Bear as “Emergency Alert System”

Do you ever notice what your horse notices? I’m always fascinated at what horses see/hear off in the distance. So many times, I can’t see/hear what they are looking at until the object gets closer or I get out my binoculars. Their senses really do seem different and more acute in many ways. Its no wonder horses can get pretty skeptical about the human ability to keep them safe. Half the time, we can’t see or hear the potential danger that they perceive.

Recently, after finishing a pleasant late-morning ride on Shiloh, I went inside to grab some lunch. I peaked out the back window to check on the horses before I sat down to eat and happened to notice Bear standing at alert. He was looking past the side of the house and had a rather perplexed look on his face (meanwhile, Shiloh’s attention was on a pile of hay- gotta refuel after exercising, right?).

I was curious about the object of Bear’s rapt attention so I walked to the front of the house to look out a different window. Through the glass, I could see a woman hopping down the road, obviously trying not to put weight on her left foot. I raced outside and asked if she needed help. Turns out she had somehow twisted her ankle while going for a walk to get some exercise. I put on my COVID mask, brought my car around to her, drove her home and helped her to the front door. I offered to take her to the doctor’s office or to the ER, but she declined. She was going to contact her family.

She had a cell phone on her and wasn’t that far from home, but I still think she would have had a very difficult time trying to get there on one foot- yikes. As we were in the car heading to her house, I told her that I only noticed her after my horse alerted me to her presence. She told me to tell him thank you (which I later translated into the form of an apple slice). Turns out that she has lived in the area for far longer than I have. She said she used to walk by my property when her daughter was little, and they gave the horses carrots over the fence. Maybe this was Bear’s way of returning the favor.

So there ends my story of Bear acting as a first responder of sorts. Has your horse ever clued you into an emergency in progress that you wouldn’t have been aware of without his or her help?

Bear dashing off, no doubt, to find the next emergency . . .

Spring 2020 Vet Exam

Last week, I drove Bear and Shiloh down to the vet’s office for their annual Spring exams. I usually schedule their Spring exams earlier in the year, but the pandemic changed my plans on both the timing of the exams and how they were performed.

This year is the first time that I remember not being present during the actual exams. The vet office is still keeping clients out of all their buildings to protect their staff. So after an easy loading experience at home and an uneventful drive into town, I unloaded the horses at the vet’s barn and handed them off to the very capable staff.

Fortunately, the morning rain had passed so I opened up my folding chair and sat outside the barn under the awning to pass the time. I watched folks bring their dogs and cats to the office for exams. Those folks also handed their pets off to staff members and remained outside the vet office while their pets were examined.

I was told that Bear’s teeth exam showed no current need for a float so he got his vaccines and had his blood drawn for his coggins and ACTH tests. The ACTH test is helpful in monitoring his PPID and EMS. If his ACTH and glucose numbers are inching up, I will need to make further diet/medication adjustments to hopefully keep him from having another laminitic episode, abscesses, etc . . .

Shiloh’s mouth exam revealed some sharp tooth points. So during Shiloh’s dental float, the vet also noticed some areas of gum recession around a few upper incisors. The vet suggested that Shiloh may need eventually to have those affected teeth removed as the gum recession can indicate potential problems for the root of the tooth. He says horses adapt to being toothless quite well once healed. I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Coincidentally, a few days before our vet visit, I snapped a photo of Shiloh doing a flehmen response after I had applied a cooling product to his back post-ride. The angle of the photo actually shows one of the areas of recession above the middle tooth. Can you see it? The area is dimpled and irregular, not plump and full like a healthy gum line apparently.

Since Shiloh was already under sedation from his dental float, he also had a wart removed. For those of you who have horses with pink skin underneath their white hair, you may already know that they are more prone to skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma). Bear, who also has substantial swaths of pink skin, previously had a small lesion removed from under his tail that turned out to be skin cancer so I am familiar with the drill. The vet removed Shiloh’s wart (located on his hindquarters near the upper part of his tail) and had sent it off for analysis so we shall see if it turns out to be skin cancer. If so, I assume the vet will recommend further treatment after the stitches come out. For Bear, that was cryotherapy where the affected area of skin was treated with a stream of super-duper cold air to kill the cancer cells. At least in Bear’s case, it was a straightforward diagnosis and treatment with no lasting ill-effects. Hopefully Shiloh will have the same experience.

We had another easy loading, driving and unloading experience on the trip home. So many stars have to align properly to transport horses safely and successfully that I am always very appreciative to have a positive experience. Now we just have to await all the various test results and get Shiloh’s stitches removed next week!

“Would You Rather?” Equestrian Edition- Second Installment

Welcome to the second installment of “Would You Rather?” Equestrian Edition.

The questions below come courtesy of the website Horse Nation at

I detailed my own answers to the first five questions in a previous post at Here I am addressing the last five. Let’s get to it.

Question #6- Would you rather own a plain bay that’s low-maintenance to clean or an eye-catching gray that’s constantly filthy?

The Backyard Horse Blog Answer- Dapple grey’s are SO striking, but I am a low-maintenance kind of gal (this coming from someone who currently has two pinto-colored horses with eight white legs between them- I did not set it up this way on purpose!). So I will go with the plain-jane bay. But you know what, bay is actually one of my favorite horse colors. I think bay is beautiful, not plain! Or maybe I think plain is beautiful? Whatever the case, bays are fabulous in my book.

Question #7- Would you rather only ever ride one discipline but be a champion within it or get the opportunity to dabble in many?

The Backyard Horse Blog Answer- I have already dabbled in a number of disciplines without any championships to my name. See my previous post at So it would be a fun change of pace to be a champion or high-point in one discipline. The sense of mastery would be so satisfying. Not that I know . . .

Question #8- Would you rather never see snow again or never see mud again?

The Backyard Horse Blog Answer- Winter can be harsh, but snow is pretty. Mud is not pretty. You can ride in snow. Mud not so much. I would rather never see mud again.

Question #9- Would you rather shed out all of that hair manually or body clip?

The Backyard Horse Blog Answer- I can’t body clip to save my life so . . . manually.

Question #10- Would you rather lose halters or lose fly masks out in the pasture?

The Backyard Horse Blog Answer- I guess I would rather lose halters. I pick this answer because I don’t usually leave halters on my horses when they are unattended. I would rather not lose fly masks because my current horses do frequently wear them outside during buggy weather. Bear rarely wore fly masks when he was younger, but his eyes are more watery now that he is in his twenties and has an official PPID diagnosis. And Shiloh is suspected by the vet to have seasonal allergies. The fly mask seems to cut down on his rubbing his eyes (the rubbing led to an emergency vet visit last year when he injured an eye- not good for Shiloh and not good for my pocketbook).

See my previous post “Got Fly Mask” to see the masks I like to use at

If you would care to share, let me know what your own answers are in the comments section!

Layering: A Simple Obstacle Idea For Use in Small Spaces

For those of you who like to incorporate obstacle work into your rides, you might find your creativity stymied by space. Maybe you have your own backyard-horse property that would fit on a postage stamp. Maybe you have to always share an arena with other boarders. Whatever the case, you just don’t have the luxury of a sizable area in which to work and lay out a bunch of obstacles. Even so, there are ways to practice a variety of skills with your horse over obstacles in a small space via layering. I refer to layering as adding one obstacle on top of or very close to the other to encompass a variety of “on the spot” movements or activities. Keep in mind that if your horse is not accustomed to working individually with all elements of the obstacle, first practice with each obstacle separately so you don’t overface your horse.

For example, over the Memorial Day weekend, I set up a 6 foot by 8 foot tarp and placed two PVC pipe poles across two tarp ends (with the edges of the poles inside four cones laid down on their sides to prevent the poles from rolling off). A few feet away from the tarp, I hooked a plastic flower basket filled with faux flowers to a fence. You could also hook the basket to the top of a tall cone, plastic barrel or jump standard.

With this little set up, I can practice doing ten different activities with my horse:

1) walk across the tarp width-wise between the poles
2) walk across the first pole, the tarp and the next pole by traversing the tarp length-wise
3) stop my horse on the tarp (four feet on the tarp or two feet on the tarp)
4) stop on the tarp and proceed forward
5) stop on the tarp and back off the tarp
6) stop in the middle and sidepass towards one pole on one side and then the other
7) traverse tarp length-wise while stopping your horse over the middle of the first pole (or the second)
8) sidling over to the flower basket, pick it up and proceed to ride (one-handed) over the tarp while holding the basket
9) do items #1 through #6 one-handed while holding the basket
10) sidle back over to the fence, barrel or jump standard and hang up basket

Don’t forget groundwork. Here Shiloh shows off his ground-tie know how.

Precisely because of working in a small space, you get a good sense of how much influence (or not!) you have over your horse with your aids. These types of activities will readily show you which movements you and your horse struggle to execute as well as where you both shine.

Do you have a way that you like to use obstacles in a small space?

Book Review: Language Signs and Calming Signals of Horses-Recognition and Application

Ever heard of calming signals in dogs? Well, they apparently aren’t exclusive to canines. According to the book’s author, Rachael Draaisma, horses use them too. She notes that horses use these signals to calm themselves and those around them (including humans) in order to reduce stress, avoid conflict and maintain social relationships.

Quoted from the book’s introduction, calming signals are “. . . the (relationship managing) signals that horses give in response to stimuli in their environment that they want to calm or appease in order to avert conflict and maintain social relationships . . . Calming signals are also used when the horse wants to calm himself.”

In addition, the author goes on to say that “. . . to give a complete picture of the many ways in which a horse communicates with and experiences the world, other communication signals were also added during the course of the research. These included calming signals, displacement activities, stress signals and distance increasing signals . . . Recognizing the communication signals of your horse better enables you to design and customize a socialization or training plan. It also improves your relationship with your horse, as well as maintain his mental and physical health”.

The author, a behavior consultant and trainer from The Netherlands, filled the book with excellent descriptions and lots of color photographs and charts. The book goes beyond basic body language that most equestrians are already familiar with and details all sorts of nuanced behavior. As the title suggests, the author weaves in many ideas for working with your horse in light of whatever communication signals they are displaying.

