Category: Barn

My First Tack Sale

Recently, my new barn had a notice on their bulletin board:

     Tack Sale


     7 am – 11 am

I thought this would be a good opportunity to get rid of some of my “horse” stuff that I’ve collected through the years.  I went through the stuff in my show trunk, hanging on my saddles and in the garage.  The stuff in the garage had become a bigger pile since the recent move to a new barn.

When I arrived at the barn, I realized I had just a meager amount compared to others that had set out their stuff earlier.  Without being discouraged at the thought of not being able to sell anything, I set up my table and also my portable gazebo for sun protection.  I did manage to sell a few things.

Since I don’t go to garage sales much at all, I learned a few things from this for the next tack sale at the barn or if I want to put one on for myself.

  • Get your merchandise organized early.
  • Do some research on-line and even in your local newspaper for what used tack is selling for in your area.
  • Mark the tag clearly with the price and make sure it is secured to each item.
  • You may want to put a small description of the item on the tag.
  • Have enough money in various bills and coins for the day.  You don’t want to miss a sell because you can’t make change.
  • Have sacks or boxes available to bag any merchandise that you sell.  Using the plastic or paper bags from the grocery store would be a great way to reuse them.
  • Have a few snacks and drinks handy that are appropriate for the time of year to see you through the tack sale hours.
  • If you do the tack sale yourself, you might consider spending a few dollars to advertise in your local paper.  Ask you local feed store or vet office if you can put up flyers for your tack sale.  Make sure to put the date and hours of the day the tack sale will be going.
  • If you put out a few signs on the street to show the way to your tack sale, don’t forget to remove all the signs when the tack sale is over.

In all, I had a good time.  I got to visit with the boarders at the new barn and I made a bit of money.


Important Questions When Searching For A Horse Boarding Facility – Part 2

In my last post I talked about my ordeal finding a new horse boarding facility.  I thought the questions I asked might be helpful.

You can download the top 20 questions that were most important to me.

The obvious questions:

  • What type of board do you offer and what are the rates for each?  There are a number of possibilities  –  full service stall or pasture, self-service stall or pasture, pasture only, etc.
  • If you want a stall for your horse, how big are the stalls?  Most stalls are either 10’x10’ or 12’x12’.  The size of the stall should match the size of your horse.  A pony or small horse will do fine in the smaller stall, but a larger horse (say over 15h) would be better off in the larger stall.
  • How long are the stalled horses allowed outside each day?  Every horse needs some time outside either in a run, paddock or pasture.  Horses need daily exercise and they should be allowed to free graze for a few hours each day.  This makes for a healthier, happier horse.
  • How many horses are turned out on each pasture?  You want to make sure Lush green pasture and good fencing are a mustthat the pastures are not over grazed.  Depending on the condition of the pasture, a lush green pasture could support 1 horse per 1½ – 2 acres.  If there are more, the pasture should be supplemented with hay.
  • Are the horses pastured according to gender?  Some barns will have their pastures designated as mare or gelding pastures.
  • What type of grain and hay are used?  If the feed is not the same as you use, bring enough feed for your horse for a minimum of 1 week of feedings.  This can be mixed with the new feed and transition your horse slowly to the new feed.
  • If your horse is on a special diet, does the facility provide that feed?  If not, will they provide it and charge you the difference between the different feeds?  If you have to provide your own special feed, will the facility give you a discount on your board bill?
  • How many times a day do you feed?  Some boarding facilities feed twice a day, some feed only once a day, but I have heard of others that feed 3 or 4 times a day.  What ever it is, know the feeding schedule and what is being fed at each one.  Discuss any changes that your horse may need with the owner or manager.
  • What vaccinations or medical records are required to move in?  The most important and common health paper required is a negative Coggins.  You also may be required to provide a health certificate.
  • Is there an arena and what type is it (indoor or outdoor)?  Arenas are a big plus for me. 
  • Is there a round pen?  This gives you a small area to do concentrated training without worrying about being in the way of others in a large arena.  It is also great for lunging your horse or groundwork.
  • Is there a tack room?  It is nice to have a place to put your tack and grooming supplies on the premises.  I have come across a few places that did not offer a tack room.

