Posts

What are the rules and safety measures for preventing the” horse without a driver” from ever happening? 

Here are the must rules to follow when driving your horse:

  1. Driver must always have control of their horse.
  2. When hitching and unhitching your horse MUST have his bridle on with the reins passed through the proper terrets.
  3. Harness and vehicle should be sound and in good repair.
  4. Horse should be physically fit to fulfill the task at hand.
  5. Driver is the first person in the vehicle and the last person out.
  6. Drivers should keep a safe distance between them and other competitors.
  7. Protective headgear is encouraged to be used by all drivers.
  8. Horse should never be unattended while hitched to a vehicle.
  9. Horse should never be tied to anything while hitched to a vehicle.

These are the basic rules that are required both by the American Driving Society and the USEF.  There are lots of other rules you can read by going to the website for these two groups.

In my many years of driving, the rule that is broken the most is number two.  One needs to remember the object of the bridle with blinkers and reins is to keep the horse focused on what is in front of him.  This is also how we tell our horse what we want him to do, walk on, stop, backup, and turn just to name a few.

The last thing we want him to do is to see those wheels turning behind him!

The second most offensive rule is number nine.  I have seen drivers tying their horses to a fence, their trailer, and many other strange places.  Remember, that a horse, no matter of what size, can easily break a fence and wreak havoc with a trailer in just an instant!  In doing so, they will most likely hurt themselves too.

Now that you know the rules, lets’ think about what to do if the runaway Horse Without A Driver does happen at a driving event.

First, you need to always have a couple of useful tools on your body.  These tools need to be physically attached to you because a runaway horse and carriage is just that! These are useless if they are in the vehicle.

What are the rules and safety measures for preventing the” horse without a driver” from ever happening?

Never go driving without a good sharp knife.  The knife needs to be able to cut through a leather harness.  For synthetic harness, a serrated knife will be needed. Place the knife in a holder and put it on your belt.  You most likely will be the only one around when the knife is needed. If you have a groom, they should also have a knife for backup.  In this day of technology, a cell phone can also be on your belt also.  When all gets calm, you might need to call for help or your veterinarian.

There are also items that you can put on your harness that will make it easier to get your horse out of a bad situation.  First, get quick release shackles. These are used to connect your traces to your vehicle.  They come in many sizes that go by working load limits.  If your horse weighs 1000 pounds, then you need to get a set that has double the working load limit.  If the shackle is rated at 500 pounds that would be too small for your 1000-pound horse.

When attaching the back breeching, instead of manually wrapping it each time, connect the wrap strap to the shaft with a Spring Snap or Trigger Snap instead.

In an emergency, the spring and trigger will break when your horse panics to get out.

Never attach your reins to the bit with Snaps.  These can break too easily!  It is better to attach reins directly onto the bit, so it is less likely to break.  Remember your reins are the only thins you will have to stop your horse!

French tugs are easier to unbuckle in an emergency than wrap straps. The other item that is handy to have is the quick-release tugs that replace the closed tugs that many harnesses have.  Yes, they do make them in miniature horse and pony size.

Now, we need to talk about what to do if the “Horse Without A Driver” happens at a show or even at home. 

  • Stay Calm
  • Do not yell and scream, this will only upset the horse and those around you.
  • Do not chase after the horse, they will only run faster, and you will never catch them!
  • Stay Calm
  • Most horses will stop generally within 30-60 seconds.  But to you, it will feel more like an hour.
  • Stay Calm


When the horse finally stops, do not rush up to him, go calmly while speaking in your quietest voice. Once you get to him, pick up the reins immediately so that you become the one in control. Do not try to drive him back to your trailer or barn.  Unhitch him where he stands.  To do this, pick one or two people you trust to come and be with you and your horse. If they know the horse, even better.

Make the unhitching as normal and quiet as possible. Then walk your horseback to your trailer or barn and untack him as you would normally do.  You can always find help when your horse is settled to get your vehicle back to your trailer.

If the whole, Horse Without A Driver, goes bad and your horse goes down, then it is a whole other process for all involved!

First Stay Calm!

If the horse is down and cannot get back up, you need to get him unhitched from the cart.  If you use all the items, I talked about for quick release this will be easier to accomplish.

First, pick up the reins and hold them because they are your only control of the horse that you will have.  Do not ever depend on making the horse stay down by sitting on its head or neck! Have someone stay at the horses’ head, approaching from his backside, and have them talk to the horse in a quiet calm voice.  Have them squat, not sit on the ground.  If they need to move quickly out of the way squatting is faster.

If you have the quick releases, then pull the trace and tug quick releases open.  There is a good chance that when the horse falls down, the spring or trigger snaps, have likely broken, which is what they are supposed to do.  If not then unclip them.

If you do not have the quick releases, the fastest way to get the harness disconnected from the shafts and vehicle is to cut them!  It is not a good idea to struggle with trying to unbuckle them, because most horses do not have the patience.  When the horse is down there is a lot more tension on the buckles!

“The horse is thinking, how can I get out of this situation as fast as he can!”

The cost of replacement straps is not worth having your horse down and struggling for a prolonged amount of time.  If the horse struggles when you are trying to unbuckle the straps, not only the horse can get hurt, but also the people!

Working with a horse who is down in a vehicle can be scary, but one must stay calm and quiet! The emphasis here is, to keep all the people around safe. Those handling the downed horse need to protect themselves while working to get the horse up. Always work from the backside of the horse so that you are away from their legs.

The ultimate outcome here is that all people and horses are safe and will drive their horses again!

Stay Calm!

Protein for your horse is the building block of their organs, muscles, skin, and hormones. It’s as vital to your horse as is water! Protein is made up of 21 amino acids.  Twelve of these are made by the horse’s body and the other 9, which are the essential ones, need to come from the horse’s diet.

All types of grasses and alfalfa will contain different amounts of protein. Horses, depending on their type of work and the amount of work they do, will require different amounts of protein in their diets.

Now, the standard over the last fifty years has been 14% protein for a horse in light to moderate work.  When you went to the feed store and bought your horse’s grass or legumes, you were able to see a test of the proteins and mineral amounts in the feed.

I know you are now wondering why all this talk about protein for your horse? Here is why!

About four months ago, my Friesian Sporthorse starting showing signs of energy loss.  When I hitched him up to drive all he wanted to do is walk.  When I asked him to trot, I would get about six to eight strides and he would go back to walking. It was like he had no energy!

After a couple of weeks of this, I found when I harnessed him up that I had to cinch the girth up one more hole than normal.  I removed the harness and immediately taped him for his weight.  This is a horse who has had a consistent weight of about 1300 pounds since he reached maturity.  Even when we traveled across the country to compete, he always maintained his weight. His weight was down to 1075 pounds!

I had my veterinarian out to check him and she did a physical and bloodwork to try and figure out the problem. At this point, we upped his normal sixteen pounds of feed to twenty. All tests came back normal, so now I went into a research mode to try and figure out what was going on, as he was still feeling tired and had put on no weight after two weeks!

This is where all this talk about protein comes into the story!

I found after looking at many bags of horse pellets, cubes, and baled feed that the protein content for these types of feed range from eight to twelve percent. Then, I went back to the bulk cubes that I had been feeding my horses until about mid-2020, and its protein was 14-16 percent.

This resulted in my horse getting anywhere from 2 to 6 percent less protein in each of his meals for six months. I conversed with my veterinarian about what I found and we changed his diet to eight pounds of cubes at 10 percent and two pounds of alfalfa pellets at 15 percent protein (yes I did find pellets that were over 14 percent) for each meal.

What happened to 14% protein?

By the end of the first month on his new rations he had gained back approximately 40-50 pounds, and his body started to fill back out in places that were looking piqued.  During this first month, I did not drive him so that everything he ate went into building his body, not pulling this carriage.

We are now about another three weeks on the higher protein diet for him and he has added approximately another 20-25 pounds.  I have now started to drive him again, and he has enough energy to trot several times around the arena without wanting to go back to a walk. Also, when I put his harness on and went to buckle the girth, we were down one hole instead of two.  So we are making steady progress to getting Sailor back to his normal self!

In my research of the major feed companies, it seems they have set up a new outline of what they feel our horses’ protein intake should be:

  •           Non Working horses 10%
  •           Light to medium 14%
  •           Performance 10-20%

We all need to be aware of the changes that the feed companies have made in the packaged feed, as well as the baled.  Always check the protein content of these items so that your horse gets all the protein that he needs. My other three horses are doing just fine on the ten percent protein cubes, but two are ponies, so their protein does not have to be that high and the other is my trail horse, whose energy requirement is less than my Friesian Sporthorse.

