I could be happy with only you.

I must have heard a hundred times that I need to get another horse before I move Bailey home to my barn so Bailey wouldn’t be alone.  After all, she had always been with other horses.  She was the alpha horse of any herd.  How will she survive alone.  It is cruel not to have a herd for her. I too was concerned about how she would react alone.

P1110930(1)(1)Bailey PeaBrain Riley

The setup for a horse at my location I think is almost ideal.  The barn is about 100 feet directly behind our house.  We own the property behind both my neighbors houses so a horse can watch people coming and going, children playing all from the pasture.  I also work out of my house so I am home all day.  Bailey was never going to be alone!  Plus there are our cats and Riley our golden retriever who always accompanies me to the barn and trail rides.


The first day I brought her home she was a bit confused of course, but not overly distraught.  She whinnied every once in a while the first week, but with nice grass and treats and me and the pet gang around the transition was uneventful.  She was very happy as an only horse in my situation.  I still was concerned she was alone so two weeks later I brought another horse in for a trial week but the horse did not pass a vet check, so she went home.  Bailey did not care one way or another when the horse left.  It was at that point that I decided Bailey was happy with only me and the pet gang.

Bailey and me0photo

Having only one horse has so many pluses in my opinion.  If you are a trail rider and ride alone, there is no herd bound issues.  My trails start in my backyard.  I could jump on Bailey with no problem for a ride and she never wanted to rush back to another horse or herd.  We just enjoyed the ride together.  There is also not the problem of the second horse left behind throwing a fit when you leave.  One horse is less of everything- food, manure, vet care, tack.  Getting your horse in a pasture with other horses can be a problem, but with one horse, no issue.  In fact, I never had to go get Bailey in our pasture, as soon as she saw me heading toward the barn she would come in ready for whatever was happening.

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Life was pretty perfect then.  Why would I want two horses?   I really didn’t want or expect to still have two horses.  Cheyenne joined our herd in July 2014 because of the deterioration of Bailey’s life with high ringbone.  I did not think Bailey would survive that upcoming winter.  Little did I know the effect Cheyenne would have on all our lives, especially Bailey’s.  My two alpha mares started out living together.  Bailey stood her ground immediately and let Cheyenne know she was the alpha horse at this barn, and for 9 months they lived without any problems.  After the 2015 harsh winter and a hard heat cycle by Cheyenne, there was a violent change of hierarchy with three consecutive challenges that resulted in me permanently separating them.  The details of that will be shared in the next article.

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Although both horses do their own thing in the pasture or choosing to go into the barn, they are aware of what each other is doing all the time.  For me it is better with them separated, as each horse comes into their barn stall area to greet me, and there is no pushing or shoving.  I can enter the stall and brush each individually and spend time with each horse without competing for my attention.  All summer and fall I took Cheyenne off the property away from Bailey for day ride trips and a weekend trip and Bailey was fine with Cheyenne gone.  Now that Bailey is being ridden, I have friends come over and we ride both horses.  With one horse I was alone most of the time at the barn, but with two nice trail horses, it is fun to have other horse lovers enjoy them with me.  It is fun to watch them interact with each other even separated by a wire.

emily and kathyboth horses 1

I guess one horse was perfect, and now two horses are perfect.  I do think my husband would have an opinion with a third!

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I would not want to be cross tied.

Yes, I am sure this will get a lot of disagreement from horse owners, but remember, my site is based on “if I were a horse”. What horse really wants to be confined to a rope tied on both sides of their head so they can’t see what dangers may be behind them?  Definitely not my Cheyenne and I think now that I don’t cross tie Bailey anymore, she is not missing that confined feeling either.

Bailey cross tieclose up halter cross tiecross tie

Bailey was previously kept in the typical large barn format of cross tying your horse when grooming and tacking up. The barn feature stalls on both sides, and when the owner brings out their horse to brush and tack up, they attach a type of lead rope to each side of the horses halter, confining the horse right down the center of the aisle. When I first looked to purchase Bailey she was cross tied, and she stood like a champion. I never had an issue or thought regarding cross tying Bailey or any horse for that matter.