Some not so obvious questions:

Trailer parking could be an extra fee

  • What hours/days is the boarding facility open?  I’ve found a facility that was closed on Sundays and I’ve found one that as only open from 8 am to 8 pm.  Both assured me that the facility was open if there was a sick or injured horse that needed medical attention.  Make sure you know the hours of operation.
  • Are there extra fees for services rendered by the staff?  This is an important question that is often missed.  Make sure you know what each fee is because they can add up in a hurry and make your reasonable monthly board bill prohibitive.  An example of what extra fees could be are for trailer parking, holding your horse for the farrier/vet in your absence, putting on/removing blankets or adding the supplements you provide for your horse.
  • Is there a wash rack?  If there is a wash rack, find out if it is indoors or if it has hot and cold water.  If not, they may have a specific place where you are permitted to wash your horse.
  • Does the gate need an access code to open?  Not all facilities have this.  If you decide on a facility that does, make sure you get the code.
  • Does the facility have a resident vet or farrier?  Some facilities like to use one vet or farrier and have all work done by their chosen professionals.  There is an advantage to this as it may reduce the cost of vet farm calls or get a group rate from the farrier.  You should be able to use your own vet or farrier at any facility, but make sure by asking before you move in.
  • Does the facility have a regular vaccination program?  This means that the facility sets up an appointment with the resident vet to vaccinate all of the horses, pull a Coggins, float teeth etc. at the same time.
  • Does the facility schedule trimming/shoeing with its resident farrier?  The stable I’m at now schedules all horses in 2 visits with its own farrier.  This can help keep the cost down.
  • Is there training/lessons available?  If not, ask if bringing your own trainer/instructor is permissible.
  • Are there accessible bathrooms?  This may seem like an odd question, but I looked at a couple of facilities that did not offer bathrooms to the boarders.  This could be problematic if you have children or you just had too much coffee before going to ride.

There could be questions that you may not even know to ask of the facility or your vet/farrier:

  • If the facility owner is the only one doing the work, how are the horses taken care of when the owner is sick or on vacation?  This may only be a problem with the smaller boarding facilities that do not employ additional help.  Even with the larger facilities, ask who will be taking care of your horses.
  • Can a friend bring their horse to ride with you in arena or trails?  Not all boarding facilities will allow non-boarding horses on the property for health reasons.  There are some very contagious illness that can sweep rapidly sweep through a barn.  I have seen a few boarding facilities that have riding memberships available.  There is a small fee per ride or per month and a yearly current Coggins must be on file with the facility office.
  • Are the arenas, wash racks, tack rooms etc available to all boarders?  I’veAsk about evacuation plans in the event of a natural disaster or fire heard of some facilities that only allow the full service stall boarders use indoor arenas etc.  If you are on a lesser board option, make sure you know what you get to use.
  • Will your vet go to this facility?  You can call your vet’s office to find out if there will be any change in the farm call fee.
  • Will your farrier go to this facility?  Ask your farrier if he will travel to the new facility.  If so, you need to ask if his rates will change.
  • Is there an emergency plan in case of fire, flood, etc?  This is a question most people don’t even think about until some act of nature hits them.  Whatever the cause, you need to know if there is action plan if your horses need to evacuate from the boarding facility.

You may have other questions that pertain to your particular needs.  If you do, write them down or add them to the list I provided  so you don’t forget to ask them when you visit a horse boarding facility.

Important Questions When Searching For A Horse Boarding Facility – Part 1

I’ve been at my present horse boarding facility for over 20 years.  Wow, that’s a looong time you say.  Yes it is.  I had no reason to move.  I liked where I was.  I liked the people, the barn manager, the other horses and the barn owner.  Unfortunately, the bad economy and the ever increasing cost of feed are forcing the boarding facility to close its doors.

Early years of my boarding at the barn with Dody and MarilynI found myself in unfamiliar territory.  I hadn’t had to really look for a boarding facility since I got my first horse over 30 years ago.  The horse boarding facilities where I’d been to this point were either recommended by friends or my friends were currently boarding at them.  This time I had no such recommendations.  So, I had to set out from scratch to find a new place that best fit my needs and my horses’ needs.

How you ask?  I started on the internet.  You’d be surprised (or maybe not) how many facilities come up when doing a search that includes the town you want to be near (horse boarding Tulsa, horse stables Dallas, etc).  Out of the 20+ boarding facilities that came up, I found 8 boarding facilities that looked promising in my target area.  I made a spreadsheet that had the name of each stable, the contact person, phone numbers and address.  I’m making this available to you.

Click here to download my spreadsheet.