“Language Signs and Calming Signals of Horses: Recognition and Application” is an indepth yet easy to read book that strangely has not gotten a lot of attention in the horse world. I have seen almost no press about it. Yet I think it is one of the most interesting and insightful horse books I have ever read. It has opened my eyes to a number of horse behaviors that I have previously misinterpreted or simply missed altogether.

The book also helped me name behaviors that I have observed but couldn’t identify exactly. For example, I started to notice a pattern with my horse, Bear, during the three year period where I fostered a series of nine horses for a local rescue. Every time I introduced a new horse into the pasture, I found that for the first day or so Bear would come in between me and the new horse whenever I was in the pasture. He did it very smoothly, very quietly, very politely. He was not being aggressive or pushy. He would simply block my approach by watching my every move and slipping his body sideways between me and the other horse before I got too close. I got the distinct impression he was either trying to protect me from the new horse or protect the new horse from me. So eventually before approaching the new horse, I would stand with Bear and simply observe the new horse for awhile from a distance before leaving Bear’s side and approaching the other horse. This seemed to diminish Bear’s tendency to supervise my pasture activities and very quickly the behavior would completely disappear until I brought in the next foster horse. I thought it was the weirdest thing. It almost didn’t seem real. Was I imagining this?

When I read the book’s section about something the author calls “splitting”, I had a big “ah- ha” moment. The book notes that “Horses split when they want to prevent a possible conflict between two parties. When a horse splits, he changes position in order to literally form a barrier between two parties.” So I wasn’t imaging Bear’s behavior after all! This was in fact “a thing” that horses do sometimes.

Now interpreting the exact meaning of that behavior is another matter, but the author notes it does have a protective and/or resource guarding motivation. Did Bear want to protect me or the new horse from harm? Did Bear want to keep me “the food bearer” to himself? I have about a thousand theories on the subject of “why” and how the behavior may reflect on our relationship, both positive and negative, but that could make the subject of its very own post. I’ll have to save that analysis for some other time.

Whatever his exact motivation, I know that Bear is a very cautious horse by nature in any novel situation. It makes sense to me that he might be nervous about possible conflict. It also makes sense to me that by my taking the time to acknowledge his concern (by joining in with Bear in observing the horse before approaching) that it might have helped Bear to feel more secure and less like he had to protect/guard all parties involved.

The book is chock full of all sorts of fascinating tidbits and insights. It will most likely expand and challenge some of the information you have been told about horses. It has definitely made me look at various horse behaviors and my interpretation of them in a different light. I realize that not everyone who reads this book will agree with all the research and conclusions that the author has made, but I think this book has a real contribution to make to horsemanship. If this post has piqued your interest, I would highly suggest you buy yourself a copy.

Special thank you to horse professional, Andrea Datz from the Restoration Ranch in Fruita, Colorado, for first making me aware of this book. You can visit Andrea’s website at

Another horse professional who incorporates awareness of calming signals in her work is Anna Blake. In fact, prior to my reading “Language Signs and Calming Signals of Horses”, I first learned of calming signals from Anna Blake’s blog Relaxed and Forward at

In addition to her Relaxed and Forward blog, Anna has published a number of books. If you would be interested in reading a review of one of Anna Blake’s books, go to Anne Leuchen’s blog Horse Addict- The world is best viewed through the ears of horse at Anne Leuchen reviews Anna Blake’s book “Going Steady: More Relationship Advice From Your Horse”. Apparently I am not the only fan of Anna Blake’s work.

Happy reading!

“Would You Rather?” Equestrian Edition- First Installment

Photo taken from website Befunky

I like reading “This or That” and “Would You Rather” questions with an equestrian theme. I came across this previously posted “Would You Rather” edition on Horse Nation at

The Horse Nation post consists of ten questions. For my purposes on The Backyard Horse Blog, I am dividing the ten questions into two posts.

I give my own answers to the first five questions here and then will tackle the final five questions next week.

If you would like to play along, I’d love to read your own answers to these questions. I think it would be fun to see readers’ different perspectives on the answers. Viva la différence!

Question #1- Would you rather show a world-class animal in your discipline of choice or take the world’s greatest trail horse out on the trails?

The Backyard Horse Blog Answer- Oh, shoot. Right off the bat they start with a tough question. I can’t decide. Can I do both, please! I guess with my back to the wall, I’d pick the “greatest trail horse out on the trail” because combining horses and nature is about as good as it gets in my book. But still, I would LOVE that world-class horse opportunity too!

Question #2- Would you rather never see a case of thrush or never see rain rot ever again?

The Backyard Horse Blog Answer- Hmmm, I pick never see thrush again. My thinking is that thrush can potentially lead to lameness. Lameness for a thousand pound animal who spends most of his time on his or feet is a real problem. So I am sticking with “never ever thrush”.

Question #3- Would you rather never run out of fly spray or never lose another horse shoe in the mud?

The Backyard Horse Blog Answer- Never lose another horse shoe. None of my horses are currently shod, but both have been shod at various times in the past for different reasons. Like thrush, losing a shoe could lead to lameness. And I’m still with the whole “lameness for a thousand pound animal who spends most of his time on his feet is a real problem” spiel.

Question #4- Would you rather forget to turn OFF the electric fence when you were supposed to or forget to turn ON the electric fence when you were supposed to?

The Backyard Horse Blog Answer- Well, I really hate to touch electric fencing when I have forgotten to turn it off. Ouch! But, when I am using electric fence strips, it is to keep a horse secured for their own safety so I would have to pick “would rather forget to turn OFF the electric fence”.

Question #5- Would you rather have lush, fertile pastures that you have to walk twenty minutes on foot to access or a so-so paddock close to the barn?

The Backyard Horse Blog Answer- Definitely a so-so paddock close to the barn. I have one horse, Bear, with PPID & EMS who has experienced bouts of laminitis due in part to the lush grass on my property. The other horse, Shiloh, is an easy keeper who, no doubt, is at risk of developing weight-related health problems. So while I wouldn’t mind walking horses out to a far pasture, a lush and fertile pasture isn’t the greatest thing for my particular horses.

Stayed tuned for my answers to the next five questions in a future post. Feel free to share your own answers in the comments section below!

Got Hay Bags?

Fellow horse blogger, Alli, from the Heart Horse and Hoof blog at inquired about the hay bags I use. Funny that I was thinking about doing a post about these hay bags. Her inquiry prompted me to bring the idea to fruition!

While I do use various kinds of hay bags, I have to say that the Nibblenets from are some of my favorites. I purchased my first set of Nibblenets about ten years ago. I still use some of those bags! And the bags that I have purchased more recently have been just as well made as the ones I bought many years ago. The quality remains consistent.

Nibblenets are tuff and sturdy! Really well made. I use my bags on a daily basis, hung outside around the run-in shed where they are exposed to horses teeth, rain, wind, sub-zero temperatures in the Winter and humid 100 degree days in the Summer.

They come in different sizes, colors and configurations. They are not cheap to purchase, but considering how long they last, you definitely get your money’s worth.

Nibblenets are also easy to clean. I periodically rinse with water and scrub with a plastic kitchen-type scrub brush. The webbing can absorb smells so I sometimes leave them out in the sun on a warm dry, day to try to kill those odors.

In addition to the bags themselves, I love the straps that come with them. The straps are really well made; I have not had one break on me yet. They are made with snaps on both ends that make them really versatile. I like being able to adjust the hanging height of the bags as I’ve always had horses of different sizes (I prefer to hang the bags as low as I feel I can safely do so without risking a horse potentially hooking a hoof over the straps if they should rear or kick).

Here is a flash-back photo from 2012 featuring my pony, Pumpkin Spice, and one of the smaller sized Nibblenets. In addition to using my Nibblenets at home, I find them wonderful for traveling. Easy to fill and easy to hang with the straps both inside & outside a trailer.

While I am sure my horses prefer to eat their hay without it being hidden behind netting, I like being able to slow down their rate of eating and keep the hay clean. I do typically feed one meal a day on the ground, but the other two meals are presented in hay bags. I wonder about how eating from a hay bag affects a horse’s body. Since they are designed to eat with the neck extended down and head on the ground, you have to wonder if there are any long term physical effects from eating in a different posture? I keep my eye out for any new research on this matter. I have not personally noted any negative effects, but just like with our own bodies, I am not sure we really realize the long-term effects of certain repetitive activities until many years down the road.

New hay bag users should note that there can be a learning curve with these bags. Of the six horses I have owned and the nine foster horses I have kept, all of them learned to use the nibblenets without issue. But when I first introduce hay bags, I always help the horse by pulling little tufts of hay out of the bag and leaving them there for the horse to find. Otherwise, learning to use the bag can be an exercise in frustration.

I remember the first time I used the Nibblenets with the three horses I had when I first purchased the bags. My horses Bear and Fate figured the bags out very quickly. But my horse, Blue, couldn’t get any hay out at first. I later found him just standing in front of the hay bag with his head hanging low. He looked miserable! So lesson learned- I pull out tufts for the first few days until I see that they have the hang of it. The size of the holes will make a difference too. The larger holes will make it easier for a horse to access the hay at first. You may find over time though that you need to move to a bag with smaller holes. Now that Bear has been eating from the hay bags for about ten years, he needs smaller holes than what he started off with to really slow down the rate of feeding. But even the larger size holes continue to provide a slower-feeding hay experience than he’d get from hay on the ground.

So thanks again to Alli from the Hear Horse and Hoof Blog at for giving me impetus to complete this post.

If you are interested in the Nibblenets, go to to learn more and place an order.

Got Fly Mask?

It has been an unusually cool Spring in my neck of the woods. I have only had the fly masks on the horses a handful of times so far this year. But the hot and humid weather that attracts bugs is likely just around the corner.

If you are searching for a new fly mask this year, you might enjoy checking out the Greater British Equinery of Indiana at They sell fly masks made by the UK company, Harrison Howard.

