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CHERRY HILL'S HORSEKEEPING NEWSLETTER

October 2006

Trailering Your Horse
How To Think
Like A Horse
Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill
Making Not Breaking by Cherry Hill
Stablekeeping

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-   Ask Cherry   -

Cliff Notes with Foot Notes

I receive so many excellent Ask Cherry questions each month that in order to answer as many as I can this month, I am going to give concise "Cliff Notes" answers with suggested resources for further reading.

Hard to Stop

I have a 15 year old quarter horse gelding. I have tried about every technique in trying to stop him while I ride him fast. I mean he will eventually stop but it takes him a while to respond to the bit. So I was wondering what would be the best option for me, to get my horses mouth back? Obed

Hello Obed,

When we ask a horse to stop we are asking him to flex vertically and compact (collect) his body. His whole body has to compact, hindquarters coming underneath the barrel, forehand elevating slightly but flexing vertically, all with a softening. When a horse is asked to stop by the bit alone, the horse will eventually learn to brace against the bit and become harder and harder to stop. His mouth also become harder and harder, more resistant to signals from the bit. The key to vertical flexion and collection is lateral flexion. That means you have to reclaim your horse's mouth and body through a series of lateral exercises, such as bending, circles, turns and lateral work. Then when you do ask for a stop, do so with all of your aids (your legs, seat, mind and upper body) not just the reins. To read about many exercises to help you develop better stops, refer to 101 Arena Exercises.

For more on this topic, read the article on Collection at the Round Up page.

Best of luck and have a great ride,

Treats

Dear Cherry,

I have been told never to feed our horses by hand (apples, carrots, treats,etc.). I've been told that it is dangerous and will changes the dominate role (horse above man or woman). Also, never pet a horse on the nose for the same reason. Is there any truth to this? