standing even. This will lead your potential buyers to think he has a special number of legs—3 is good, but if you can get a post or object in the background, it can look like 5 or more! Missing or extra legs really helps catch the eye of viewers.

Be sure to accentuate his head. Take the photo when he is standing with his head facing you so that his head appears three times larger than his body. For a really comprehensive photo gallery, you can alternate this with photos that show us just the horse’s butt; we all know how flattering this type of photo is both for horses and people.

With time and patience, you may even be lucky enough to get a shot that combines both of these important features!

Never, ever provide a clear conformation shot that shows what the horse actually looks like.

100% Perfect Temperament

One of the best ways to show that your horse is safe is by including photos of a small, unhelmeted child clinging to its unsaddled back while loose in the pasture. Extra points if there are loose horses and other potential hazards in the background. This will clearly illustrate your confidence in your horse’s perfect disposition. (Note: if you’re running this ad in a newspaper, be sure to try to have it on a separate page from the “Barnyard Tragedy” article.)

A fairly subtle but very effective trick is to include various pasture hazards in the photos. Crappy fencing (preferably barbed wire and falling down) as well as random metal objects are a real plus. To the savvy buyer, this will show that your horse is smart enough not to get injured in the pasture!

Registration Pros And Cons

When you say, “Can be registered, I just never did it”, this shows us that you’re just so busy responsibly attending to your horses that you couldn’t possibly have taken the ten minutes to do the paperwork!

After all, registration is not that important – just look online; registered horses are everywhere! Show your horse’s uniqueness by listing its exotic breeding:
Mother was a Morgan/Quarter Horse and sire was a Canadian Horse/Standardbred.

For example, this is an actual ad for an unregistered QH/Arab cross. Just think of all the breeds you’d be getting for one low price!

“She has not been riden in about two years… She always produces nice foals that are easy to handle. She is available after her current foal is weanded or she can be purchaed now as a 2-in-1 for a reduced cost $750. 2008 foal is a sorrel colt, half-morgan. She can also be bre back to a palamino Morgan stallionor a cremello overo APHA if you would like. “

Height Measurements

You have several options here.

If you are going to list actual height measurements, be precise. Everyone wants a horse that is 14.5 or 15.6.

If you are selling a young horse who has not yet finished growing (anything under, say, 9 years old), provide guesses about your horse’s future height. Nothing says honest like posting your currently 2-year old 12-hand filly and saying:
“She will probably mature to be around 15.2”

Or you can measure someplace other than the withers. If you choose this option, remember, don’t provide the wither measurement.
“She is already 15-3 at the hip”

Sell The Potential

Tell us everything your horse ever could be potentially good at doing in the future. Does your horse have four legs and a head? Perhaps he’ll be a champion at jumping, dressage, barrels. The possibilities are endless, and you don’t want to exclude potential buyers by not listing their particular discipline!

If your horse has working or semi-functional genitalia make sure you also list them as having “breeding potential”! Has your 2 year old unregistered quarterloosarabian with three working legs bred with the donkey next door when he broke down the barbed wire fence resulting in an offspring that survived birth? Be sure to list her as a “proven breeder”!

Keep ‘em Skinny

Horses that have protruding bones not only show us that you are financially conscientious (what real horse person would spend excess money on feed?) but we can also evaluate the horse’s internal as well as external conformation.

Sell Your Horse Because It’s Useless

Show that you’re not a horse-loving softie, but a real horse person. Real horse people know how to use up a horse and sell them when they get too old to work for you. Show us you’re a real horse person by getting rid of the animals that no longer bring you a profit. It’s not like they deserve to be retired or cared for in their old age for all they’ve done for you during their life.

22 YO chestnut mare:
“She had been and is a great mare… she has a stud colt by her side and is bred back to <stud name removed> for an 09 foal. She is a sound breeder, color producer. I’ve had her since she was 4 and she no longer fits my program.”

Grammar Tricks and Tips

Nothing is more fun for a potential buyer than trying to decipher cryptic horse sale ads. This is a very smart marketing strategy – the worse your spelling and grammar, the more potential buyers will remember it!