What first attracted me to this brand is the sheer material. So many fly masks sport materials, colors or patterns that I suspect block a horse’s vision. These Harrison Howard masks, especially the lighter color ones, are wonderfully sheer while still claiming to block 60 percent of UV rays. Despite the high visibility factor, the material is strong. I have masks that are almost a year old and have no tears yet. The eye darts work to keep the material off the eyes and the padding around the ears and nose-band seems like a comfortable touch.

These fly masks stay on quite well even during a roll! My horses have only ditched their masks maybe once or twice in a year’s time. Here Shiloh sports a fly mask entering its second season of wear and still in great condition.

I also really like that the masks come in different sizes and in various configurations (with ears and without, short and long). My horse, Bear, is well-fitted in the Cob size, while Shiloh takes the Large horse size. I have often gotten the sense that Bear does not like his ears covered so I generally have him wear the mask without ears (and wipe or roll-on fly spray on the ears). Shiloh seems fine with his ears covered so he gets the full one.

The masks come in a vacuumed-type bag so the mask is stored flat in the package. I suggest letting the mask “fluff up” overnight by taking it out of the bag. Hang it up with the eye darts pushed out so that the mask will be in the proper form before you place it on the horse the next day. If you are having trouble getting the eye darts to stand up, you can try applying clothes pins to help set the form while the mask hangs overnight.

The masks are easy to clean either by hand or in the washer (in a mesh bag so it doesn’t get caught on the agitator).

Last year, I met Debbie of the Greater British Equinery of Indiana at a horse show. She was so friendly, and I really enjoyed talking with her. Her website is attractive and easy to use. My orders shipped out promptly.

Check out these fly masks and many more horse items sold through the Greater British Equinery of Indiana at!

PS- This post is unsolicited and uncompensated. 🙂

Equine Inspired Poetry-“Spring Horseback Ride”

After publishing my first poem on Medium entitled “The Horse”, I expected to leave poetry in the dust.

Much to my surprise, I had another in me to write. I felt inspired by a recent ride with my horse, Shiloh. The weather was spectacular. Shiloh and I communicated especially well. All my senses on fire as I soaked in the sensory experience of the ride and the weather.

I post the link to the poem today as a shout out to Shiloh on his 17th birthday. I’ll have to go read it to him in the pasture. 🙂

If you would like to read my latest poetry installment, go to Medium’s website to read “Spring Horseback Ride” at If you aren’t already a Medium member/that link doesn’t work try–writer. postDistributed&sk=bd18a9073233a4783906f56e07f4665e.

The Rehabilitation of Regal

Photo of Regal taken from Horse Nation website where his stories appear

If you have read my post about fostering horses for a local rescue, it will come as no surprise that animal rescue stories capture my attention. Reading about an animal leaving a bad situation and moving on to lead a normal life is refreshing and inspiring to me.

Of course, every journey does not have a happy ending. Sometimes in rescue, as in the rest of life, there are unfortunate occurrences. Some things can’t be fixed.

In those cases, I still marvel at what fortune the animal had to find good care towards the end. Even if that good care was not enough to sustain life, I ponder what relief the animal experienced in the midst of his or her suffering after rescue.

What must that be like to go from thirsty and starving to receiving adequate water and food? What must that be like to go from hurting to receiving pain relief? What must that be like to be forgotten and later have someone notice your needs? What must that be like to know indifference and later to experience healing intentions from your caretakers?

I have been reading on the website Horse Nation the ongoing story of the rehabilitation of a horse named Regal. So far, there are three installments posted about Regal’s story. This horse is far from out of the woods, but I am rooting for Regal and his caretakers.

Even if his story does not have a happy ending, I would still say this is a lucky horse. If you would like to read about Regal’s ongoing rehabilitation, please visit the following:

The Rehabilitation of Regal: The Beginning

The Rehabilitation of Regal: 21 Day Update

The Rehabilitation of Regal: Home Sweet Home

Page From The Horse Trailer Diaries- May 9th, 2020

Today I pulled my horse trailer out of the barn where it sat over Winter. I dusted it off, drove it around the country block, checked the tire air-pressure and looked the trailer over for damage. I also brought out Bear and Shiloh for a little test-load. I hadn’t trailed them anywhere since last Fall. I wanted to see if the horses acted as rusty as the trailer looked.

Speaking of the rust, my plan was to have the trailer painted last year, but I had a difficult time finding someone in my price range who could fit me into their schedule. Long story short, the trailer went into Winter storage sadly unpainted.

I make sure to get the trailer inspected and the wheel-bearings packed on a yearly basis in an effort to keep the trailer road worthy. I would also like to be able to look at the trailer without wincing, ya know?

I noramlly do the first load of the year on a day where I don’t plan to travel. Takes the pressure off. It allows me to make mistakes with less risk to the horses as I get used to the whole process again.

I ended up parking the trailer further up the driveway than I usually do and decided to lead both horses up to the trailer at the same time. Shiloh on my right and Bear on my left. As we strolled, I noticed that the truck was really shiny with the sun glinting off the chrome in a funny way.

About that time, I saw out of the side of my right eye that Shiloh looked a bit alarmed as we approached the truck. I decided to continue confidently walking while hoping that both horses would follow in lockstep. They kept up with me as we began to make the final turn towards the back of the trailer.

Somewhere through the turn, someone spooked. I was not stepped on or bumped in the process, but Bear ended up on the right side of Shiloh instead of the left side of me. Bear’s extra-long lead rope now draped over Shiloh’s back, and I surprisingly still had hold of both horses. The scene looked like we had played a round of double-Dutch jump rope. After rearranging the horses, I gave them a moment to breath, lick and chew, sniff noses and enjoy a couple of forehead rubs. Then I pointed towards the trailer and in they went. Bear first. Shiloh second.

I know from past experience that it is a pleasure to travel with your horses so frequently that you develop a well-timed routine. It takes the anxiety level way down for horse and human alike. So much easier than when you only travel every once in awhile. With a frequently executed routine, everyone knows their place. Everyone knows the order. Everyone knows the idea is to go as a little group and return as a little group. The process feels safe and familiar. Camaraderie builds. I imagine that is what it must feel like to travel in a herd.

I was pleased to see that both horses loaded up easily. So pleased, in fact, that I forgot to put up either butt bar. INSERT NOTE TO SELF. You don’t really want two horses deciding to back out at the same time. Think bumper-car potential. Fortunately in this case, Bear and Shiloh each backed out safely and separately.

So to sum up May 9th, 2020. . . Horses loaded easily. Horses unloaded easily. Horses safe and in one piece. It made for a good day; something I hope the horses and I have the opportunity to build on as the year continues.

The trailer is rusted. I am rusty with the trailer loading details (put up the butt bars!). But today Bear and Shiloh proved well-oiled.

New Documentary Film: Lady Long Rider

Photo taken from Bernice End’s website at

Many of you have probably already heard of Bernice End and/or the Long Rider’s Guild. But did you know that there is now a new documentary about Bernice? Entitled “Lady Long Rider- How far one woman went to find herself- The Story of Bernice Ende”, it is a film by Wren Winfield and W+ E1 Productions.

I have not yet seen the documentary, but I got chills when I read the description.

From Bernice Ende’s post about the documentary, “Approaching her 50th birthday, Bernice Ende picked up the reins and rode south on a borrowed horse. Her plan was to visit her sister, a 2000-mile ride from Montana to New Mexico. She never imagined that facing the challenges of life alone on the road, would take her so much further…. In Lady Long Rider, Bernice shares the miles of insight she gained on the horseback ride that ultimately became a 15-year 30,000-mile journey of self discovery.”

Bernice notes in her blog post that she was surprised at how well the hour-long film captures the essence of her journey. To read more about the documentary go to

To purchase the documentary through the filmmaker, Wren Winfield, at W+E1 Productions go to

If you have not read Bernice Ende’s book yet, I would suggest you pick up a copy of “Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback”. You can find it in most places where books are sold including directly from her website at At her website, you can also sign up to follow her blog.

Photo taken from Bernice End’s website at

Prepared to be inspired by the length, breadth and scope of Bernice Ende’s riding adventures!

Rolling Over

Do you like to watch horses roll? I find it amazing and amusing. Think how strong you have to be to be able to get up, get down and flip sides over your back when you are around 1,000 pounds. As I marvel as a horse’s physical prowess, I find the antics just plain fun to watch. All the wriggling, shaking, facial expressions, grunts and more.

In addition to the enjoyment factor, I like to watch my horses roll to help me assess their physical condition. For example, I was clued into Bear’s arthritis several years go when I saw him limping one time right after rising. Interestingly, when I first saw this behavior, I had not yet noticed a difference in his performance under saddle or elsewhere. I had no idea that he was struggling with the development of a hind-limb lameness until I saw him take those stilted steps after getting up. On a similar note, I had a pony named Pumpkin Spice who would roll, but not flip from side to side over his back. He would go down, wriggle around on one side, get up and then wriggle around on the other side. Turned out he had some back issues that improved with regular chiropractic work, and eventually allowed him to apparently roll over comfortably.

May 1st was a wonderful weather day where I live. Perfect for spending time with a horse. So I tacked up Shiloh and off we went for a little ride. I know that post-ride, Shiloh almost always likes to take a roll once he is untacked, rubbed down and released back to his own devices (with his fly mask on for bug protection). I had my phone handy so I could capture this rolling sequence shown below.

What do you like most about watching a horse roll?

Fun Idea From A Fellow Equine Blogger

I got the idea for this post from fellow equine blogger, Reese, and her Horses of the Ozark Hills blog at

Wouldn’t that be so cool to go trail riding in the Ozarks? I am jealous!

Reese recently designed a fun post about making horse & dog friendly treats at She encouraged her readers to try the recipe out for themselves. So I did.

Here is the recipe ingredients as featured on the Horses of the Ozark Hills blog:
2 cups quick oats
1 cup flour
1 cup shredded carrots
¾ cup apple sauce
2 tablespoons molasses
¼ cup coconut oil

Here is my own version of the recipe based on what I already had in my pantry:
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup cinnamon apple sauce
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (I bet honey would be delicious too)

*Optional ingredient is ground cinnamon used as a light dusting over the treat balls after baking.

Mix all ingredients into balls, place on baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.
Dust with cinnamon right after coming out of the oven.
Let cool an hour before placing in air-tight container.