One can always add more protein when needed by using one of the many new “ration balancing” feeds that have come onto the market. These can be very expensive, so save the cost and just keep checking your horses’ current feed for any changes in the protein content.

So is there a difference between Driven Dressage and Ridden dressage?

The biggest difference is the fact that in driven dressage your horse has to do everything that a ridden dressage horse has to with a carriage attached to his body.  The extra weight that the driven horse has to pull while doing all of the elements of dressage can be overwhelming, to say the least.

Lately, there has been a lot of conversation about moving up through the levels and how long it takes one to be proficient at a level before moving up. Let me try to break it down for you!

In ridden dressage you work your way through levels:

  • Introductory – Walk, trot, canter, rein change
  • Training – move more freely, shallow loop canter, stretch circle trot, canter to trot diagonal
  • First Level – use of hind end, 10m circle trot, 15m circle canter, lengthen stride at trot and canter, leg yield, counter canter
  • Second  Level – more power in the hind end, collection, medium paces, Travers, simple changes, 10m canter circle, half turn on haunches
  • Third Level – horse has established uphill balance, transitions at collected medium and extended gaits, flying changes, half pass trot, Renvers, half pass canter
  • Fourth Level – suppleness, power, precision, collected canter, walk pirouettes, multiple flying changes, tempi changes, partial pirouette canter
  • Prix St-George, Intermediate I & II, Grand Prix – these are the USEF levels so when you get here you need to know it all.

In driven dressage which was based originally on ridden dressage, there are fewer levels to get through but it is just as hard to get there!

  • Training – working trot, working walk, walk stretching, 40m circle trot, 20m half circle
  • Preliminary – working trot, working walk, lengthen walk and trot, 30m circle trot, 3 loop serpentine, 20m half circle
  • Intermediate – working walk and trot, lengthened walk, collected and medium trot, 20m circle at a trot and collected trot, 10m deviation, 2 loop serpentine, 40m canter circle, 20m deviation, 30m circle collected
  • CAI1, CAI2, CAI3 – these are the USEF levels

Now that you have an idea of what your horse has to learn at each level, let’s consider what it will take you to get your horse there!

If you buy an already trained horse that has been trained to the intermediate level, that’s great!  But if you have never done any dressage you will need to learn before you can properly ask your horse to do what he knows.  If you don’t know how to ask the horse to do an extended trot then he won’t do it even if he knows how.

On the other side of the coin, if you are proficient in dressage and your horse is not trained in it, then when you ask your horse to do that extended trot he will not know what you are talking about.

Whether you are doing driven dressage or ridden, you both need to know what you are doing to be able to do that extended trot.

Most horses need to be at least five to be able to physically and mentally do any dressage above training level. For example, I drove my Friesian Sporthorse in his first ADT at the age of five.  At this point, he still lacked focus and patience to be able to do a complete dressage test. After returning home I decided that I would wait another year before I would try another event.  He needed the time for his mind to catch up with his body.

For those of you who have a good dressage background then you are ahead if you purchase an already trained driving horse that is driving at the upper level.  Those of you who have never done dressage before will need to have lessons to learn.  Blind leading the blind is not a good idea when you are driving a horse!

How long does it take to train an upper-level driven dressage horse?  This all depends on the horse and what his ability is.  Like in any horse modality some horses are more proficient than others.  A lot of a horse’s ability has to do with their body type and how they are put together. For example, Quarter horses make the best cow horses because that is what they are bred for.  The most sought-after combined driving horses are Dutch Harness Horse, Welsh Ponies, Morgans, Haflingers, Hackney, and German Riding Ponies.  These are all great breeds but remember each horse is an individual, so each needs to be assessed for their ability to do dressage.

Now that you have the basics as to what’s involved in getting your horse trained in dressage I will talk about timetables in which to go from one level to the next.

“There is no set timetable!”

As with us humans, we do not all learn at the same pace and neither do the horses.  When I train a horse it is always at the pace of the horse I am working with.  Your horse will only learn as fast as he is capable. Some of the horses get the lesson faster than others so you need to train at the horses’ pace.

The same goes for the humans involved in this sport.  It is not a race to move from one level to the next. For those who are just getting into the sport, an event can be overwhelming, to say the least!  The five or six tests in each level are there to help walk you through the levels.  If you and your horse cannot do all of the tests at one level, getting an above-average score, then you are not ready to move up. When you are driving a proficient horse that does great in dressage but you are having problems in marathons and cones, then don’t let anyone tell you, you have to move up.  If they have a problem because you place first in dressage, then it is their problem.  