I called each one. The very first thing I asked was “Is there space available for my 2 horses”.  Since I had a relatively short time frame, if there was not room there would be point no need to go any farther.  If I had a longer time frame, I could have asked to be put on their waiting list.  If there was room, I proceeded with getting information.  Depending on the information I received on the phone, I had to make a decision if I wanted to put the facility on my list.

Do yourself a favor before you start this process and decide what would be a deal breaker for crossing off a horse boarding facility.  It could be too far away, no trainer, no stall, too expensive, not the right riding discipline, facility is just too large or too small etc.  It could be a number of things.  Just make sure you know what is most important to you and your horses.

I set up an appointment for the 5 boarding facilities that made my final list.  I made sure to leave my name and phone number in case the barn manager or owner needed to contact me.

1st rule:  BE ON TIME for any scheduled appointment!!!  If you can’t make it or you’re running late, call the facility.  They may decide it’s best to reschedule.

2nd rule:  Take a notebook with you to write down information.  If you’re like me, I can’t remember things for too long.  When I have a notebook, it helps me ask the same questions of all the facilities.

I took all of the information and entered it in my spreadsheet.  This made it easy to compare all of the boarding facilities with each other.  I also didn’t forget to consider what I saw when I visited each facility.  Was it clean?  Were the stalls clean and have a good layer of wood shavings?  Were the stalls/fences/gates etc in good repair?  Was there clean water available for the horses?  Was the feed room clean and appear free of pests?

I also look for a friendly environment.  I note if the owner or manager is easy to talk to and how forth coming they are with information.  I also take in consideration the riding style of the facility or if it is solely a show barn and how well I might fit in.

For me this was a nerve wracking process.  I wanted to make sure I picked the best facility I could afford.  I had a little more than month to locate, compare and pick a new horse boarding facility.  I tried not to get discouraged if a facility didn’t work out.

Of the 5 horse boarding facilities, I narrowed my choices to 3.  Over the next few weeks, I changed my mind a couple of times as to which would be best for me.  When I finally made my decision, I informed the lucky facility that I would like to move my horses there if the openings were still available.  I couldn’t move in until the end of the month.  I asked what it would take to hold the spaces.  We agreed on a deposit to hold the openings.  Now I’m waiting for my vet appointment so that I have the necessary paper work.

I’m glad this process is finally over.  I’m ready to start the next adventure.  I hope this isn’t going to be an omen, I’m moving on April 1.

Check back for Part 2 for an exact list of important questions to ask when looking for a horse boarding facility.

Horse Chores For Your Springtime Checklist

Rex-Zeus-Feb2011It’s amazing how just a few weeks can impact the weather.  At the first of February, northern Oklahoma had it’s second ever blizzard warning.  Where I live, there was a record 25″ of snow.  Just a few miles north, there was a record setting 50″ and that area also set the record for the coldest temperature of -23°F.  There was snow for over 2 weeks, which is also out of the normal for Oklahoma.

Now, the temperature was close to 80°F today and the daffodils in my yard have been in bloom for about 2 weeks.  We had our first actual thunderstorm  just a few days ago.  Spring is officially around the corner!  So, it may be a good time for some spring chores.  Here are some chores that you may want to do.

At the barn:

  • Clean and condition your leather tack.  Make sure the leather is dry before applying a leather conditioner.
  • Inspect the leather for any cracks, cuts or splits.  Replace any leather that is damaged.
  • Go through your grooming kit.  Replace any tools that are broken.  This would probably also be a good time to wash your brushes.
  • Clean your clippers.  You can do this yourself or take them to a professional.  You can also have the blades sharpened at the same time.
  • Wash your winter blankets, if you are not going to need them anymore.  Store them in a dry place.  Most blankets come in a zippered plastic bag.  I have kept these to  store my blankets for the summer.  This makes for good dust free storage.
  • A warm dry spring day would be perfect to strip your stall completely (if you have one).  Let them air out for a few hours before you put bedding back in them.  If you have full board, this is probably done periodically through the year.
  • Give your trailer a good cleaning.  Do a thorough inspection and make note of any damage to floors/walls/ceiling/tackroom, worn tires, damaged lighting/wiring, etc.  Make a plan and time frame to get damage fixed.