All that changed when Miss Cheyenne joined the family.  I went to look at Cheyenne to purchase her and she was at the owner’s home. She stood ground tied outside while we saddled her up. When I brought her home to my barn, I did what I always had been doing with Bailey, I cross tied her between my barn doors. I didn’t realize the potential for danger until it happened.  The first time I cross tied her, there was no problem. It was a fast tack up and I never left her side. The next day I cross tied her again, and I was spending some new owner quality time grooming her. She was calm, and everything seemed fine until she exploded from the cross ties pulling the rings with the lead ropes attached right out of the barn molding. She almost flipped over. There was no warning, and it was very scary to witness. I was using safety release cross ties that did not release as intended and were mounted at the proper height and length as recommended for my horse and location.  I tried to come up with a reason for the unexpected behavior of my new horse.  Was it a painful horse fly bite or bee sting that startled Cheyenne?  Now day three of owning and cross tying her, and we are all tacked up when she explodes again with no warning. This time I only had lead ropes looped on hooks on each side of the barn since she had pulled the rings out the day before.

I knew, at least temporarily, I could not cross tie this horse.

I started googling, how to teach your horse to cross tie, but of course, that also led to the dangers of cross tying that I had already witnessed. There were lots of great suggestions to teach her, but I had a horse that didn’t seem to have an issue standing quiet as much as being confined in cross ties.  So I asked myself, why does she need to be cross tied?

Horse owners cross tie for many reasons, but from what I see, it is for the owners purpose, not the horse.  Here are the reasons I have been told by owners.  The horse stands straight in the aisle, so its easy to pick up manure.  It is the rule at the barn I board at.  I can leave the horse when I need to and the horse will be fine for a few minutes.  It is easy for my farrier to do my horses feet without me being there.  A well trained horse should be able to cross tie.  Now here is what the horse may be thinking.  I can move for you to pick up my manure.  Dumb barn rule.  You really should never leave me tied unattended.  Who is this stranger picking up my hooves?  I am trained to stand nicely, I don’t need any ties.

cross tied backfarrier

Cross ties are difficult for horses who are afraid of things behind them, because it makes it hard for the horse to turn his head to see what’s going on around him.  When a horse feels trapped, it doesn’t think, it reacts.  Unexpected behavior is something every horse owner needs to remember happens with a horse and especially with a new horse.


A lot of cross tying does seem to lend itself to the environment.  Many horse owners in Australia do not have barns, so consequently cross tying is pretty much unheard of there.  Private horse owners with run in sheds or stalls only probably do not cross tie.  Many show barns do use cross ties.  What you choose to do is your choice. My lesson learned is don’t assume all horses have been taught to cross tie.  Take precautions to introduce that method of tying as it can be dangerous to your horse.  Consider using a quick release knot on your cross ties.

I groom and tack my horses in their stall or in the barn doorway with just a single lead rope attached to the bottom halter ring with a quick release knot on a wall ring.  I feel more relaxed with this setup and so do my horses.


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I would like a teaspoon of salt added in my feed.

Salt is something I have started adding to both my horses feed since my mare Cheyenne suffered an impaction colic on July 6, 2015.  With winter upon us, we know how important it is that our horses drink water.  This simple little teaspoon of table salt might just do the trick to encourage your horse to drink more through winter and all seasons.