It means that they need to work harder!

There are three parts to combined driving, it is not just dressage so your horse and you need to learn all three parts to be successful in the sport.

I have seen too many drivers over-facing their horse, as well as the horse over-facing the driver. If you are just out to have fun and want to stay at a level that is comfortable for you then do that!

Three of my driving horses I have taken to the top of their driving careers. My current horse, Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy, took six years of training and competing up the levels to reach FEI (Federation Equestrian International) level. 

You need to have patience, time, and knowledge to get a talented horse to the top!

Microchipping your horse is the easiest way to locate your horse in an emergency!

In 2020 the United States experienced twenty-two weather disaster events with a total of one billion dollars of loss.  The events are broken down as follows:

          1 drought event

          13 severe storm events

          7 tropical cyclone events

          1 wildfire event

With this many disasters happening in one year, it gives you even more incentive to get your horses microchipped. For all of us here in Arizona we escaped these disasters this year.

For those of us who have lived in Arizona for a long time, we can remember the Rodeo-Chediski fire in 2002, Cave Creek Fire in 2005, Schultz Fire in 2010, and the Doce Fire in 2013 (this was in my back year) just to name a few. 

These are the types of disasters when you need to have your horses microchipped.  When you are in an emergency and you are given only minutes to evacuate you do not have time to paint your phone number on your horse, you are only concerned about getting somewhere safe.

Microchipping your horse is now a requirement for many of the equine associations.  The FEI (Federation Equestrian International) was one of the first organizations to require microchipping.  They were joined by The Jockey Club, USEF (United States Equestrian Federation), the US Hunter Jumper Association, and the Retired Racehorse Project.  I am sure there will be many more to follow as equine owners realize the value and peace of mind that having their horse microchipped brings.

Microchipping of horses is also being used for the tracking of infectious diseases when there is a breakout.

Microchipping your horse also helps during a disaster if your horse has to be left behind during evacuation or runs off during a fire and winds up at an emergency holding area for lost pets and livestock.  We have all seen this on television after a hurricane or fire.  If your horse is microchipped and is at one of these facilities just think how much faster, you can be reunited with your favorite equine!

Yes, this does include all of us that drive our horses! 

There are those times at show grounds when your horse unties himself and wanders around and you are in a state of panic!

This happened at the rodeo grounds in Oregon while my son was stationed there during the fires.  The other side of the rodeo grounds was being used for a horse show and one of the horses untied himself and took off.  He wound up on the opposite side where the firefighters were camping. My son was able to get control of the horse, and eventually, the owner showed up. If they had not and if the horse was microchipped, they would have been able to get in touch with the owner.

I think all of us drivers have seen the proverbial runaway horse and carriage!  They can run faster than us and can be gone in a nano-second.  Having them microchipped will help to get them returned to their owner.

The other runaway horse and carriage is if you are trail driving and your horse gets scared and runs off, wouldn’t it be nice to know that a “Good Samaritan” who stops your horse, can have a veterinarian scan him, and be able to get him back to you?

Microchipping your horse

So, what is involved in microchipping your horse?  First, you need to have your veterinarian come out equipped with the chip and scanner.  Microchipping is safe, simple, and inexpensive!  The cost is about $75, and they stay functioning for 25 years or longer. The chip is a lot smaller than the chip in a computer.  It is about the size of a grain of rice, after all, it must fit into a needle! 

The veterinarian will implant (inject) the chip halfway between the poll and withers, in the nuchal ligament on the left side.

The microchip is encapsulated in a glass with a unique one-of-a-kind number.  This number can be read by the scanner and it will be the number you will put on your horses’ papers.

The chip then needs to be registered:

Without it being in the Equine Protection Registry it will just be a chip in your horse.  So you need to go online and register.  If you need to check a chip number there is a universal pet microchip lookup site https://equinemicrochiplookup.org/  or  https://www.horselookup.org/ set up by the American Horse Council or https://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/ set up by The American Animal Hospital Association just to name a few.

To sum up the reasons for microchipping your horse:

  1. A permanent and effective way to identify your horse.
  2. When you can compete again and decide to go to an FEI/USEF show you will be ahead of the curve.
  3. It can prevent the dishonest seller from portraying the wrong horse.
  4. Microchipping is easier to read than a tattoo, especially in older thoroughbreds.
  5. Stollen horses can be identified quicker, to be able to get them back to their owners.
  6. Microchipping is invaluable during a natural disaster especially if the best thing for the horse is to let him free.