I had fun making these treats. While they baked in the oven, the treats filled the kitchen with a delicious, wholesome aroma. More importantly, my horses both gave them the seal of approval.

And bonus points: I discovered that my horse, Bear, liked them so much that they acted as good “pill pockets” for his medication. Bear generally takes his two daily pills mixed into his pelleted ration balancer. Sometimes, though, he goes through periods where he manages to eat every single pellet and leaves the pills. During these times, I have to hide the pills inside something otherwise forbidden to him like a fig newton. Eventually, Bear will start eating his pills in his ration balancer again . . . until the next time that he doesn’t. I would guess these treats made here are lower in calories, sugar and preservatives than the fig newtons. They are easy to use with the pills too. I had no trouble gently inserting the pills in a treat ball, and the pills did not make the balls fall apart. I am so pleased to find this fig newton alternative. Thank you to Reese and her Horses of the Ozark Hills blog for the inspiration!

Treat as “equine pill pocket”

Don’t forget to stop by Reese’s Horses of the Ozark Hills blog at to check it out and follow along.

A final note here- If you would like to make treats as possible gifts to share with other horse owners, you could use a plastic food storage container with lid. Decorate it by taking a piece of horse themed wrapping paper or fabric, wrapping a ribbon around a rubber band and placing the paper/fabric over the top of the storage cup lid, securing it with the ribbon-wrapped paper band.

Equine Inspired Poetry: “A Horse”

Today, as we close out the month of April, I wanted to give a shout out to National Poetry Month. First organized by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, it promotes awareness and appreciation of the art.

In honor of National Poetry month, I published a poem on Medium entitled “A Horse” at For me, there is nothing more inspiring on God’s green earth than the horse. Can’t think of a better poetry topic!

Postscript regarding accessing this poem on Medium

You may notice that I occasionally include links to my essays and other writing via the website Medium. This is a website for readers and writers. Anybody can and does publish their work on this site. From the average Joe to New York Times authors, you will find all sorts and subjects on Medium.

I personally use Medium as a way to get my writing in front of more people and as a potential income stream for my writing.

The site operates on a paywall system. This means anyone can read a few articles for free each month. But passed that point, you must pay to read by becoming a Medium member. Their membership fee is $5 per month and operates on a continuous pay system meaning your credit card will be charged $5 per month until you tell Medium to cancel your membership.

Medium uses the membership fees to distribute money to its writers. How much money each writer earns per month is based on an algorithm that tracks number of articles published, number of views and the number of claps, highlights and responses each article generates. Only Medium members can clap, highlight and respond to the articles.

So, depending upon how many times you have clicked on the Medium links to my articles this month, you may or may not be able to access the above link to my poem.

But never fear, there are two ways around this-
Option One: You can wait until tomorrow, May1st, to click on the link and read it for free since it is the start of a new month.
Option Two: You can pay to sign up as a Medium member.

End of postscript.

Welcome to Bear’s virtual birthday party!

Please join me in congratulating my horse, Bear, on making it another year around the sun. This past Sunday, April 26th, Bear turned 25.

I wanted to mark the actual day with a photo shoot, but the weather didn’t cooperate so we waited until the next day, April 27th, to take pictures.

Funny that Bear is exactly half my age in chronological years but yet in human years, he is thought to be the equivalent of a person in their seventies. The average life span of a horse is approximately twenty-five to thirty years. So each birthday is made more precious by virtue of the fact that Bear is not likely to have that many more.

In honor of his birthday, Bear wanted all The Backyard Horse Blog readers to get a little party gift as you leave this page and go on your way. He wanted to let you know that the magazine, The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Healthcare, has made its April issue free for digital viewing. Go to and click on the link that is at the very top of the page to view the issue. This magazine provided me lots of articles over the years that have helped me navigate Bear’s senior-horse health issues. Seemed a fitting party gift to celebrate him entering his 25th year on planet earth. Happy birthday, Bear!

Equus Barn Story Podcasts

Two of my former foster horses, Copper on the left and Bitsy on the right. I am sure both of them would have plenty of their own barn stories to tell.

Everyone has their different preferences for digesting information. For whatever reason, I have never been a huge consumer of audiobooks or podcasts. I must say that I am a fan of the Equus Barn Story Podcasts. I remember reading Equus magazine as a child. It continues to be my favorite equine magazine. When Equus magazine went from a monthly format to its current quarterly format, they decided to expand their online offerings. Hence the start of the Podcasts. Equus takes some of their favorite essay stories from magazine issues past and morphs them into the audio format.

Equus’s website says “EQUUS Barn Stories focus on the softer side of horse ownership, serving as a reminder of why we have horses and highlighting the fellowship among riders. They are meant to be listened to on the way to the barn, while cleaning tack or simply relaxing in the quieter moments of the day. Barn Stories are not instructional, but instead seek to underscore and celebrate the way horses enrich our lives.”

Go to to listen to one or more. Return here and let me know which is your favorite and why. I have not listened to them all yet so maybe you can help me figure out which one I should digest next!

Quick Thought For A Thursday

“If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather that dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.”

I love this quote from Barbara Bush. The first thing that came to my mind when I read this saying was to take out the words “human beings” and substitute “horses”!

Former foster horse named Fuzzy

For The Wild Ones

Wild horses of the Little Bookcliff Mountains in March 2015.
Photo by Mary Lynne Carpenter.

The US public lands are home to thousands of wild horses and burros. The federal public lands, managed by the Bureau of Land Management under the Department of the Interior and the US Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture, house some of the most rich, vast and inviting North American landscapes. Those federal public lands belong collectively to all of us who are US citizens.

Federal public lands are multi-use, meaning many parties are allowed to use the land for various activities. This includes individuals and corporations. Everything from gas & oil to mining to ranching to hunting & fishing to hikers to bikers to campers to horseback riders and more. And of course, that open land is home to an incredible variety of wildlife including those wild horses and burros.

The BLM is charged with managing not only the land itself but also all the people/company who want to use the land. Unfortunately for the mustangs and burros (and other wild animals), there is a long history of their presence being in conflict other interested land users. For wild horses and burros, that can mean being rounded up off the range, placed in long-term holding facilities or put up for adoption. Millions of tax payer dollars are spent on this process every year. Those that survive the roundups end up living very different lives from the ones they were born into originally.

As for me personally, Mustangs have long been of interest. I remember first reading about mustangs as a child and feeling moved to help. I set up a cup on my elementary school desk and asked for donations to help a particular mustang organization whose name I no longer recall. I proudly mailed in all the coins I collected, maybe a couple of dollars worth.

Fast forward many years later, and I briefly moved to the area of Grand Junction in Mesa County, Colorado. Mesa County sits on Colorado’s Western slope. It is about a four hour drive West from Denver and is a stone’s throw away from the border with Utah. It is a high desert paradise out there. Mesa county is about 70% public land with over 900,000 acres managed by the BLM and over 500,000 acres managed by the US Forest Service. It is also home to the Little Bookcliff Mountain range that houses a wild horse herd.

Bear and I riding on BLM land in the high desert of Mesa County, Colorado in 2015. You can see the Little Bookcliff Mountains, home to wild horses, in the background.

During my six month stint in Colorado, I got to trail ride on BLM land as well as hike into the Little Bookcliff Mountains and see the wild horse herd for myself. It was an emotional experience for me. Never mind that I can look out my living room window at any moment and see a horse in my backyard. Meeting these wild horses was different, and I couldn’t get enough of it. These were the wild horses that I read about all my life. These were the ones I had donated money for both as a child and as adult. These were the ones that I still regularly write to my Senate and Congress people about. These are the ones that I would like to see remain wild.

I still get excited when I see that sign “Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse Area”.
I notice a mustang noticing me.
Can you see the hoof prints along the creek bed? Even if you don’t happen to see any wild horses during your visit to a herd area, you can have fun locating evidence like hoof prints and stud piles.

Once back in the Midwest, I ended up fostering a series of horses for the Indiana Horse Rescue. One of my first fosters was a formerly wild horse that had been given the name, Adonis. Many years earlier, Adonis had been rounded up off the range in Nevada by the BLM and marked with a freeze brand. For those of you that don’t know, the freeze brand markings give information about where and when the animal was taken. Go to to learn how to read a BLM freeze brand.

Sometime after round up, he entered one of several mustang training programs housed in US prisons. After completing his training program, Adonis was placed for public adoption. While there are certainly formerly wild horses that end up being domesticated with the help of loving owners, Adonis’s story differed. After Adonis was adopted and moved to Indiana, he and another BLM mustang named Willie ended up being starved and neglected. Authorities were alerted and both Adonis and Willie eventually arrived at the Indiana Horse Rescue. To read more about their journey to the Indiana Horse Rescue go to

After gaining some weight at the rescue, Adonis came to me for fostering and was quickly adopted by a family. Last I heard, it looked like he was finally loved and happy. For further information about my equine fostering experiences, check out these links to an essay I wrote entitled “Temporary Shelter” that was published in Equus magazine at and another to a recent The Backyard Horse Blog post

Here is BLM mustang, Adonis, hanging out in my backyard with my horse, Bear.

Willie, after a failed adoption or two, was taken under the wing of Madison Shambaugh. You may know her as Mustang Madie. She provided Willie with a wonderful restart in life. Willie became quite famous among her followers as she detailed online his training journey with her. Willie was later adopted by a new family. If you would like to read about Mustang Madie’s decision to take on Willie, go to

I respect that opinions about the wild horse and burro issue vary widely. There is something like 200 years worth of policies, practices and beliefs that continue to play out today. There is a ton of history behind what is going on right this moment with our federal public lands, the animals and all the various parties that use the land. There are many competing interests all wanting to advocate for their particular industry rights. And of course, federal land is contained within the boundaries of individual States with governments and citizens that have their own interests and opinions. Talk about a complicated issue to unpack and navigate.

As for me, I personally would like to see the wild horse and burro round ups largely stopped. While the BLM often talks about a wild horse overpopulation problem that creates land degredation, other organizations with boots on the ground don’t agree. If you are interested in learning more about wild horses and burros and about organizations that advocate for them to remain on the range, I recommend Wild Horse Education (WHE). Wild Horse Education wants to inform the public about our public lands, public land use and mustang and burros issues. They work on the ground with the mustangs on the range as well as advocating for them in political and legal spheres. If you have some extra time on your hands and have always wanted to learn more about these issues, please visit this link to Wild Horse 101 at Even if you ultimately don’t agree with their viewpoints, the information they have to share is fascinating.

On a similar note, a document I would highly recommend is “Moving Forward: A Unified Statement on the Humane, Sustainable, and Cost-Effective On-Range Management of America’s Wild Horses and Burros.” Drafted as a united statement by multiple wild horse and burro advocacy groups in 2018, it details solutions to the management of wild horses and burros that mostly stand in contrast to how the BLM typically manages them. If you ever wondered how the horses might be successfully managed without round ups, this in the document to read. You can find this report at

Once travel restrictions are lifted for many of us post-Corona Virus pandemic, I would encourage anyone who doesn’t already live out West or hasn’t visited the public lands to schedule a visit. See if you can visit a wild horse herd area. Once you have visited our federal public lands, you may come away with a new and fresh perspective to better inform your own opinion of these issues.

The Little Bookcliffs stand in the background of this photo of Bear and me during our ride at a barn South of the mountain range. You can see the Little Bookcliffs from pretty much anywhere in the Grand Junction valley. Every time I looked up and saw the Bookcliffs, I would think of the wild horses.

Riding On A Song

Today I am linking you to a blog post from Trafalgar Square books about incorporating music into your riding.

The post is based on the book “Freestyle: The Ultimate Guide to Riding, Training and Competing to Music” by Sandra Beaulieu. The book is primarily geared towards dressage riders. Even if you aren’t a dressage rider, there seems to be lots of good information in this book that any rider could apply. I have not read the book myself, but I really enjoyed this particular blog post that focused on creating forward energy. For such a short piece, it has lots of good insights into reasons a horse may be on the slow side. It also discusses how a rider’s energy can affect the horse. That concept of managing energy is something I have long struggled with and continue to grapple with in my riding. I don’t have answers or resolutions for myself or anyone else on this topic. No nuggets of wisdom coming from me on this topic! That’s for sure. But I am always drawn to reading similar articles in my quest to understand this issue more so hence my interest in their blog post about the book.

Beyond the whole “how to manage your energy” angle, the post also drew me in because it dove-tailed on a recent experience I had. Before the Corona Virus arrived in full-force, I planned on riding in a horse-show courtesy of the barn where I take lessons during the Winter. While I was looking forward to riding at the chosen venue, I know from past experience that I can get nervous and/or distracted by all the typical show commotion. So I had picked a tune to sing in my head that happened to match the trot beat of the lesson horse that I would be riding. I wanted a snappy, forward tune that I could sing in my head. I wanted to encourage my body to release any nerves, to settle into a steady rhythm and invite the horse to match me.

The tune that I chose was “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Maybe you can see where this is going? Those of you familiar with the words may recognize it as a dooms-day song. Despite the lyrics, the tune is upbeat. It was just the right tempo for the jaunty posting-trot of the Saddlebred I would be riding in a walk-trot huntseat class. I was initially so pleased with my choice. In light of what happened, however, I now find it creepy that I picked this particular song. “Don’t go ’round tonight, it’s bound to take your life, there’s a bad moon on the rise” goes the otherwise chirpy chorus. Needless to say, my March show was cancelled due to social distancing concerns. That same week my lessons came to a crashing halt after my husband was laid off. For those of us who have been fortunate enough to stay healthy so far during the pandemic, we have now rearrranged our lives in sometimes dramatic ways to try to remain virus-free. Bad moon rising indeed.

While my first attempt at incorporating music into my riding was misguided, I still like the general idea. On a brighter note, I am mulling over how I can incorporate music into my current rides at home. In the past, I have periodically sung while in the saddle. Bear used to get more calm and steady when I would sing “row, row, row your boat” during tense moments, for example. No other song seemed to work for him as well as that one. My newest horse, Shiloh, is a different sort of creature than Bear. While Bear went better when I tried to encourage relaxation, I think Shiloh goes better when I try to gently encourage more animation. Maybe there is music I could sing to myself in my head in order to set a more dynamic (yet not mind blowing) tone during a ride?

So what about you? Have you ever incorporated music into your riding? You might like to read the post at and then share your experiences with me in the comments section.

Need A Laugh? Watch This One-Minute Video

This European commerical from Volkswagen premiered a few years ago. Many of you may have already seen it, but I think it is just as funny the 50th time as the first time. If you have not viewed it yet, you are in for a treat. I promise it is very much horse-related. Go to Let Shiloh and me know what you think!

Shiloh gives the clip two hooves up. 🙂

Six Uses For Pop Up Barrels In Your Riding and Groundwork!

In a previous post entitled “Ten Ideas For Staying in The Saddle If You Struggle With Riding Alone”, I wrote about my tendency to use cones and obstacles to aid me during my rides.

Today I thought I’d give a shout out to one of my favorite products- the pop-up barrel set by Seventeenflat.

Seventeenflat is not the only company that sells pop-up barrels, but my understanding is that they were the first to offer them. The pop-barrel set was originally designed for barrel racers, of course, but I love the contribution these barrels have made to my obstacle collection. I bought my pop-up barrel set almost ten years ago, and they are still in great condition. A little dirt encrusted maybe, but they sport no rips or cuts. Most importantly, they still retain their shape. The set includes three pop-up barrels and a carrying case. The barrels are lightweight making them easy to move, stand up and collapse.

Former foster-horse, Copper, and me threading the needle.

So how do I use them in my horse work? Let me count the ways:

  1. Just like cones, I use the barrels as markers in making patterns. Because they are larger than cones and quite colorful, they add visual interest and variety to any pattern. I can weave the barrels, circle around them or decide to make transitions between gaits when I pass by the barrels.
  2. Another idea is to set two of them up side by side at varying distances. I then ask my horse to pass between the barrels at any gait. Don’t forget that backing between the barrels is a great exercise in encouraging straightness. For an added challenge, try backing a figure-eight pattern around them!
  3. Use the barrels to hold long, skinny items like lightweight broom handles and flags. I practice lining my horse up next to the barrel so I can then accustom them to my picking up and putting down the broom handles and flags.
  4. It is also fun to accustom my horse to accept my picking the barrels up and relocating them from the saddle. This comes in handy at clean-up time.
  5. Try “layering” the barrels with other objects! For example, I might open up a tarp and place two barrels on top. Then I ask my horse to walk over the tarp while passing between the barrels.
  6. Don’t forget that even if you don’t ride, you can incorporate the barrels into your groundwork with horses. I practice leading my horses between the barrels, sending my horses between the barrels and backing them up between the barrels. Horses can also learn tricks with the barrels like using their noses to roll them as well as pushing them with their knees or giving the barrels a tap with their hooves. It is fun to watch a nervous horse develop confidence as he or she learns to safely manipulate and control the barrels.

In working with the barrels in any variation, I expose my horses to the sound and feeling of the barrel fabric as well as the spring-action movement of the barrels. On that note, I wouldn’t recommend unfurling the barrels right in front of your horse until he or she is very comfortable with them as the sound and movement of the pop-up can be startling. Also, I will point out that I do not recommend their use in high wind. The barrels are somewhat weighted on the bottom, but they can and do get blown over. Use caution during the windy season. I like to expose my horses to all sorts of things in an effort to help them become good equine citizens, but I don’t really want to be surprised by barrels blowing over in a sudden wind gust while I am riding by them.

Since I bought my barrel set awhile ago, I thought I’d visit the seventeen flat website and see what they have been up to. I notice that they still sell the full set (three barrels and carrying case), but that now they also offer the option to buy a single barrel or just the carrying case. The full set is listed at $159.99, a single barrel at $55 and the bag by itself at $20. Not inexpensive, I know. But I have gotten about ten years use out of them and continue to use them to this day. This makes the per-year price come to $15.99. Considering the amount of mileage I have gotten and continue to get out of them, I consider them worth the cost. If you enjoy incorporating cones and obstacles into your work with horses like I do, these barrels might turn out to be a favorite product for you, too. Check them out at

Shiloh and I getting ready to start a pattern where we will weave the barrels.

Who is to blame?

In the course of perusing articles on the website Medium, I came across a terrific piece written by Jeanne Grunert entitled “Don’t blame the dog (or the horse)” at The entire time I was reading the article, I was shouting “yes!”, “yes!”, “yes!”.

In the first part of the piece, she tells about a horse that she met while riding in her college equestrian program. It is a powerful story. Jeanne makes the point that many of the unwanted behaviors that our animals display are the result of something they experienced before we even met them or the result of our inadvertently rewarding them for their actions. This lack of understanding probably damages more human-animal relationships than we realize.

The article goes on to talk about dogs, and then further along in the piece, the author tells a second story about a different horse. I actually had a very similar experience to this particular story. My horse, Bear, was a gaiting machine back in the day (he is now retired from riding). Bear’s sire was a one-time World Grand Champion Speed-Racking horse, and Bear inherited a tendency for a smooth, fast, consistent gait. Bear always ran “hot”, but when you could harness his focus and attention, the ride he gave was AMAZING. He is definitely the most light, the most sensitive horse I have ever owned.

At first I wasn’t really used to riding a horse like Bear. This caused us lots of problems during our initial years together. But over time, we attended clinics and lessons. I did a lot of work on myself, my own mental fitness and my own riding skills. Eventually, we developed a really nice relationship and went on to have fun doing a wide variety of activities (that is my opinion-I guess you’d have to ask Bear about his own perspective).

Anywho, I noticed pretty quickly after bringing Bear home that whenever I shortened the reins, he would speed up. Never in my life had I shortened my horse’s reins with the intention that they go faster! I couldn’t figure it out. About five years into our relationship, I was able to track down Bear’s breeder. She mentioned that the speed-racking horse cue to hit a different gear (speed up) is for the rider to shorten the reins. Bear performed EXACTLY as he had been trained; Bear performed EXACTLY the opposite from what I expected. How many horses and riders have experienced this same scenario without realizing?

So, have you ever had a situation like this in your relationship with a horse or a dog?

The Circle of Life

Happiness Between Tails recently invited me to write a guest-post after the blog’s author read one of my essays on the website Medium. How exciting!

The blog’s author, da-Al, wrote a beautiful introduction to my post. It was another reminder that having horses in my life is a privilege not everyone shares. A big thank you to her for asking me to guest-post on her popular, international blog! It is a much appreciated opportunity to introduce new readers to my writing.

My guest-post entitled “The Circle of Life” is about a little horse-hair bird nest I found in my yard.

Check out the Happiness Between Tails blog and my guest-post ” The Circle of Life” at or-writer-mary-lynne-carpenter/

A Backyard Horse-Keeper’s Spring To-D0 List

Thank you to the Savvy Horsewoman for inviting me to participate in their Spring guest-blogger round up!

As part of this Spring round-up, I wrote an article detailing my yearly Spring to do list around the farm. Of course, I wrote this article before the spread of the Corona Virus impacted many of our Spring plans. Even so, I think that most of the article’s suggestions are still relevant.

The Savvy Horsewoman is a blog and shop that has many active social media accounts. They encourage their readers to share, pin or tweet their favorite posts. With your help, this could be a great opportunity for The Backyard Horse Blog to gain exposure to a wider audience.

If you would like to check out my guest-blog post and then share, pin or tweet from there, please go to Check back into their blog later this month to read other guest-blog posts from fellow equestrian bloggers.

Horsin’ Around On April Fool’s Day

I need some comic relief! So today, I am giving a nod to April Fool’s Day with a compilation of horse jokes, puns and silly sayings for some unbridled laughs. So let’s quit stalling and get to it.

Bear thinks these jokes and puns are pretty funny!

The LaffGaff website says “We’re not trying to stirrup trouble, but we reckon these are the best horse jokes and puns you’ll find…. there’s no night-mare jokes here!” The following are my favorites from the LaffGaff horse-related joke list:

  • 100 years ago everyone owned horses and only the rich drove cars. These days everyone drives cars and only the rich own horses. Oh, how the stables have turned.
  • What did the horse say when it fell down? “Help, I’ve fallen, and I can’t giddy up!”
  • What do you call a horse that lives next door to you? A neigh-bor.
  • When do vampires like horse racing? When it’s neck and neck.
  • What’s a horse’s favorite sport? Stable tennis.
  • What kind of bread does a racehorse eat? Thoroughbred.
  • What do racehorses eat? Fast food.
  • I have a horse named Mayo.Mayo neighs.
  • Do you know why the horse stalls at a racetrack are labeled A, B, D, E, and F? Because no one would bet on a seahorse.

I found another collection of funny sayings on the website Wideopenpets. Here are my favorites:

  • 401k…check. It’s nice to be financially stable.
  • I wasn’t planning to take a vacation, but I did. It was a spur of the moment decision.
  • Lost the bet? Pony up.
  • Late to your appointment? Better hoof it.
  • I appreciate your unbridled enthusiasm. But it’s a bit much.
  • Quit stalling and answer the question.
  • Yessss! Just got promoted. But now I’m saddled with a ton more responsibility.
  • Let’s skip the opener and just show up for the mane event.
  • It was cheap. Only cost me a couple bucks.
  • Spending time around those two is exhausting. They’re constantly jockeying for position.
  • Why the long face? Friends bailed on you? That’s lame.
  • This shindig’s getting too rowdy. Rein it in, party people.

For a last laugh, I’ll share a short video clip with you. My now retired horse, Bear, learned a few tricks over the years. But really, his main trick was bowing down on one knee to be mounted. And technically, Bear is a pony as he stands at 14.1 hands. So I had fun calling him my “one-trick pony”. Anyway, after we had learned the trick at a clinic, I had been wanting for awhile to show the trick to my husband and get it captured on video. I was super excited when my husband agreed to come outside with me one day to film. But I’d forgotten that earlier that day I had ridden another horse bareback and hadn’t yet changed my pants since I had been doing barn chores in the mean time. Would have been nice if my husband had pointed that out to me before he started filming. Oh well, it is good for a laugh.

View the clip at

Daily Encouraging Message- Free Email Offer For Equestrians

Sometimes, we need a little inspiration to help guide our path when life gets cloudy.

In a previous post entitled “Mental Fitness in Riding”, I mentioned Barbara Shulte.

Barbara is a Professional Cutting Horse Trainer, Personal Performance Coach, Author, Clinician, and Equine Consultant. She was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2012.

Barbara is currently offering free sign up to her “Just For Today” daily inspiration emails. From her website: “They include horsemanship and mental game tips, as well as personal meaning reflections and physical conditioning tips. They arrive in your email inbox on Monday through Friday. There’s nothing to buy. They’re free.”

For a number of years, Barbara would send out these daily emails. She eventually stopped doing so in order to use her energies for other worthy projects. But I really enjoyed these horsemanship-related suggestions/ little nuggests of wisdom and was sad to see them go. So excited to start receiving these emails again.

Use the following link to sign up if you would like to receive them too!

Feeling like a Horse on Stall Rest? Activity Ideas That Also Give

Many of us are trying to adjust to travel restrictions, job lay offs and having access to only essential services. Sometimes taking your eyes off your own problems for a minute is balm for the soul. I thought I would pass on a few ideas I have come across for spreading goodwill in a time of stress I really like this community action response poster that I found online for UK residents (you will notice the reference to Public Health England). It provides ideas for all of us no matter where we live. Seems like a great place to start. Read on for other ideas.

SHOP WITH SMARTPAK AND CONSIDER DONATING TO A HORSE RESCUE– I just saw that Smartpak equine at is currently offering free shipping with any order. No minimum shipping requirement. Usually their minimum for free shipping is $75. If you are watching your pennies but still in need of a horse product, now is a great time to shop with Smartpak.

And if you have money to give, why not contact your local horse rescue and see if they have a product need? You could purchase items to have sent directly to the rescue OR buy them an e-gift certificate and let them know about the current free shipping offer so they can take advantage. I am guessing that the broader economic strain of the Corona virus will have a big impact on our horse rescues across the country. If you can, please support them.

FOSTER A DOG OR CAT (OR OTHER SMALL CRITTER) FROM AN ANIMAL SHELTER– On a similar note, animal shelters are also feeling the strain. Many are asking for folks to foster dogs, cats and other critters during this time. Fostering can be a very rewarding experience. And it is such a treat for an animal to get out of a crowded shelter and get some individual attention. If you can, please contact your local animal shelter to inquire about their fostering needs and policies.

BUY A LIP BALM AND HELP WORKING EQUIDS WORLDWIDE– I know, maybe purchasing makeup is not at the top of your priority list now.

But did you know that according to Brooke USA website that “100 Million Horses, Donkeys And Mules Support 600 Million Of The World’s Poorest People”? By purchasing Lip Revival Tinted Lip Balm from Beauty for Real, you can help support the working equids of the world. 20% of the proceeds from each lip balm purchase goes to Brooke USA. Brooke USA supports the international organization the Brooke that helps working equids (horses, donkeys, mules) and their owners around the world.

The lip balm is cruelty free, parabin free, vegan and comes in nine colors. Currently, Beauty for Real is offering a free mascara with any purchase. I have used their tinted lip balm and mascara for a couple of years now and really appreciate the quality. Order through the link at

CHECK OUT FREEKIBBLE.COM– Finally, for those who don’t have extra money to donate but still want to help the animal-shelter community, check out By answering a question of the day, you prompt the sponsoring organization to donate a few pieces of dog/cat food or cat litter to shelter pets depending upon the link you select. It is free to participate. Sign up to receive a daily email reminder.

If you have resource ideas for helping out others during this pandemic and beyond, please post them to the comments section below. Even small acts of thoughtfulness and kindness can have a broad impact through the ripple effect of spreading goodwill.

Essay: The Right Horse At The Right Time

PREFACE: The issue of timing comes up a lot in the equestrian world. Generally, it is mentioned in the context of the application of aids. Matching which aid to apply with which footfall of the horse. Coordination of aids during a certain moment of a movement. The more precise you want your riding to be, the more important that timing becomes. But timing can be thought of within other contexts when it comes to our lives with horses. I share with you below an essay that I originally wrote for a magazine. Turns out it wan’t quite right for that particular publication. Maybe it wasn’t the right timing? Apparently my riding is not the only place I struggle to apply this concept . . .

The Right Horse At The Right Time
By Mary Lynne Carpenter

After many years of wanting and wishing, 2003 was the year that I finally became a backyard horse-owner. I had purchased my first horse, Blue, in 2001 and began boarding him at a local facility. My family and I, living in an apartment complex at that time, soon started the search for a rural property with room for horses. We must have visited a hundred properties before we found one that was suitable and affordable. Save for a brief stint living in another State, we have kept the same address for seventeen years now.

My newest horse, Shiloh, was coincidentally born in 2003. Just as I was getting my sea legs as a backyard horse-owner, Shiloh was learning to stand on his own four legs. We were both trying to navigate the world of horses in our own ways, me as a new horse-owner and him as a new foal.

Shiloh was 15 years old when I bought him. It is not lost on me that Shiloh and I, by virtue of us both now being middle-aged, have more time behind us than ahead of us. Who knows how many of those years will be healthy riding years where we are both willing and able to be active?

On the other hand, I also realize that Shiloh and I would likely not have been a good match for each other back in 2003. At that time, I was still dipping my toes back into all things equestrian as a re-rider. Shiloh was a young horse with a blank slate, ready to absorb and learn. Both of us needed to acquire knowledge and experience, but we probably couldn’t have done that together very successfully. We most likely would have taught each other the wrong lessons. I might have ended up a very scared and disappointed owner. Shiloh might have turned into a very mixed-up horse with an uncertain future.

Before I bought Shiloh, he had spent the previous five years mostly unridden. He was well-cared for. He was sound in mind and body. He had a good training foundation, but he had also gotten rusty in his handling and riding skills. I needed all my years of horse experience that I had accumulated since 2003 to help Shiloh acclimate to a new home where he would resume life as a riding horse. Shiloh and I have only been together about a year and a half now. We are still getting to know each other. I enjoy peeling back the layers, uncovering just how much good training other folks had obviously put into him over the years. Some might say we have come together too late, but our meeting up in mid-life actually seems to be good timing.

Even as I continue to develop my relationship with Shiloh, I sometimes wonder where my next horse is right now. That is, Lord willing I have the opportunity to bring another horse home in the future. Is he just being born or does he have some years under his belt already? What does she look like and how does she ride? Whatever package he or she comes in, I do hope that the timing is right when we meet each other. I hope that we each come to the table with complimentary life experiences that set us up for success. As the old saying goes, “timing is everything”. How this rings true when it comes to horses.

Chewy Sells Horse Stuff!

I haven’t seen any statistics, but I would bet that most backyard horse-keepers also care for other animals. If you have dogs or cats, you may already be familiar with the online pet- product company Chewy.

Did you know that Chewy also sells products for horses? While their horse offerings do not rival a typical tack store, they boast enough product variety to make them worth a look. Horse products sold through Chewy include feed, supplements, treats, fly spray, vet wrap, grooming supplies, prescription medications and tack.

Like most folks, I enjoy the convenience of shopping online. On the downside, I find it especially difficult paying for shipping costs or meeting the minimum requirements for free shipping. Many online stores have a fairly high minimum of $75 or so for the free shipping feature. When I am just looking to buy one inexpensive product, it is frustrating that I might have to pay more for shipping than the cost of the item itself. On a similar note, it is not very often that I have an extra $75 to spend on products I don’t really need just to get free shipping on the one item I do need.

Here are three horse products I most recently purchased from Chewy during a Winter sale-
Espree Aloe Herbal Horse Spray Fly Repellent (great scent!)
Co-Flex bandage
Adirondack Applezz N’ Oats Horse Treats

Shopping at helps solve this problem for me, because they offer free shipping on orders over $49. Not only that, but their free shipping is generally a one to two day shipping offer as well. Usually you have to pay extra at most other websites for that speed of shipping. And if I already have an order of pet food coming, it is easy to add a small horse product or two to my order. Their auto-ship feature is super convenient as I can save a shopping list online and decide “what I want sent when”. Generally you will get a small discount on items you order via auto ship too.

Chewy’s prices on horse items aren’t often the lowest I have found online, but they aren’t typically outrageous. When I visit their website, I normally click on their “Today’s Deals” link and then “Horse Deals” to see if an item I want might be on sale.

I don’t know what it is like to work for Chewy or how employee friendly they are, but I found them customer friendly. I once called Chewy after my cat died. I explained that I wanted to return a couple of crates of food. They told me to just keep the food and donate it to an animal shelter. They refunded me the full amount (even though I wouldn’t need to return the food to them) and then sent me a bouquet of flowers with a nice sympathy note! I think that is the first time a company (or anybody else, for that matter), has sent me a bouquet of flowers when one of my pets has passed. I hope Chewy is as considerate towards their employees as they are their customers.

Probably the only difference I have noticed with Chewy as compared to other online shops with horse products is how they package their fly spray. If you have ever purchased fly spray from say, Smartpak, you may notice that the trigger bottles are wrapped and bagged to try to prevent/contain leaks. Unfortunately, I have not know Chewy to do this yet. The fly spray that I have ordered has arrived with no protective packaging and often laying down rather than standing up. One bottle arrived almost completely leaked out. Fortunately, other items packaged inside the box were easily wiped down. But that leak might have ruined an order that also contained a bag of pet food or something more porous. Their customer service department was understanding and promptly refunded me my money for the fly spray. I am all for supporting less packaging as a kindness to the environment, but perhaps they could at least try to ship spray bottles standing up so as to minimize potential messes.

If you haven’t already checked out Chewy’s horse-related products, you might be pleasantly surprised. If you are a FIRST TIME Chewy customer, you can use the following link to place your order AND have Chewy donate $20 to the Heart of Phoenix horse rescue. Heart of Phoenix is based in West Virginia and serves horses in need all over Appalachia. This is a terrific opportunity to try out Chewy as a first time customer and help a deserving horse rescue. Go to

Happy shopping!

P.S.- This post is completely unsolicited and uncompensated. 🙂

The Comfort and Beauty In Routine

I appreciate many aspects of keeping my horses at home. One thing that has caught my attention as of late is how their presence encourages me to keep a routine. I don’t usually need much prompting in this department as I seem naturally drawn to structure and organization. But during times in my life when the chips are down, knowing that my horses still need me serves as an important reminder that life continues. Any chaos in life is mitigated by the regular rhythms of horse care.

While I have seen some varied opinions on the topics, most horse people think that maintaining a routine in feeding times contributes to their horse’s well-being. In reading about horses living in the wild, the descriptions of their lives sound quite organized to me. Preferring to live in communal herds, they seem to naturally appreciate structure. While some contend that horse herds in the wild are very hierarchical, others think that an observed pecking order among equines is only seen in domestic horses where being housed in close quarters creates competition for resources.

Still, whether more rigidly organized or not, horses naturally seem drawn to predictability in many forms. Any time I have welcomed a new horse into my backyard, it is my observation that they calm down once they catch on that I am coming out to feed and otherwise care for them on a set time schedule.

Nature in general seems to share this innate sense of structure and organization that I find so appealing. In spending time these last few days out in the pasture and in the barn, I am everywhere seeing signs of Spring. My horses are shedding their Winter coats. The grass is starting to grow and get green. It prompts me to wait for the ground to dry out so I can start the first mow of the season. The avian activity is increasing. I see some birds flying with pieces of horse hay in their mouths. Fathers and mothers building nests in anticipation of egg laying.

The rhythms of the Spring season and of nature itself gives me quiet comfort when other events in my life seem out of control. In my own faith tradition, nature is God’s handiwork. Nature reminds me to look to Him for inspiration and guidance, both in times of plenty and in times of want. It is a beautiful thing to appreciate His creation. It is in many ways an act of worship that calms and centers me.

So as I prepare to head out into the darkness for early morning feed, I will be thankful to have this opportunity to care for these awesome creatures called horses (and my barn cats, too!). For the thousandth time I will stuff the hay bags full of forage, check the water trough, dole out portions of cat food and gather the muck tools to start cleaning the run-in-shed and remove manure from around the paddock.

It is hard work, not always completely welcome to my ever-aging body, but yet the process never gets old. Performing this routine and related ones means that I have horses in my backyard for one more day. No matter what else is going on in my world, for this I am ever so grateful.

Five Barn-Hack Links: Ideas You Can Use Today to Save $$$

Here are five internet articles that I have used to get ideas for my own backyard horse-keeping. For those of you who are cost-conscious like I am, you may especially appreciate that many of the ideas are free or low-cost to implement.

What is YOUR favorite barn-hack link? Post them to the comments area!

Mental Fitness in Riding

PREFACE TO ORIGINAL POST: Originally, I was going to tie this post about mental fitness into a report covering my first horse show of the year. I was scheduled to participate at an indoor horse show at a really cool venue courtesy of the barn where I take riding lessons during the Winter. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled due to the Corona virus pandemic. So, I will be awaiting a hopefully future opportunity to practice my mental fitness while riding in a busy setting. Still, I think what I have to say here applies to riding even in more casual settings, like my own backyard. In fact, I got in a quick bareback ride on Shiloh on Monday, 3/16 just when my two barn cats decided it would be fun to run around the round pen as they were excited by all the Spring bird activity. Great opportunity to keep myself and my horse focused instead of letting the feline antics bulldoze our ride.


One of the toughest parts of riding for me is the mental aspect. I struggle with

  • Keeping myself focused.
  • Keeping myself in tune with my horse in the moment while also thinking ahead to the next movement or the next obstacle.
  • Keeping myself calm under pressure in a busy riding atmosphere or in the show ring.
  • Keeping myself calm during surprise moments in my ride like when my horse spooks.
My horse, Bear, and I at a clinic. We were practicing riding in group formation as we left the arena to go for a spin around the fairgrounds. Bear and I got a little worried about where we were headed.

What bothers me the most about all this is that if I am worrying about myself, I am not really making myself mentally available to the horse. If the horse has spooked or refused, she is clearly struggling with some issue on some level in that moment. I want to be the kind of rider that can reach out to the horse right there and help her through that sticky spot. This is a hard thing to do well when I am fearful.

At this point in my life, I doubt I will ever completely “get over” these issues, but that doesn’t keep me from trying to improve my mental fitness as an equestrian. I still enjoy riding too much to completely give up on myself just yet. I continue to seek out ideas on how I can improve in these areas.

I know the photo is dark but maybe you can still see where one of the barn cats finally ended up hanging out during my Monday ride after he got tired of running around. 🙂

So on that note, a video from Barbara Schulte recently popped into my inbox. Barbara is a Professional Cutting Horse Trainer, Personal Performance Coach, Author, Clinician, and Equine Consultant. She was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2012. The video is entitled “Tune into Your Horse” and discusses a couple of different ways to cope with a horse that “gets big”. You know, when he gets worried about something in the environment and raises his head up and hesitates to go foward, that sort of thing. She filmed the video from the saddle while she was riding her horse in an open field. I don’t see a whole lot of instructional videos filmed this way so it caught my attention. I thought I would share it with you here. Click on the link inside the quote marks below to go to the video and a written transcript. I am going to practice channeling my inner Barbara the next time I ride.

What do we do now

As a new blogger, I follow many other horse blogs so I can keep up with current topics in the horse world. Today I am reblogging this current (3/17/20) post from The $900 Facebook pony. She commiserates with many of us who have had events cancelled but also stresses the importance of eliminating these gatherings. She also details suggestions for how we can be supportive of each other and the horse industry in general during this Corona Virus season.

Like many others, I have had a long anticipated horse show cancelled this month. Last week after I learned of the closure of that event, my husband’s job was eliminated.

I know many of us are stressed. At the same time, please remember to be kind with your words and actions towards others. Help where you can.