For the vet:

  • Get vaccinations, if you haven’t already done so.  Check with your vet as to which basic vaccinations are recommended for your area.  Your vet may also have suggestions for additional vaccinations based on the age of your horse and also whether or not you show or trail ride.
  • Don’t forget to get the Coggins test.  A negative Coggins is required if you plan to show, trail Daffodils-Mar2011ride or take your horse to a riding clinic.  Most events want a Coggins that was done within a year, but a few require one that has been done within 6 months of the event.
  • Spring is also when I have my horses’ teeth checked and, if necessary, floated.
  • My gelding will have his sheath cleaned, if needed.

There is a multitude of chores that you can do in the spring.  This is just a small sample.  Plan a work day and make a list of what you want to accomplish that day.  If you don’t finish your list, add it to the next planned work day.  Don’t try to do everything all in one day . . . . your body won’t like it.

Groom Your Horse Cautiously In Early Spring

Early spring snow viewed from my front doorIt’s the last weekend of March.  Mother Nature has teased us more than once with beautiful springtime weather.   This weekend did not qualify for that in Oklahoma.  We have had one doozy of an early spring snow.  In my area, that has been 4″-6″ of the white stuff.  The farther west you live has turned into as much as 26″-28″ of snow.  I know, some of you from the north are saying “Waaaaa, whiners”.

My horses have been shedding their winter coats for about a month now because of the warmer weather and lengthening daylight.  So, how much effort should be put into to removing the winter coat?  I have been grooming cautiously, using the curry comb as sparingly as possible so as not to loosen too much hair.  Then, I remove only what winter coat is already loose & laying on top of the coat.  This leaves your horse’s winter coat mostly intact for these late snows & low temperatures.My dog, Zeus, loves the snow

On the worst days, they also stay in a stall or in a paddock with overhead protection.  This gives their coats time to dry out.  Cold blustery weather & a soaked winter coat are not a good combination.  A thoroughly wet coat does not give much protection.  A drier coat provides a better thermal barrier against the elements.  My horses are not real happy about being penned up for very long.  But I now they are better off staying dry as long as possible.  As soon as the snow stops, they are allowed to go back out to the pasture to romp & play.

Is your area prone to late snow fall?  Is the temperature steadily rising or does it resemble a roller coaster?  You need to judge these for yourself.  Groom cautiously now.  Protect your horse from the last of the winter elements.  There is plenty of time to put the springtime shine on your horse.

Skunks Around The Barn Are Trouble

At one time, I actually managed a self-service barn.  It wasn’t very large, just 10 stalls, a large tack/feed room, riding arena & about a 5 acre pasture.  This property was one of several that was at end of the flight path to my town’s airport.    The largest of the properties was about a 30 acre pasture.  This made a significant greenbelt region in town.

The wildlife varied.  In the spring & fall, there were the migrating birds that landed looking for food in the Skunks hanging around the barn are a nuisance & a possible threat to your horse's healthpasture.  There was even a red fox that showed up but never stopped.  It made its hurried travel through the pasture to get to cover in the next property.  There were the urban possums & rabbits.  You could catch a glimpse of an occasional owl at dusk in the fall.  The one critter that seemed to make it’s home somewhere near (or under) the buildings was a skunk.

I was running late to feed Iggette one night.  I turned on the light in the feed room and there I was, having a stare contest with a skunk.  I almost killed myself backing out of the feed room before it decided to spray everything in sight.  When safely on the other side of the doorway, I noticed that the skunk was not concerned with my presence.  It was merrily eating the cat food that someone had left for the barn cats.  I waited until the skunk had it’s fill and waddled back under the hay & out of sight.

For the next few weeks, the skunk & I came to an understanding.  I had put my lunge whip next to the door.  When I turned on the light & if the skunk was there eating, I tapped it on the back with the whip.  It would look at me and then move under the hay.  Fortunately, it wasn’t my hay so I could do what I needed to do in the feed room.  Each time I left, it would reappear to eat.  Each time I would come back, I would tap it on the back and it would move back under the hay.  The amazing point is it never offered to spray me or the room.  It was never aggressive.

One night, my husband came with me.  I was behind him when he turned on the the light to the feed.  I don’t think I ever saw anyone move as fast as he did getting out that room.  He bumped into me, almost knocking me down.  I thought he had seen a snake or wasp or something like that.  My husband is irrationally wary of wasps, hornets, etc because of an unfortunate encounter with hornets as a young boy.  I asked him what was the matter.  He looked at me & replied “SKUNK!”  I told him I knew there was a skunk.  I told him to move and reached for my whip.  By now, the skunk knew the routine and just moved back without being tapped.  It stayed put until I was out of the feed room and then moved back to the food.  My husband was utterly amazed at our strange routine, but he didn’t offer to help with anything that was inside.

This strange relationship went on into the winter.  Then the skunk disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared.  I never saw it again.

With humankind ever encroaching on nature, some wildlife is adapting to urban ways.  This incident gave me cause to do some research.  Wild skunks usually stay away from humans.  Skunks can carry rabies.

Where am I going with this?  I highly encourage vaccinating your horse for rabies as part of your annual shots.  I started giving my horse a rabies shot shortly after the skunk moved in.  I continue giving my horses a rabies shot every year.  I have persuaded most of my friends to give rabies shots to their horses, whether they board in town or have a place in the country.

You protect your dog & cat from rabies.  Why not protect your horse.

As always, don’t forget to let me know what YOU think.

Inspect The Barn For Your Horse’s Safety

I went to a seminar recently put on by my vet.  We were introduced to the 2 new vets that had just joined the team.  We were also reacquainted to the team that is behind the scenes; the office help, the vet techs who Loose fencing is a hazard to your horseaccompany each vet on calls and the barn manager who looks after your horse if he needs to stay for more intensive care.  I really appreciate each & every one of these people.  They do a great job.  A presentation was done by each of the 2 new vets.  One was on the importance of proper wound care.  I could go on for days about this subject because my horses have given me plenty of practice.  But I would like to talk about how you can possibly prevent some injuries.

Lord knows, both Iggette & Zip had their share of injuries.

Iggette had one injury to the left hind leg caused by a loose fence. The wire was down in one spot of her pasture and tangled in some weeds.  This happened all too soon after I purchased her.  Doctoring a leg & changing dressings is not what I envisioned for my bonding experience with my first horse.

A few years later, she caught her shoulder on an exposed nail head in the gate post.

Iggette also injured her front feet from pawing at the fence & getting caught on the barbed wire.  Each time this happened (twice on each leg), Iggette found herself in the stall with a cast for weeks while recovering.  I don’t know who disliked stall rest worse, Iggette or me.  Iggette NEVER liked being in a stall.  She walked circles the entire time she was confined.  This meant  ground in manure which was next to impossible to pick out.  It was just easier to strip it & start over with clean bedding.

Zip had a puncture wound to a hind pastern.  The vet said I was real lucky it didn’t cut a tendon.  Then just a few months later, she sliced herself on the under side of the jaw line.  This took about 30 stitches to close.  The cause of these 2 injuries were never found by either my trainer or myself.  We Dispose of any flood debris left in your pasturelooked for hours & did not find a spot of blood or the tell tale sign of horse hair on a fence post or tree branch.  Zip’s injuries were costly & required weeks of stall rest to heal.

With colder weather just around the corner, your horse may start spending more time in the stall.  You can prevent some injuries by just being observant of their surroundings.  Take time to really look over your horse’s stall, barn & pasture whether you own your barn or you are boarding.

Over the years, I’ve learned what to look for to make sure my horse’s environment is relatively safe.  I’ve listed a few of the things to look for below.


  • Hammer down any nails that have backed out of the wood.
  • Look for any loose or broken boards in the walls that need to be replaced.
  • Check the stall doors & latches to make sure they are working properly and the hardware is securely in place.
  • Make sure the bucket hangers are in good shape.  You don’t want to find your horse with the bucket as his hat or using it as a kick ball.
  • Keep the aisle clear of clutter.  A loose frightened horse and a cluttered aisle way are not a good combination.
  • Make sure the tack room & especially the feed room have a good lock on the door.  You don’t want your baby helping himself to a midnight snack.  An open feed room to a horse is like turning a kid loose in a candy store.  They just don’t know when to quit and more importantly . .  they won’t.
  • Check the fence charger to make sure it is working properly.
  • Check the electrical wiring for damage to the insulation.  Rodents (rats, mice & squirrels) will chew thru wires.  While most wiring is not in the reach of horses, frayed wires can be a fire hazard.
  • Check for leaks in the roof while it’s raining and mark them for repair on a dry day.  You really don’t want rain in the feed/tack room or over your hay storage area.