My horses have been microchipped for many years before it was the right thing to do. I have been at shows where horses have been taken, along with harnesses and if your horse is microchipped you have a real chance of getting him back.

We all think that the proverbial bad thing will not happen to us but unfortunately, it can, so be prepared and Microchip Your Horse. 

The first snow storm of 2021 appeared on our doorstep on Friday the 22nd and stayed around until Tuesday noon on the 26th. We knew that the snow storm was coming but had no idea how much snow it was going to bring us. Where our ranch sits, on the edge of the Granite Mountain we have a tendency to get a lot more snow than most.

Davis Ranch Combined Driving Center
Snow Storm

As you can see we got three feet of snow and drifts up to five feet. We have not had this kind of storm here in quite a number of years. For all of those who wondered if it snows in Prescott, here is proof!

After trudging through snowbanks and taking pictures of the occasion I have put together a slide show to document the occasion. Click on the following link https://plus.smilebox.com/play?g=01ad7a63-e3af-4dc2-9eba-339c544a8386&sbid=3466 it will take you to the slide show, ENJOY!

After the stressful year that we have all made it through, I thought we could all use a horsey laugh.  The following is a list of the top errors in a Horse Ad put together by Sport Horse magazine.

21. Appleloosa for sale.

20. Willingly piaffes & massages.

19. Bay 3-yr-old, lightly started, lounges well.

18. Cooked semen available.

17. Welsh filly, pretty head & eye. Just stared over fences.

16. 3-yr-old TB mare, recently startled under saddle.

15. Aged race gelding, has four clean kegs.

14. Rider must sell: horse going to college.

13. Gray pony, very athletic, broke to dive.

12. Small horse farm for sale, 33 acres, large fenced pastures plus three small haddocks.

11. Attractive gelding for CT, ready to brake in the spring.

10. Aged WB mare, no lices, Reasonably priced to good home.

9. Registered Hockey Club mare.

8. Super mover-gloats over the ground!

7. Always in the ribbons over fences & thunder saddle.

6. Select young stock for sale, top scores at insurrection.

5. 1899 premium filly offered for sale.

4.Oldenburg colt, will manure to 17 hands.

3. Young Hanoverian, started u/s, bumping over small courses.

2. Many sport horses for sale, all apes and sizes.

#1 Best error in a horse Ad – LFG-Live Floral Guarantee.

I hope you have enjoyed the Top Best Errors In A Horse Ad!

Keeping your driving horse in shape during the winter can be a challenge.  But then factor in the current pandemic and the coming flu season it can be overwhelming, to say the least. 

Whether you are driving a hazard, pulling a sleigh through snow, driving down a parade route, or just going down the road your horse needs to be in his best condition possible. Keeping your driving horse in shape is no different than that of a typical sport horse that does dressage, jumping, reining, or! 

First, you need to be sure your horse is getting the basic care that all horses need. 

  1. Vaccinations as needed (normally spring and fall) 
  1. Deworming as need by fecal sample review 
  1. Dental exams at least once a year for most horses (a bit hitting a bad tooth is not appreciated by your horse) 
  1. Basic regular hoof care whether you go barefoot or require shoes 
  1. Chiropractic, massage, equine bodywork is great when needed 
  1. The best feed that you can afford for the level of work your horse is doing 

Some of the more common ailments that are seen in driving horses are hock and stifle injuries. Our driving horses and also develop arthritis just due to the wear and tear on their bodies.  Some of the breeds such as Morgans and Saddlebreds can be more prone to ringbone. Because we are asking our horses to pull us around in carriages their injuries are more likely to be in their hind-end and legs due to the weight being pulled. 

One of the more common injuries that I have seen has been in the horse’s back, due to the drivers asking their horse to pull a carriage that is too heavy for them or a carriage full of people that is way too heavy. 

This is when the conditioning at home comes into play to keep this from happening. 

When keeping your horse in shape you need to always be concerned about the footing where you are driving your horse.  Your horse can injure himself on loose footing in an obstacle. It can also be dirt that has been turned into sand after fifty drivers have gone through before you. You can be driving on a grass dressage arena first thing in the morning before the sun has dried up the dew!  One also must be aware that constant driving on blacktop is very concussive to the horse’s body. Conditioning your horse is your best preventative medicine for this! 

Make sure that you use a farrier that has experience with trimming and shoeing driving horses.  Many driving horses will overreach when they are put too. It takes a good farrier to adjust the feet and shoes ever so slightly to solve this problem. Your horses constantly striking his front heel with his back shoe, is somewhat like us walking with a pebble in our shoe! 

Annoying and it hurts! 

Studs are a common way to give your horse more traction in bad footing, but beware!  If you are going to use studs make sure you practice ahead of time so that your horse gets used to the feel of them.  The studs might help the traction but if the horse is not used to them, they can come up sore! 

There are several types of studs: mud, grass, road, bullet, and spike to name a few. Explain to your farrier what your horse is going to be doing and get his opinion of the type. 

Boots are commonly used to help protect the legs of the horse but be sure to read the rules for the type of event you are going to (ADS, FEI, USET) to be sure what parts of the event you can use leg wraps or boots.   

You don’t want to be eliminated if your horse is not in shape! 

Remember to keep your horse mentally conditioned!  This means to change up what you are doing with them in their training.  If your driving horse is also rideable then ride him at least once a week.  If you have a pony or miniature horse that one cannot ride due to their size then lounging can be a good alternative activity. 

Lounging them up and down the length of an arena is a great exercise for both you and your horse no matter the size. I use the Paseo Training System when lounging my horse and I find it keeps my horse focused on what he is doing. 

Driving horses can stay active for many more years than riding horses.  But you need to keep them conditioned and in good health.  You can consult your veterinarian, farrier, body works person and I am also available to consult with you on these issues. There is no cookie-cutter recipe for every horse.  As with people, they are all different. Different sizes, mindsets, breeds, shapes, and sizes.  You have to come up with a plan that fits your horse and the type of driving that you are doing. 

Keeping your driving horse in shape is a full-time job so treat it as one, and just have fun doing it. 

Get out there and drive! 

Is your horse stressed while driving?  You might not think that your horse is stressed at home but he really might be, especially if you are stressed while driving with him.

Some of the outward signs that your horse is stressed is kicking, biting, bucking, and bolting.  None of these are things we want to see our horse do while they are being hitched or while being driven.  Ignoring the signs of a stressed-out horse is not only unsafe for your horse but also you.

I know that right now there are a lot of people that are stressed due to the current Covid-19 situation in their lives.  The first thing you have to do is to get your stress level under control. 

The worst combination is a stressed-out human dealing with a stressed-out horse! 

There are lots of exercises that we can do to destress ourselves, from yoga to breathing exercises to putting the essence of lavender on your wrists.

So how can we help our horses when they become stressed while driving?

That lavender that I mentioned above can also work on your horse, just add some to a small bottle of water and spray on like you would fly spray.

Many horses get stressed out just getting in the horse trailer to get to a driving event.  Try just taking your horse for a trailer ride to some pleasant place such a trailhead or park and just take him out for fifteen minutes and then load him up and take him back home. Do this weekly, if he realizes that every time he gets in the trailer he’s not going to be worked he will be

calmer.

A 2010 study by (Schmidt et al.) showed that a horse needs up to ten practice trips to get acclimated to being transported in a trailer.

If your horse is so connected to another horse where he is boarded then move him to a stall as far away as possible.  He will be upset at first so give him some hay to keep him busy.  Soon he will realize that he can be without that other horse.  Do not take a buddy with your horse you will be showing as this will just increase your horse’s anxiety when you take him away from the trailer.  This is also very disturbing to all the other horses at the event.

When you get to a driving venue don’t make the first thing you do, “hitching up your horse”. 

Get him settled in his stall if at a three-day event. If just a one-day event then tie him to his trailer, give him food and water and let him be for a good thirty to forty-five minutes.  If he is anticipating being driven the moment you arrive then he will be stressed.  When you are planning the day make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to the event and to be able to let your horse chill out.

All of the increased activity that goes on at an event can be unnerving to some horses.  I usually find a parking place as far away from all the other participants so that my horse has a quiet place to hang, in-between driving classes or parts of a combined driving event.

Sure you might have to walk a bit farther to get to check-in or walk courses but your horses no stress level is worth the walk.

Keep your horse happy at an event by having food in front of them as much as possible.  It gives them something to do while in the stall and hanging at the trailer. I generally feed my horse about four times a day to keep him occupied.  My Friesian-Sporthorse is 16.1 hands and 1300 pounds so when he is in an eight or ten by ten stall he does not have much room so food is a good deterrent.