Smiles are free.

Well guys, this corona thing really spiraled quickly didn’t it? Things look a lot different today than they did a week ago, or even just 4 days ago. USEF, USEA, and FEI have cancelled shows for now, and everything is coming to a screeching halt. Whether or not any of us contracts the virus, this is definitely going to affect all of us in some way.

Over the weekend I have to admit that I was very disappointed to see the people on social media who wanted to keep horse showing in the coming weeks despite all this, and the organizers who wanted to keep offering schooling shows because riders asked for them. I’m not sure why some of us seem to feel exempt from what all the experts are recommending, and what our societal obligation demands. The time to buckle down is now, and there is nothing special about…

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Inspiration Ideation

Today, March 16th, 2020 is my 15 year anniversary with Bear who is today’s model for our Inspiration Ideation quote.

I suspect that if Bear could read, he would heartily agree with the John Lyon’s quote written above.

Thank you, my dear Bear, for all the important lessons you continue to teach me and for all the great rides. You are one-in-a-million. I feel so fortunate to have been your main person for all these years.

The Backyard Horse-Owner: Ideas on Preparing For Quarantine

While many folks are stocking up on toilet paper, food and cleaning supplies in case of quarantine due to contraction of the Corona Virus, we backyard horse-owners have additional issues to consider. Namely, if we ourselves were required to stay home, do we have all the horse supplies that we would need?

Two extra bags of my horses’ ration balancers, kept in airtight containers in my home, are at the ready if I am isolated.

The above article appeared yesterday on The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care website. The author, who lives in Washington State, details how she is stocking up on supplies based on her own horses’ particular needs. The article is tailor-made for the backyard horse-owner who wants some ideas for how to prepare for this “what if” scenario. Hopefully, all the preparation will turn out to be unnecessary. But for those of us who feel calmer when better prepared, this article will help formulate a horse-care plan.

Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America’s Urban Heartland

Can I review a book before I have even read it?

On 3/10, Horse Nation published my essay “Why This Rural Middle-Aged White Woman is Looking Forward to Reading “Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America’s Urban Heartland”. The book’s release date is in April so I have not read the book yet. The “review” is actually a commentary on why this book caught my attention.

Many years ago, I completed a graduate degree in social work. A lot of the material we covered was about confronting our own biases and preconceived notions in working with people from a different racial background than our own. It introduced me to issues that many non-white people experience in a largely white America.

As an equestrian, I see that in most parts of the country, there is not much diversity among riders. And beyond that, it is not a topic that is even generally discussed. When I read a review of the Compton Cowboys book in Untacked (published by Chronicle of The Horse), I saw an opportunity to address this issue through my freelance writing.

Perhaps the essay can help further the conversation about diversity among equestrians. In a time when the equine industry is seeing a leveling or even reduction in participants, how can we welcome everyone who would like to participate?

Click here to read the essay on Horse Nation: orward-to-reading-the-new-book-compton-cowboys-the-new-generation-of-cowboys-in-americas-u rban-heartland/

Is Horse Care a Multi-Sensory Experience?

When most equestrians think of senses, I imagine that the sense of sight first comes to mind. What is more gorgeous to look at than a horse, right? But a person who is sighted often forgets that people can and do absorb information in other ways.

Years ago, I volunteered at a therapeutic riding center. I later became a NARHA certified instructor and then went to work at the center as a staff member. My experiences there gave me lots of exposure to folks with sensory differences. It made me think about the varied ways that many different kinds of people experience the world.

If you are sighted, you absorb a tremendous amount of information through your eyes. It is easy to forget that there are other senses that can give us “insight” into the world around us.

We can use other senses in our backyard horse-keeping to either add to the information that we absorb through our eyes or lead us to an awareness that we might not have “observed” otherwise.

Sometimes we can pick up on issues that are not actually visible to the eye but rather knowable through touch, smell, hearing or resonance. Here are some examples of how I try to incorporate the use of multiple senses in my backyard horse care.

TOUCH– We can feel texture, heat, cold and movement through our hands. This can help us detect health issues that we can only feel and not see. For example, at the start of Winter, I was running my hands across Shiloh’s back and felt a lump. His coat was thick enough at that point in the season that the lump was not at all visible. Upon further inspection, I believed it to be a small spot of rain rot. I applied sheath cleaner to remove the scab, gently cleaned the area with water and kept an eye on it. The skin quickly healed over and the hair grew back before the worst of Winter (if it had not healed or if it had started to spread, I would have called a vet out to take a look and give an official diagnosis and advise me on a course of better treatment). Periodically running an un-gloved hand through my horse’s Winter coat helped me nip a potentially big problem in the bud.

Here is the spot on Shiloh’s back where I felt a lump. You can see his pink skin showing through after the hair crusts were removed.

SMELL– Thrush, a festering wound and dental issues can emit distinct odors as can moldy hay. Ditto for a stall that needs cleaning. Not to get too gross, BUT, when my horse, Bear, has experienced diarrhea, I notice that it has a differing odor from normal horse manure. I can often tell if he has been recently stressed just by how a manure pile smells before I even get close enough to see its consistency. I know, not the most pleasant subject, but if you are a backyard horse-keeper, these are the kinds of details that you will want to note. No one else may be around to notice and address the issue if you don’t.

HEARING– There have been several times I have heard a problem before I saw it. A lose shoe can’t always be seen but it can be heard, especially on a hard surface. Another example is my experience of filling up the water trough on a hot summer day and then heading into the house with my back turned towards the pasture. If I had not heard the tell-tale sloshing sound, I would not have realized that Bear was standing in the water trough giving himself a nice splash bath. While I don’t begrudge him the opportunity to cool off, he tends to splash every last drop of water out of the big rubber buckets. If I don’t hear the noise, he and his pasture mates will be without water all night long. And yes, I often place a second big rubber bucket out in the heat of Summer, but Bear has been known to take a double-bath . . .

RESONANCE– This is a word that you see used in many diverse areas of study from physics to marketing. One of my favorite definitions of the word comes from music where resonance is described as “reinforcement and prolongation of a sound or musical tone by reflection or by sympathetic vibration of other bodies” (taken from Have you ever had a feeling about your horse? An intuition about something going on with him or her? An impression of what they might be thinking? Sometimes those are informed by something you see, hear or smell, but sometimes not. It comes from a totally different place outside of those senses. While some people dismiss those feelings as too “woo-woo” to be real, there is scientific backing for the idea of resonance or vibration between beings, including across the horse-human divide. Of course, we can mistakenly project our own thoughts and feelings onto our horses (people do this too each other all the time), but we can also accurately pick up on things going on with other people and animals. And our horses and other animals can pick up on things going on with us! Listed below are some links that discuss fascinating research into these areas. I often ponder ways that my horses and I can influence each other through this concept of resonance; I think about how I might be able to use the idea of resonance to set a positive tone for my horses when I am with them in my backyard.

I suspect that horses, and animals in general, are much more adept at experiencing the world across their many senses than humans generally are. I also suspect this is part of why so many of us are strongly drawn to them. In being around them, we get this marvelous opportunity to stop overthinking things and instead to feel.

Note that using our senses of touch, smell, hearing and resonance doesn’t have to be all about problem identification! Using all our senses can enrich our positive experiences at the barn if we pay attention.

Think about the smell of fresh hay, the softness of a horse’s muzzle, the sound of a gentle nicker or the feel of electricity going through you as your horse gallops around the pasture with his tail raised and mane flying. And let’s not forget about riding. Riding a horse is its own exquisite feeling. All that dynamic movement is amazing.

Being around horses, whether on the ground or in the saddle, can be quite the sensory experience. That is, if we notice it. If we allow it.

So, what senses do you incorporate into your own horse-keeping?

Continuing Education For The Backyard Horse-Keeper

As a backyard horse-keeper, I am responsible for all my horses’ care. I make the decisions about housing, feeding, exercising, health care, etc . . . I am the only person out there with my horses day in and day out. In many ways, I welcome the autonomy that backyard horse-keeping entails, but an enormous responsibility comes with that independence.

My horses do well or don’t do well largely because of me. It is a sobering thought.

They rely on me to make appropriate decisions on their behalf. When I do, they thrive. When I don’t, there have been serious consequences.

Unfortunately, when it comes to horse care, I have repeated more than one mistake and made plenty of new ones along the way. As long as I have breath, I expect I will struggle with putting all the right pieces together in the right order at the right time.

Here is some swag that I picked up from various free equine education events (and one pet event too!).

To that end, I need to keep learning. I don’t want to be one of those people who does the same thing for thirty years without taking into account whether or not my actions continue to benefit my horses and me.

As someone with a more modest income, it is not easy for me to access the amount or level of equine education that I would otherwise like to have. I see lots of things I am interested in, but the prices to participate are frequently out of my reach. While I do occasionally attend a multi-day clinic or something along those lines, most of my education has to come from lower cost or free sources. In future posts, I will explore different educational experiences I have had over the years with my horses, but today I want to mention the topic of free equine education events.

I have been attending these types of events for years and really enjoy them. These free equine education events are usually hosted by local veterinary offices or feed stores. They are held on weekends or on a weekday evening so working equestrians can more easily attend. Generally they are a short-format event lasting maybe a couple of hours. Often door prizes are offered (yah!) as well as free swag (pens, bags, coupons, etc . . .) and product samples. I grab any handouts offered and usually take copious notes that I save as reference. I learn something new at almost every event and enjoy trying the samples.

I do keep in mind who is sponsoring the event. Often, though not always, these are designed to be marketing events. If it is a pharmaceutical company or a feed company, they obviously are hoping that the presentation will eventually result in my buying one of their products. That doesn’t necessarily mean the information is not sound, but I just keep the reason for the presentation in mind as I make choices about the featured product.

So where do you find announcements about these events? Check out Facebook/ websites/email newsletter lists from your favorite local horse businesses. Ask your friends and your local horse club for suggestions too.

If you are a backyard horse-keeper like me, your horses are counting on you to take care of them. Arm yourself with good information and then go out and apply what you learn. May all our horses be better for the efforts we put into our continuing education.