  • Walk the fence line of both paddocks & pastures to look for loose wire.  Look at the posts to make sure the wire is actually attached and not just hanging somewhere near it.
  • Make sure the gates are hanging properly.
  • Check for broken planks on board fences or broken fence posts.
  • If you have an electric fence, make sure the insulators are all in place and that the wire is not shorting out.  I had a little paint mare that would actually touch the electric fence everyday just to see if it was working.  If it was off, she would poke her head through the fence to get the grass on the other side.



  • Keep the trash picked up.  This goes for the barn also.  Blowing trash to some horses is the absolute most terrifying monster there ever was; even if the piece of trash is just a small candy wrapper.
  • Make sure to mow as necessary to keep the weeds down.  Tall pasture grass/weeds can hide a lot of potenial hazards.
  • If you have had really bad weather (heavy snow, ice, high winds, floods etc), check any trees on the property for damaged branches.  Dead branches falling from the trees can happen months after it was damaged.
  • Remove as much of the debris as possible.  Any debris that is allowed to stack up in the pasture can become the home for unwanted animals & reptiles.  This is a whole other type of hazard to your horse.

If you are boarding your horse, let the owner/mananger know of anything you find that is in need of repair.  You could even offer to help with some of the minor repairs.  If you own your place, fix the minor things as they are discovered and schedule a weekend to tackle the bigger repairs.  The sooner repairs are done, the safer the environment is for your horse.

In my opinion . . . . . It’s not if a horse will get hurt . . . . it’s just when and how bad.  Protect your baby, and your wallet, as best you can by just being observant.


The Effect of the Economy on My Horses

a good horse for the noviceThe floundering economy has touched the horse industry in so many ways.  My own personal concession is I had to sell one of my horses.  I did this last November (before Iggette passed) to try to cut the rising cost of my board bill as well as the vet bill.  I didn’t want to sell Princess (pictured) and it was a hard decsison to make.  Actually I was supposed to sell one when I purchased my gelding over 2 years ago.  I just didn’t ever get around to it.  Quite honestly if we lived on our acreage instead of in town, I wouldn’t have sold her.  But she has a very nice owner who decided to stay at the barn where I am, so I get to see her all the time.  After Iggette passed away, I was left with 2 horses.  Even with my board bill being reduced by 2 horses, the money crunch can still be felt.  I have made some small adjustments in my horse keeping to save some money.  Here are a few of the ways that I chosen to save money.  Please keep in mind that my choices may not work for you.  Make your decisions wisely.

1.  My boarding has fluctuated over the years.  For 4 horses, I changed all of them to pasture board only.   After selling Princess & Iggette’s death, I changed my board to pasture with stall rights for inclement weather.  This is cheaper than full board in a stall.  Not all barns offer this option, but a good choice might be a paddock with a run-in shed.

2.  My horses are school horses.  I receive a small payment each time one of them is used for a lesson.  This pays my farrier bill most of the time.  There are times when it’s been too cold or too wet to have lessons.  On those times, I have to supplement the difference from my pocket.

3.  Since I don’t actively show or ride the trails, I have my farrier trim my horses hooves.  I am lucky to have horses that have good feet and  I’m a big believer in barefoot is better.  Trimming costs less than shoeing your horse.  This is a truly personal choice.  You, with the help of your farrier & your vet, have to make your decision based on your horse’s needs.

4.  I worm my horses myself.  I use a paste wormer and shop around for sales.  Sometimes I buy from the catalogs or on-line and sometimes I buy from the local co-op.  When buying from the catalog or on-line, be sure to compare the cost + shipping versus the cost + local sales tax.  You may be suprised how close these can turn out to be.  Try to find free shipping specials.

5.  I give my own shots.  I have bought shots from both the local co-op & from my vet.  If you don’t use the vet, make sure to tell his office what vaccinations you have given your horse.  This is to keep your records up to date.  I do not recommend this for the true novice.  You need to be trained on how to give shots.  Next time the vet is out, ask him to show you.  Also, check to see what shots are recommended for your particular area.

6.  If you have a trailer, haul your horse to the vet whenever possible.  This saves the farm call.  With the ever increasing fuel costs, the farm call fee is only going to go up.  Keep in mind that some vets also charge a mileage fee as well as the farm call fee.

7. I have owned mares for years.  I also don’t breed my mares.  I don’t have the added costs of  a pregnant mare or the cost of trying to raise a foal.  There are just wwwaaayyyyyy to many horses out there to consider breeding for one.  I can always find a good horse.