Keeping your horse drinking water at an event is even more important for his stress level.  Bring along the water from home for that familiar taste. If hauling water is not your thing then get your horse used to chlorine.  You can do this by putting the one-inch chlorine tabs to your horses’ thirty-gallon or larger water tank at home.  Then when you go to a show you can use the water at the venue and just put a chlorine tab into it when you get there. 

He will not know the difference!

When you sign up for a driving event you want to practice at home one level above that which you are competing at.  So if my horse is entered in intermediate then I will be practicing at the advanced level at home.  By doing this, when at the event, your horse will think it is really easy so there is nothing for him to stress over.

Make sure you practice at home in the cart and harness that you will be using at the driving event.  I know that this creates more of a beforehand cleaning job but it is worth having an unstressed horse at the event!

In the end, if you get to the driving event and your horse is still showing signs of stress then just use the event as a training tool for him.  If all he can handle is just dressage then that is all you do.  Don’t ever push your horse into a stress overload because that will be what he remembers for the next time. 

There will always be another event that you can take him to!

Keeping your sanity with the help of your horses is probably the best use of your time right now.  I know there are a lot of people that are not working right now and it feels as though the world will never be right again.

Our country “America” has been through a lot of trials and tribulations:

  • 1906 Yellow Fever
  • 1916 Polio
  • 1917 Spanish Flu
  • 1949 Polio
  • 1957 Asian Flu
  • 2007 HIV
  • 2009 Swine Flu

We have also survived:

  • WW I
  • WWII
  • Korean War
  • Vietnam War
  • Gulf War
  • Afghanistan War

History tells us that with each of these we have learned from the past the things we need to do to survive the ones in the future.  We are now even better prepared to survive this latest trial.

We who own horses probably understand the quartine aspect of a disease outbreak better than most.  I know in my lifetime, there have been many outbreaks of equine infections that I have gone through.

Horse Quartine!

We need to treat this latest pandemic the same way we would if it were an outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in horses.  All of the quarantine procedures that we have used with our horses need to be applied to all of us humans.

So most of us are staying home on our properties and when we do go out we are all staying six feet away from each other.  We did this same thing during an equine quarantine. We kept our horses apart so they could not touch noses or snort on each other. If they snorted on us, we did not enter another horse stall without wiping ourselves down or changing shirts (hand sanitizer).  We did not let our horses eat or drink out of the same buckets.

During dryland distemper, we never walked from one pen to another without first stepping in a pan of bleach. So, disinfecting out hands and what we touch is no different.

So what can we do with ourselves to keep us active with our four-legged friends?

First of all, it is shedding time for our horses, so we can get a lot of upper body conditioning while we help our horses shed. When your done brushing, you can move onto the mane and tails, which after all the rain and mud can use a good shampoo, conditioning and comb out. Think how soft your hands will be after working the conditioner in!

Now, for some lower body work out, you can pick the caked-in mud out of your horses’ hooves. With my five horses, that means twenty hooves which add up to a lot of back and leg stretching!

Relaxation

When your equine friend is all clean you can take him for a ride or walk around your property. For me, that is five times around my property, which is probably a total of one and three-quarter miles since I am on five acres!

By the time you have done all that, think how relaxed you will be!  With all of the tension in the world around us, being relaxed is a good way to keep from becoming one of the statistical numbers.

If you are boarding your horse, then you will need to try and walk your horses away from any other humans that are also trying to do the same thing.

Take A Walk!

If you can walk your horse down a road outside of the boarding facility, you will probably meet fewer people. If you pass another human walking their horse, then put your horse between you and them, that will make up most of the six-foot safe zone.

If you get stressed about the whole situation, then just take a seat in your horses’ stall.  The saying by Winston Churchill, “There is nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse” is something to consider right now.

So, sit there and say nothing, sit there and have a good cry (no one is judging) sit there and just talk to your horse or just hug him!

I know from experience that during hard times in one’s life, having a horse as a friend has helped me many times. My miniature horse Snoopy, has helped many kids and elderly feel better about life in general.

If you get ambitious, take your whole family out to the barn and make it a family affair, you will all feel better!

As we all know there have been tremendous fires in all of California.  Do you know how to safely get your horse loaded during the chaos of a fire?

Wildfires have always been of great concern for me, for two reasons:

 First, my son is a Wildland Firefighter with the United States Forest    Service.  Being a mother of a firefighter, I am always concerned with all the fires that we have had over the years and for my sons’ safety.