Cheyenne colic #1.jpgCheyenne colic #2Cheyenne colic #3

It was a beautiful 4th of July day when Cheyenne and I were invited on a fabulous trail ride a few miles away from our barn with 5 other friends.  It was warm out, mid 80’s, and just a simple walk, when I noticed Cheyenne seemed to be sweating more than normal and seemed winded.  In horse terms- she just seemed off.  The day before, hay was delivered to my barn.  Cheyenne has 24 hour access to grass pastures, but she also enjoys her hay.  I gave her some flakes of hay and she never moved from the spot.  It is likely she never took a drink the entire time eating hay and due to the hot temperature outside she was sweating, causing her to become dehydrated.  The day after the ride I noticed significantly less manure piles in Cheyenne’s pasture.  This is important for every horse owner to be aware of.  What is the normal amount of manure for their horse?  I continued to monitor Cheyenne that whole day as I was suspecting an issue.  Cheyenne had no interest in food, totally unlike her, and she seemed lethargic.  She was not laying down, or pawing, or showing other colic symptoms.  The next day there were no piles of manure, so Cheyenne was taken to my veterinarian for impaction colic treatment.  She did great as I had caught the issue fast, but she still needed to be tubed.  I learned that this mare needs a teaspoon of salt added to her feed to encourage her to drink year-round.  Even with a fresh water trough and salt and mineral blocks in her stall, she doesn’t hydrate properly for her own good.


The horse has a complex digestive tract which includes a relatively small stomach (about the size of a football), a very long small and large intestine, and a cecum that contains fiber-digesting microbes. Given the length of the tract, it makes many turns to fit into the abdominal cavity of the horse, and also changes in diameter periodically. These turns and diameter changes provide locations where dried feed and foreign substances may get caught, blocking the flow of digestion through the tract and causing an impaction. If the impaction is not released (relieved), gas may be produced, which distends the tract, ultimately producing pain, or colic.
When it’s cold, horses are not inclined to drink as much especially from cold or frozen water buckets. They are not grazing on fresh grass, which is about 75 percent water, compared to hay, which contains less than 20 percent water, so to compensate, horses may need more water to maintain a correct and natural digestion.  Both my horses have a 16 gallon heated water bucket in their stall and on super cold days I bring out 2 gallons of hot water for them.
 Cheyenne winter hayheated bucketsalt
If you are concerned your horse isn’t drinking enough in the winter, supply a heated water bucket and a teaspoon of salt in their daily feed this winter.  It may make a difference.


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I would love my carrots microwaved for 22 seconds.

It is Dave that believes 22 seconds is the perfect amount of time to properly heat a carrot for his girls.  Who am I to argue with a husband who wants to do that, crazy as it sounds!  I am thankful on this thanksgiving day for so much in life, and to have a spouse that supports my crazy love with horses.

Bailey and DaveBailey and Dave 1

But seriously, there is actual facts that microwaving a carrot is good!  Yes, that is what I researched last night before posting this.  Everyday when Dave goes to see Bailey and Cheyenne with his daily carrot for a kiss, he microwaves their carrots once the temperature in Syracuse gets below 50 degrees.  He feels the carrots should be warm when served in that outside temperature.  Gotta love Dave.

So what could the benefits be?  Aren’t microwaves bad?  The cooking method that best retains nutrients is one that cooks quickly, heats food for the shortest amount of time, and uses as little liquid as possible. Microwaving meets those criteria.  Carrots in general are a great treat for the healthy horse.  They are best known for their rich supply of the antioxidant nutrient that was actually named for them: beta-carotene, plus a wide variety of other antioxidants and health-supporting nutrients.  They are high in crude fiber, potassium, vitamin A and sodium.

iphone transfer 11-2015 a 83912295414_10206663122710259_6825581781092253122_nBailey and Patty

My horses are completely spoiled and I have no problem with that.  Not only are they spoiled by my family, but by my friends as well.  The best man in our wedding and my best friend of over 30 years compete for providing the largest fresh grown carrots for my horses.  How great is that!

Happy Thanksgiving, and to all my horse friends, spare a carrot from the dinner table tonight for your best friend horse but remember to microwave for 22 seconds.


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I would not want my halter left on.

This is a personal issue for both my mares, and consequently it is a personal issue to me as their owner.  The halters left on my mares have two different stories and two different outcomes, one was lucky and one left a permanent mark.

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Bailey was being boarded at the time of her scary incident when her halter was left on overnight while she was in her stall.  It was a mistake made by the barn workers, that had to be traumatic for Bailey, and could have resulted in a very serious injury.  Bailey had been out in pasture all day and brought into her stall for the evening.  Routine at the barn was to take off the halter when the horse was in the stall and hang the halter on the hook by her stall.  The next morning I arrive to get Bailey ready for a ride.  Her halter is not hung up in its place.  After a quick search, I see laying in her stall the halter, but what is shocking is the metal ring is cut off!  The stall at the barn I was boarding at had metal rungs on the door and the stall window had rebar on it.  On the stall next to Bailey a few of the rebars were separated at the weld junction.  I was aware of this as earlier in the day the owner of the barn had done some welding on that particular stall since we had witnessed the horse get hung up with his halter.  It appeared during the night Bailey had reached her head over to visit the neighbor horse and the pressure of her head pushed against the un-welded rebar and caught her halter that was left on that night!  Who knows how long she was stuck like that!  It had to be a long time of struggling back and forth until the thick metal ring on a Hamilton halter was cut and she was free!

Still think leaving a halter on is ok unsupervised?

nose skinCheyenne tongue IMG_0491

Now Cheyennes story.  This story will be hypothetical as I don’t know for sure why she is missing fur on her nose where the halter strap lays.  Cheyenne has had a handful of owners due to some of her previous issues.  One of her issues was she was hard to catch so I assume a halter was left on her 24 hours a day and very tight, and possibly too small of a halter as she has a big head.  I have owned her a year and a half and the fur has not come back and never will my veterinarian told me.  She was missing it with the previous owner too.  I feel embarrassed when people see Cheyenne’s nose as I wonder if they think I caused that by leaving a halter on her incorrectly.

You say you need the halter on to catch your horse?

Cheyenne was a difficult horse to catch when I got her.  That was solved in a couple of days without leaving a halter on her.  Like anything with horses, it is not them, it is us and how we interact with them for their success.

horse pasture poolThey sell breakaway halters, so if you must, please at least invest in that halter so your horse has some chance in a crisis.

Halters left on a horse can cause so much havoc.  Not being properly fitted that causes rubbing on the face, or so loose that the horse can actually get their hoof caught in the halter when in a grazing position.  A halter can easily get caught on obstacles in pastures like fences, branches, get caught up and drag branches, even water buckets with handles.

It’s just a bad idea to leave a halter ever on a horse unattended.



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I would maybe, kinda, I think, probably yea want to keep my whiskers.

Well that’s a lot of adverbs in one sentence.  Do horses not know if they need them?  I doubt that.


I have two very different mares.  Bailey is the princess.  She is regal looking and acting, with feminine facial features.  She loves attention, is an extremely picky eater except for treats, and hates mud puddles.   She was a past show horse, so shaving her muzzle was not a big deal at all.  I even bought her a beautiful ruby Andis cordless electric shaver.

Cheyenne mud face photodirty photo(1)

When I bought Cheyenne I thought I would clean up my new mare to look like a princess too.  Cheyenne’s looks and actions are tomboy through and through.  She has a stocky build, will eat anything you put in front of her, has a big head, and likes mud puddles.  But she does not tolerate anyone messing with her whiskers.  No one, no way, no how.  Believe me, I had tried everything and everyone’s advice.

It was now time to access the google gods for help.  Who would have thought there would be so much discussion on horse’s whiskers!  I soon learned how very important horse whiskers are to a horse.  It is such a big deal that Germany and Switzerland governments have banned shaving the whiskers on a horses muzzle.  Horse eyes are positioned in such a way that objects immediately in front of or below the horses nose are beyond their range of vision.  Their horse whiskers help them see these objects. Horses grazing are constantly relying on their whiskers to guide their muzzles toward edible food and away from other objects. The long whiskers near their eyes also warn them when there is a risk of bumping into obstacles, such as branches poking up out of the grass.  Whiskers are thick, rigid vibrissal hairs with shafts made up of non-living protein called keratin and they contain no nerves or nerve receptors. Each whisker grows from a specialized follicle containing an encapsulated blood sinus that is rich in sensory nerve receptors. When a whisker comes into contact with anything in the environment, it vibrates or bends and stimulates the sensory receptors in the follicle to instantaneously alert centers in the brain to trigger immediate motor responses.