There are lots of ways you can cut your horse keeping costs.  The one thing to remember is to keep your horse’s well being in mind.

Secure Those Stall Doors

Even though Iggette is gone now, she still has lessons to teach.    Let’s talk about securing the stall door & gates.  Most people look at the latch on any typical stall and wonder how in the world can a horse open it.  Well let me tell you, Iggette was quite an escape artist.  She learned this little feat while at the first stable and continued it at other stables.

The small pasture I originally put Iggette in just didn’t work out as planned.  She was the only horse there and horses just don’t fair well by themselves.  So I moved her to a shed row with 3 large paddocks and each paddock was shared by 4 stalls.  Everyone who had stalls here rotated paddock time.  Iggette had other horses to visit and a mare next to her.  I felt like I had her in a pretty safe place.  The stall was big, it was in good condition, the stall door was a partial door so that she could stick her head out and socialize and the paddock was secure.  The stall & paddock gate had “horse-proof” latches, so I knew she would be safe.

I’m one of those anal types when it comes to checking & rechecking for closed & locked doors.  When I left everyday, I must have checked the stall door 5 times, the feed room door 10 times and the paddock gate 20 times.  I absolutely wanted to make sure that my horse came to no harm through my carelessness.  Can you imagine the shock I felt one day when one of my friends called me at work to say my horse was out.  Not just out of her stall, not out of the paddock, but out in the open field!!!!  This field had no fence and it was only a few yards from a busy street.  I rushed from worked to the stable.  As I drove up the long driveway, I saw my friend out in the pasture trying to coax Iggette AND her friend to come to her.  I went to the tack room and got a bucket of grain.  If Iggette was anything, she was a chow hound.  I just knew she would come to me with this temptation.  To my surprise, Iggette thought much more of her freedom at the time than what her belly would normally tell her.  Everytime I got near her, she would turn tail & sprint off in the opposite direction.  Remember I told she was hard to catch and she was certainly living up to that on this day.

I talked with my friend while trying to catch up with these two.  She told me she didn’t know how they got out.  She came out to feed her horse which was in the paddock next to mine.  She noticed that my horse was not anywhere to be found.  She looked for her and just happened to catch a glimpse of her through an alleyway between our shedrow and the one behind us.  That’s when she called me.  Since we weren’t having much luck trying to catch them, we changed out tactics.  We decided to try to herd them into a semi-enclosed area.  There at least, we might have a chance putting a halter on them.  Funny how things work out.  Iggette led us right into the alleyway and actually caught herself.  I was quick to put a halter on her and my friend caught the other horse.

I put my horse back in her stall.  The other horse, we just left out in the paddock since it was her time to be out.  Iggette had another idea.  I was standing not far from the stall talking with my friend, all of a sudden Iggette’s stall door flew open.  Iggette promptly walked out and went over to her mare friend.  She actually herded the mare back into her stall & closed the door on her.  She didn’t lock, just pushed it shut.  Then she returned to her stall and closed her door.  My jaw just about hit the dirt.  My friend & I looked at each other in total amazement.  How did she do that?!

It was time for a little investigative work.  I locked Iggette’s door and all of the others in our paddock area.  In no time, Igggette’s head popped over the door and started jiggling the latch with her lip.  You’ve seen how a horse will curl their lip when you scratch just the right spot, well that’s what her lip looked like.  It was only about 30 seconds later and she was out of her stall.  She went next door and got her lip working over that latch.  Soon, her friend was out and they both went over to the gate.  Iggette once again got the lip going.  Fortunately for us, I had figured out where she was going and just got to the gate before it too went flying open.

An escape artist had been born.  Now the hard part was going to figure out how to keep Iggette in her stall and keep her safe.  We start with making sure the “horse-proof” latches have a way to lock it closed.  Get a swivel snap or double ended snap & secure the stall door latch.  A simple $2 piece of hardware can give you piece of mind.  It may be more of a pain to the open the stall door, but wouldn’t you rather have a friendly face meeting you at the stall instead of you meeting your worst fears opening an empty stall?


Meet My First Horse

My first horse Igette was a race bred quarter horse

I’ve been referring to my first horse in several posts.  Let me introduce you to Juniper Moon Wind, affectionately called Iggette.  If you’ve read my posts on what & what not to look for, this is a very good lesson in what NOT to do for your first horse.  Iggette, in her younger days, was an absolute nightmare for any novice.  I will add that in time with a lot of patience & training, she became the best horse ever for both me and the countless students that she taught how to ride and overcome their fears.