The second concern is for all of the horses and those people who volunteer to risk their own lives to have not only their horses but those of complete strangers.

The Doce Fire which started at Doce Pit a recreation area out Iron Springs Road had just barely started when I received a call from my son who at the time was based in Northern California.  He told us to be ready to evacuate ourselves and our horses (5) if we see the fire come over the southern end of Granite Mountain.

This call was well before the official evacuation notices were put out.  Later in the afternoon, I received a call from a friend who lives in Mint Creek area that she had to evacuate themselves and her horses. 

I recently watched a couple of videos on YouTube of people trying to get their horses in trailers. What stood out was the number of people running around trying to do something with the horses.  There was a horse being led with the lead rope attached to the top of what looked like a lunging caveson.  Then, there were a couple of people who were trying to use a butt rope but had no success because they did not know how to use one properly.

Here are ways to make Trailer Loading during a fire safer and easier, but first, make sure your horse has your cell phone number painted on his butt:

  1. Practice loading your horse in a trailer at least once a month.  If you have a trailer that can stand by itself without hooking it to your truck, that is great.  I know most people will need to hook up to their trailer to practice.  Believe me, it is worth the effort.  You can even get together with friends and make an afternoon of it.
  2. When you are loading your horse during a fire always, do it the same way as you have practiced.  If you normally walk into your trailer with your horse, then do that.  If you normally send your horse in first, then do that. If you normally don’t use shipping boots, then don’t use them now!  If you normally load your horse by yourself, then ask all-around to stand back and let you do it.
  3. For all of you who do not have a trailer, then you are at the mercy of whoever shows up with their trailer to help. Remember, that you are the horse owner and you should be the one handling your horse.This is when the horse will be challenged and will need all of the calm and patience that you, the owner, can mustard up!
  4. Make sure that any trailer that shows up is big enough for your horse.  I know that in an emergency it can become hard to be patient, but in the long run, it will save time.  My Friesian Sporthorse can be really picky about his trailers.  My two-horse slant is seven feet tall and wide enough, but he will not get into it with the middle bar that the doors close onto there.  He will just stand there and stare at the trailer with this look on his face like “are you going to move that bar”?

The moment that the bar is gone he walks right in.  To him, the half-space makes it too narrow.  “Who am I to say he is not right”.

“In an emergency, removing the bar saves tons of time!”

5. With a strange trailer open all of the windows and doors.  Make the space look inviting to your horse.  Walk-in with your horse into this strange trailer.  Your horse is taking his cues from you.  If you won’t walk in why should he?

6.When all else fail and you need the butt rope to help get your horse in, then learn how to use it properly. Having two people holding the ends of the rope might work for a pony or horse under fourteen hands, but for those big boys and girls, this will not work.

For the full-size horse over a thousand pounds, it is better to tie the rope to one side of the trailer back and then have your helper bring the rope around the butt of the horse to apply pressure. Warning, do not get the rope up under the tail, or below the hock, it needs to be in that curve right below the thigh. The object is that you are trying to encourage the horse to move forward.  There is no way you can lift the horse into the trailer.

Here is some overall advice to help you stay calm during the loading process:

  1. Remember to breathe! Take in those deep breaths, and let them out slowly.
  2. If you stay calm, speak in a quiet voice, and reassure your horse that this is just another day in the park, then all will go well.
  3. If someone comes to help you, ask them if they know about horses before you allow them to help.  Things can get really bad if the helpers don’t know horses. Remember to thank them for coming and helping.
  4. Do not take advice from non-horse people!  We all know they are just trying to help.  You are still the owner of the horse and are ultimately responsible for what happens to your horse and the people helping you.
  5. Be patient!  This is as stressful on your horse as it is for you. All of the smoke, sirens, emergency vehicles and their lights, shouting people, trailers, and strange people can make the whole process seem daunting. Everything that happens to your horse will be remembered, and you need to keep this as positive as possible.

“STAY CALM AND DON’T PANIC”!

Now that your horse is loaded and is safe with your cell phone number on his butt, it is time for you to get to safety.  Remember to take your folder that has your horse’s information in it with you. You should have a copy of his registration, vet records, feeding information, any medicines he is on and your contact information. This needs to be taken to the stable, fairgrounds, friends ranch or wherever the horse is going to. Practicing loading and having a plan ahead of time will save time and stress for both you and your horse.