Here are some great examples from actual ads posted online:

  • “I ahve 3 poines Paint Mare pony is 7 year old she is in foal. Broke to ride. She is 39 inches Paint Stud pony 5 years old. broke to ride.38 inches Pony colt he is 36 inches. Asking 350 each or 1000 for all.”
  • “finnish in your direction.” Does the horse speak Finnish?
  • “he is a 5 yr. old that needs some one. owner just dont need him and wants to have a good home.he is a good boy but aint been rode in while and now has only 30 days back in the saddle. all paper work . will load and do what you want.”
  • She would best suit an eprienced rider, only because she has alot of energy that can be unvercing.

Have you seen any really good ads that fit the “How not to sell your horse” criteria? Let me hear about them – I love a good laugh!

Thanks to “The Ultimate Horse Site” for inspiration and some ad content.

Trailers well, good for vet, farrier..

That’s something I see in almost every single advert for horses for sale.

And it’s great, as far as it goes.

But what about when the professional, whoever it may be,  is gone and now you’re left to perform whatever ongoing procedure or treatment is required?

This was brought home to me recently by a coincidental pair of events at the stables where I board. My horse got an abscess on his off front foot. And another horse threw a shoe and managed to puncture her sole in the process. Both require soaking twice a day as part of their treatment.

Everyone knows that it is a good idea to train your horse to pick up his feet – seems like a no-brainer.

But how many have thought ahead to the possibility of having to have your horse put his foot down in a specific place? Or even in a bucket or tub of something to soak? I was lucky enough to have a horse who tolerates this pretty well without any previous experience that I know of. However, the other horse was a very different story, refusing to put her foot down, jumping around, and finally rearing and striking out – she was one unhappy customer.

Luckily, a very clever person at the barn (not me, I was already thinking “tranq her”) figured out a solution. He cut a piece of heavy plastic and after thoroughly washing down the wash stall floor,  blocked the drain with it. We led the horse in, and started hosing her legs as if it was a normal after-ride hose-down. As the water rose I walked around her very casually and put the Epsom salts into the water; once the water was high enough to be a good soaking depth, we turned off the hose and just had her stand there for her fifteen minute soak (patting, stroking, and “good girl-ing” all the while).

But what if the wash stall had not had sufficient slope to make it practical to do what we did? What if there had been no plastic to hand. Even more important, what if that very clever man had not been there to think out of the box enough to come up with an alternative? How would we have solved the problem of her fear of the soaking tub?

And there are other procedures that seem to us humans to be ordinary and not worrisome, but to a horse can be terrifying, for no reason we can understand.

Hoses- I know many horses like a bath; I’m willing to bet that the ones who do were introduced gradually to the hose as part of their stable-manners training.  But for those horses who have not had the benefit of this kind of introduction, it becomes an ordeal with the dreaded horse-eating hose. We were so very lucky that mare with the puncture was not one of those!

Clippers – how many people have acclimatized their horse to the clippers? Even if you never plan to clip your horse for the winter, or for showing, sometimes an area needs to be clipped for veterinary purposes and it is not always necessary to tranquilize the horse to carry out whatever procedure he needs to be clipped for. Clipping around a small wound or skin condition to allow direct applicatoin of ointment or other medication – really, would you want to have to tranq him for what should be at most a 5-minute clip job?

Anyone have a horse that shies away from the fly-spray bottle? Oh, I see some hands going up. What a pain, no? And in the area where I keep my horse, fly-spray is a given; the bugs fly around in squadrons and will torment any poor animal who has not been protected.

And trailer loading can take a whole article of its own – suffice it to say that it helps a lot to load every once in a while when you’re not going anywhere.

Try to think ahead to situations that may occur, and train your horse gradually to accept them before it becomes a necessity. Do it gradually, over time, and don’t over-stress them – it doesn’t have to happen in a day. But if you do this, when the day comes that you have a situation on your hands that needs immediate cooperation from the horse, you won’t have to struggle and stress him even further.