This seems to all make sense although I haven’t noticed a problem with Bailey grazing when I shaved her, but my pastures are pretty horse friendly.

horses eating hay

So this is great news for Cheyenne since I will not be shaving her whiskers or Baileys.  I have to admit though, to me a shaved muzzle is prettier, but if it is not in the best welfare for my horse it won’t be done.

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I would not want a bit in my mouth!

Did you expect any other response?  To bit or not to bit…that is the question.  I am of the “not to bit” group of riders, but I haven’t always been that way.  First, I have never liked putting a bit in a horses mouth.  Even when I was young taking lessons, that part of tacking up always bothered me.  I honestly didn’t understand where the piece of metal belonged in the back of mouth.  As an adult I kept researching on the bit, trying to understand what each bit did and hoping I had the best bit with the least amount of pain to control my horse .  I should have stopped shopping right there and never put a bit again in my horses mouth with that statement, but instead I bought a D-ring snaffle with copper rollers.  This would be a good choice for Cheyenne, currently the horse I was riding.

As luck would have it, I had a high school girl come for February break to college shop and ride my horse.  That week the high temperature during the day was 10 degrees Fahrenheit.  It was a beautiful cold sunny day, so we headed for a quick ride.  I had warmed up the bit before attempting to put it in Cheyennes mouth, but the 2 seconds getting it ready for her mouth, it had gone cold and she wanted nothing to do with it.  Can you blame her!  I didn’t even attempt a second time.  That was the moment I said never again.  There was 3 feet of snow around us, if she acts up, it will be a safe landing.  We snapped 2 lead lines on her halter and rode her around my snow blown paths.  Cheyenne was better than ever.  A happy horse.  I instantly saw a difference.

Cheyenne lead photo(1)Cheyenne 2-2015 photo(1)

I borrowed a friends Dr. Cooks bitless bridle to test on Cheyenne.  In the mean time I was researching all the available options in bitless bridles and came to the conclusion after testing the Dr. Cook bridle it was the closest to the current bridle I was using, just no bit.  Perfect!

Cheyenne english photo.JPGBailey head

“Prior to 1997,” Dr. Cook says, “I might have listed 12 problems as ‘aversions to the bit.’ From research completed since then I now list over 200 negative behaviors and 40 diseases…I kick myself for not having recognized sooner that the bit causes so much mayhem. Bronze age man made a mistake putting a piece of metal in a horse’s mouth.”  “One of the most deeply rooted myths in horsemanship is that a bit controls the horse. It doesn’t. A bit doesn’t act like the brakes on a car. On the contrary, it often acts like an accelerator. Horses run from pain. If you hurt your horse, it speeds up,” he explains.

Spring was around the corner and I will admit, I was getting anxious about using a bitless bridle for real trail riding.  I started to think about the couple of times my horse took off and how the bit did nothing to stop the horse.  I had to train myself that the bit doesn’t control a panic situation.  In May 2015 I had my first chance to test the bitless bridle on Cheyenne off my property at Highland Forest, New York.  It turned out to be an enthusiastic 4 hour ride with lots of opportunity to rate the control of a horse in a bitless bridle.  When the ride was over, my horse had earned an A+ for so many reasons and so did the bitless bridle.

I now have 2 horses that are being ridden in a Dr. Cooks bitless bridle and I am lucky enough to have a bunch of experienced and new rider friends come ride with me.  I am more relaxed putting people on my horses with a bitless bridle as I am not worried they are constantly pulling on the reins and inflicting pain in the mouth.  When I put a new rider on my horses, the rider doesn’t even realize if there is a bit or not.

betty photo(1)both horses 1Bailey woods photo(1)

In Australia a movement towards the use of the bitless bridle in horse competitions is taking place. Equestrian Australia (EA) and Federation Equestrian International (EFI) are the main governing bodies of the Equestrian Sport in Australia. Rules have been amended to allow the use of bitless bridles in show jumping and at event competitions in the show jumping and cross country sections, a bit is still expected to be used as a component in dressage. Oddly enough the two activities in which the bitless bridle has been allowed for use are viewed as dangerous horse sports.  Pony Club Australia, governs its self and does not allow the use of the bitless bridle in any of its events. Bitless bridles are permitted at all endurance events and trail-riding clubs. Bitless bridles are not permitted for show horses, driving or vaulting.