Iggette is a race bred Quarter horse.  In 1979, she was in training at a smaller track in my area.  She had about 60 or 90 days of training.  To be quite honest, I just don’t remember anymore.  As with a lot of young race horses, her legs just couldn’t stand up to the strain of hard training.  Before she ever had an official race, she hurt her front legs.  This wasn’t a life threatening injury, but it did end her race career.  The only good therapy was complete rest.

Iggette was taken off the track to recover at her owner’s home.  She was put in a pasture with feeder cows.  Unfortunately for Iggette, she has a lot more cow sense in her that a race horse should have.  She herded the cows around the pen, cut them into corners and wouldn’t let eat.  She did this several times a day.  Let’s just say she wouldn’t let the cows fatten up and a skinny cow is not what you want to take to the butcher.  To top this off, Iggette bucked off the owner’s wife when she was ridden.  Remember Iggette only had race training, she didn’t know how to be a pleasure riding horse.  This just added insult to injury.  It was time to sell her.

My and Igge at CavalierThis is where I come in.  I had never owned a horse, I had never taken care of a horse and I had only ridden a few backyard pets that my friends had.  I was a stupid 20 something and was just as horse crazy then as when I was at 4.  Oh yeah, I was also recuperating from a very bad fall off a lesson horse trying to learn how to jump fences.  I was told Iggette was going to the sale barn and I just couldn’t let that happen.  I talked my husband into buying her.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with her, but I knew I couldn’t let her go to the sale where she might end up in the hands of the killers.  I bought her without even going to look at her first.  This is how I became a novice owner.

When I went to get her, her former owner had offered to trailer her for me since I had neither a truck or trailer.  Being off the track, I thought she would just jump in the trailer & off we’d go.  We tried loading her the normal way by just walking into the trailer, she won that battle.  We tried a rope around her backside to try to pull her in, she won that battle.  We tried backing the trailer in the ditch so she wouldn’t have very far to step up, she won that battle.  We finally had to put her in a stall and back the trailer up to the door.  After an hour of trying to coax her in, we won – sort of.  She did get in the trailer, but she did the 4-foot shuffle all the way to her new home.  Whew, was I glad that was over.

Iggette’s new home was a stable not far from my house.  I did the good owner thing and walked her around the pasture so that she would know the fenceline.  Just as I took off her halter, a jet flew overhead as it was taking off from the airport.  The airport was less than a 1/4 mile from the stable.  Needless to say it was low and loud.  Iggette reared up at the sound of very loud jet engines & took off running.  She had never heard this sound before & it scared the daylights out of her.  I couldn’t catch her the rest of the day.  Within a week, jets didn’t phase her anymore.  Catching her while in the pasture remained one of her biggest vices for quite a few years though.

As for riding her, I quickly learned race training is just what it implies.  The only gaits she knew how to do were a fidgety walk and run at top speed.  I needed help and decided to use the resident manager/trainer.  This was another big mistake.  ALWAYS – ALWAYS – ALWAYS check out the trainer before hand.  Talk with some of their customers, watch a few of their training sessions and talk with other people in their barn.  If the trainer discourages or flat out won’t let you talk to their clients or watch them train, pass them up.  Don’t even think about it.  After finding out a few of his “training techniques”, I knew this was definitely not the trainer for me or my new horse.

I suffered through trying to train her myself or maybe it was Iggette who suffered through a complete novice trying to train a green horse.  We didn’t get very far.  Since I had no idea of what I was doing, the best I could manage was a somewhat slower walk and a trot that would jar your teeth out.  I didn’t try to lope at this point.  To be quite honest, I was intimidated and she knew it.  She never tried to dump me or rub me off on the nearest fence, but she was never willing to give to in to me either.  She seemed to do better with women than with men.  My husband would ride her and she would do little bunny hops sideways.

So to sum up this part of my novice experience: I bought a 3 yr old horse. I bought a horse off the racetrack. I bought a horse that only had race training and no other type of training. I bought a horse I had never even seen. I bought a horse from sheer emotion. I bought a horse that at times was almost impossible to catch. I bought a horse that would not load in a trailer.

How many more wrong things can a person do?

You can see now why I am passionate about helping other novice horsemen out there.  It can be mighty painful without some experienced help.