January 2009

Little Horse, Big Attitude

January 30, 2009

Meet the fam, Part 2: “Willow” is a huge blessing in a tiny body.

During the young-horse handling class, the first time Willow was caught, Brent had to rope her. It was the gentlest way to catch what was essentially a wild horse. But look at that trot ... is it not cute?

Maybe in a past life, “Willow” was a journalist, too. This 3-year-old sure has a lot of stories to tell … but for now, let’s start with the story of how she came into my life.

Her background: She traces to Doc Bar on top and bottom, is closely related to National Cutting Horse Association money-earners, and to Baileys Copper Doc, the two-time AQHA-Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association heeling horse of the year, who was bred by the same longtime breeder as Willow.

But I knew none of that when I first saw her. I just saw a scraggly, scared little filly with a huge distrust of humans.   Read the rest of this entry »

Barefoot Trim

January 29, 2009

What exactly is a barefoot trim?

By Tom Moates, with contributions from Kristin Syverson

In theory, a “barefoot trim” gives a domestic horse’s hoof the same shape as a wild horse’s hoof. Supporters of the barefoot trim believe that if it happens in nature, it must be the best thing for the horse. So, it would be reasonable to associate a ‘barefoot trim’ with ‘natural.’

This ‘natural’ design is based largely on a study of mustang hoof wear in some specific western North American environments. Sometimes, you will also hear a barefoot trim referred to as a “mustang trim” for this reason. Read the rest of this entry »

Good Hands

January 28, 2009

Teach your horse the basics of flexion by using soft hands and smart techniques.


  • To ask my horse for vertical flexion and to have him respond positively and lightly, rather than resisting or opposing
  • To understand “soft feel” as a fundamental ingredient of vertical flexion and collection
  • To ask for vertical flexion using only light pressure

How Will This Help Me?

It will be quicker and easier to teach the horse the all-important basics of flexion if I start on the ground before attempting to do it mounted. My hands must learn to take, to wait and to release.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Frugal Horseman

January 27, 2009

Follow this advice for a budget-friendly horse showing experience.

Get big success on a small budget.

By The Journal’s Holly Clanahan

Tom McBeath, an AQHA Professional Horseman from Union, Mississippi, says that people showing on a shoestring – if they have talent and lots of dedication – can be just as successful as those for whom money is no object.

Read the rest of this entry »

Horse Behavior

January 26, 2009

Manage your horse better by understanding his behavior.

From our friends at eXtension.org

Horse owners who have a sound understanding of horse behavior can use their knowledge to help prevent behavioral problems. Listed below are a few management tips related to horse behavior:

  • Design horse housing so horses can see other horses.
  • Feeding horses individually will reduce aggression and allow slow eaters to get their full ration.

Read the rest of this entry »

Winter Weight Loss

January 22, 2009

Keep your horse at a healthy weight during the cold months.

By Thomas R. Lenz, D.V.M., M.S.

Temperatures between 15 and 60 degrees F are considered energy neutral for horses. This means that within that temperature range, horses don’t require extra energy or calories to stay warm or cool. However, this assumes that the wind is not blowing and the horse’s hair coat is not wet, because both conditions increase the horse’s caloric needs

Horses instinctively know when they need extra calories to increase body temperature and maintain weight. Unfortunately, most horses are on a fixed diet and when additional calories are required to keep them warm or to maintain body weight, they are at the mercy of their owner’s ability to adjust the feed ration. Read the rest of this entry »

Avoid Back-to-the-Saddle Soreness

January 21, 2009

What you can do to stay in shape when you can’t ride your horse.

In some places, the winter weather becomes so inclement that horse owners are unable to ride for weeks, maybe months, so how do you stay in shape when you’re unable to ride?

AQHA world champion and certified professional trainer Emily Harrington of Aubrey, Texas, explains what riders should focus on when staying in shape during the off-season. Read the rest of this entry »

Ready to Roll

January 20, 2009

How to train your horse for rollbacks that really roll.

Craig Schmersal

Craig Schmersal

By Craig Schmersal, with The Journal’s Tonya Ratliff-Garrison

The rollback consists of three separate maneuvers – a stop, a 180-degree turn and a lead departure. The rollback should be one continuous, fluid motion. However, this is easier said than done. With the help of his stallion Mister Montana Nic, National Reining Horse Association million-dollar rider Craig Schmersal describes some of the techniques he uses at home to ensure precise rollbacks.

Getting Started

  1. The first thing you need on a horse before teaching the rollback is suppleness. He must be willing to give his face. Using two hands, if I pull his head to the right, I only want him to move his head. I do not want his body to move to the right until I add the left neck rein.
  2. The horse needs to know how to yield to leg pressure
  3. The horse has to know how to back up. When I take hold of him and back him up, I don’t want to be pulling him back. I want him to back up on a fairly loose rein. Read the rest of this entry »

A Sure Bet: Horseplayer Resolutions

January 19, 2009

Five steps to starting the new year at the horse races off right.

Resolve to have more fun at the races!

Resolve to have more fun at the races!

By C. Reid McLellan

If you are a horseplayer you might have already made some “resolutions” for this year. Here are five for you to consider for 2009.

Some time ago I had an insightful Cherokee female friend. She made me a choker necklace (amethyst beads and bone – purple and white, of course) that she told me was used to protect a warrior’s neck from a knife wound in battle. She told me, before I make a decision that might be life changing I should “recharge” the choker and wear it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Professional Padding

January 19, 2009

Keep your horse comfortable on long rides with the right saddle pad.

Professionals Choice SMX Air Ride saddle pad

Professional's Choice SMx Air Ride saddle pad

By Kristin Syverson, with information from AQHA Corporate Partner Professional’s Choice.

The next time you saddle up to ride, don’t underestimate the importance of your western or English saddle pad. It can significantly influence your horse’s comfort and performance.

Your saddle pad:

  • Contributes to saddle fit; the wrong pad can make even the right saddle painful.
  • Impacts the pressure on your horse’s back; a pad can minimize or maximize the pressure points.
  • Affects the evaporation of sweat. Heat and moisture buildup can lead to sores as well as equipment damage.

Read the rest of this entry »

Feeding Flaxseed

January 15, 2009

Is this plant safe to feed your horse?

By Dr. Thomas R. Lenz

A horse owner recently sent The American Quarter Horse Journal a column from a horse magazine pointing out potential toxic effects of feeding flaxseed to horses. Because flaxseed is commonly fed as a supplement, I thought it would be a good idea to look into the issue. Here is what I have learned.

The Plant

Flax is a small, blue-flowered plant that grows throughout the United States. The plant contains cyanogenic glycosides that can produce highly toxic hydrogen cyanide (prussic acid) if the plant cells are damaged. This occurs most frequently when a cold snap freezes the plans. Read the rest of this entry »

Good Medicine

January 13, 2009

Horses have a special stress-relieving power.

Me and "Junior" riding last summer with Whistler the faithful Weimaraner.

A quick update: For the last two weeks, my family and I have been camping at the hospital, watching over a family member who suffered a massive heart attack. The good news is, he is now out of the woods. He is going to survive, although there’s still a long road to recovery. And with that development, our vigils will become somewhat less round-the-clock. Life for us will regain some semblance of normalcy, although of course there will still be frequent hospital visits. Read the rest of this entry »