The good news is there is discussion going on worldwide.  I truly believe it is just a matter of time when it will be obsolete.  I hope in my lifetime.

Most people I ride with use a bridle.  I did too till February 2015.  The saying “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” is an ok saying, but there is also a saying “try it, you might like it”!

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I would want to have a riding plan.

I am fresh back from Equine Affaire, and ready for action. It is overwhelming in a positive way all the old and new information you learn about horses and how to have a successful relationship with your horse.   What I observed over and over at the horse expo is that there is an endless amount of things I can do with my horses.  That sounds like a silly statement, but not planning what to do with them is what happens to so many people.  We all get into a rut, especially if they are at your house and not in a lesson program.  Sitting at one of the clinics over the weekend, my friend said to me, “you could do that with your horses”, and that got me thinking, it is time to have a plan before each ride.

For the most part, trail riding at my house is pretty uneventful and casual for both horse and rider.  I have beautiful trails that I am proud of.  They are well taken care of by me, pretty much on a daily basis year round, except during hunting season.  My horses have been on my trails enough that there isn’t really any surprises for them or anything that is going to challenge them too much without input from me.  We all love a relaxed ride, talking the entire time, but when you do that, the horse gets lazier and lazier.  Completing obstacles out on the trails is so much fun and rewarding.  A friend that I ride with has a new horse and I have had Cheyenne only a year, so obstacle challenges on the trails is new to our horses with us.  When we head out for a ride now, we each find an obstacle to do along the ride.  It is the best of both worlds- nice safe trails with a great opportunity to expose our horse to a new task and get the brain thinking by both the horse and rider.

trail obstacle photo

Having a plan doesn’t have to be just a riding plan and shouldn’t be just a riding plan.  I keep mentioning in my past posts that four letter word- cold – that is coming closer everyday here in Syracuse, New York.  There are many days ahead where a lot of us will not be doing much riding because of the weather.  It can be little changes like asking your horse to step back  before receiving his grain, or neck stretching for a carrot.  Many of these things I do in the barn make the cold, blustery or rainy days not seem so bad because I am still working with my horse.

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I started today to implement a plan into my personal riding program.  I bought a 20″ x 30″ dry erase board.  I had a novice rider coming over to ride with me today.  First we did a 15 minute trail ride right next to the riding ring, then we worked the horses in the riding ring for 45 minutes.  The rider was excited about a plan that wrote down tasks for her to try to work on.  The board was sitting against the fence riding ring large enough to easily be read.  I could tell it was a more productive riding time for both me and the horse and It was fun!

So if you feel like you are in a rut doing the same ole thing most of the time, get a dry erase board and list what you hope to do riding or hand walking or visiting your horse each day.

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I would want to go to Equine Affaire!

Yes, every man, woman and child who is crazy about horses will be milling around West Springfield, Massachusetts for the annual Equine Affaire held at the Eastern States Exposition fairgrounds for four glorious days.  As my husband would say, the horse-o-meter will be off the chart there with non stop horse talk.  So, of course I gotta be there.   And yes you can bring your horse there too if it gets selected to participate in the wide selection of demonstrations and clinics to observe.  Unfortunately, my girls will stay home and wait for the goodies I bring back to them.

equine affaire

It is billed as North America’s Premiere Equine Expositions & Equestrian Gatherings.  It is pretty much Disney World for horse lovers.  Equine Affaire, Inc. was founded by Eugenia Snyder and incorporated in the State of Ohio in 1993 with the goal of creating a first-class, education-oriented horsemen’s exposition in which horsepeople representing all breeds of horses and all equestrian disciplines would convene in a non-competitive environment and share their passion for horses. A second Equine Affaire was introduced at the Eastern States Exposition in W. Springfield, MA, in 1998.

There is a group of three of us that have been going for years together, and our ring leader who introduced me to the event books our hotel year after year right after we get back.  Hotel rooms seriously are all booked up by the time the event takes place.

Picture your state fairgrounds with every building packed with horse merchandise, and at each end of the buildings are horse demonstrations taking place.  You can walk around at free will, take a seat and watch the presentation, or get up and go to another.  There is so much to choose from and do there. We all split up and go our own way attending the clinics that interest us personally, and at the end of the day we meet back up for dinner and information exchange horse talk, and of course, to see what everyone bought to take back to their horses!

Now I can’t lie, the Australian horse trainers have me at “hello”.  Watching them handle with patience and care a young horse get his first experience with a rider on its back is magical.  In less than two hours these professional horse trainers have calmly without frustration or anger convinced the horse to walk, trot, canter around the coliseum in front of a crowd.  It truly is amazing every time I watch it.

My favorite event to attend is the Versatile Horse & Rider Competition, featuring up to 30 horse and rider combinations who will tackle the timed and judged obstacle course created to test communication between horse and rider as well as each competitor’s horsemanship skills.  It is something I have participated with both my horses on a recreational level.

So for the next 48 hours my husband will be holding down the fort.  And my horses know what to expect too when I get back.  I instantly want to implement everything I learned on them.

See you at the fair!

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I would want everyone to wear helmets.

Well this is a no brainer.

My past experiences have gotten me to the place I am now, a more prepared rider and owner.  I grew up as a teenage trail guide at a riding stable in Amherst, New York.  Oh, those were the days.  Riding 8 hours a day on the best horse at the stable, a beautiful appaloosa named Freckles.  He was crazy, he was fast, he was fun.  The year was 1975 and I was 13 years old, guiding trail rides without a saddle or a helmet.  Can you imagine that being allowed today?  On rainy days when no one would show up for rides, we would grab a horse and head out for a friendly game of hide and seek tag, bareback and helmet-less.  I can tell you right now, no way would I allow my kids to ride like that.  But that was how it was done…until there was an accident.  It was my favorite instructor out alone riding her horse and she fell off and was killed.  I never forgot that, and for a while I started wearing a helmet when I took out rides.

Amherst stables1

In 1982 I went on vacation with my sister and we stop to visit her friend who owned a horse.  He took me out back to his stable, saddled up his horse and said “do you like to jump”.   I answered like any 20 year old, sure, how high?  I was wearing shorts, sneakers, no helmet, and jumping his horse I had never met or ridden before.

What was I thinking!  What was that horse owner thinking!

Jump 2 1982Jump 1 1982

When my husband and I leased a couple of horses in my early twenties we didn’t wear helmets.  It just wasn’t being done for recreational trail riding.


Today I never ride without a helmet.  In fact it feels unnatural not to have one on.  I like wearing a helmet especially trail riding where is has saved my head from branches many times.  I even wear an orange cover on my helmet during bow hunting season as a precaution not to get shot, because everyone knows a woman on a horse looks a lot like a deer.

cheyenne kathy

The fortunate news for me was I survived that part of my riding history, but if I had to do it over, it would be with a helmet for sure.

In July 2013 Governor Cuomo signed a bill requiring children under the age of 18 to wear a helmet when riding a horse.  Those who don’t want to follow the law can be subject to a $250 fine that would be issued to the parents or guardians.  Quoted from the signed bill:  Wearing a helmet can significantly reduce chances of sustaining serious injury. One of the most important pieces of safety equipment is a properly fitting helmet in order to absorb the impact to the head, provide cushioning to the skull and reduce jarring of the brain against the skull. The New England Journal of Medicine has reported that wearing helmets reduces head and brain injuries by 85% and the Equestrian Medical Safety Association strongly recommends the wearing of a properly fitted ASTM/SEI certified equestrian helmet with the harness secured during equestrian activities.

My good friend and riding buddy has a very strong opinion on this for a personal reason.  I would never ride without a helmet out of respect for her and respect for my safety.

Categories: Horse Sense | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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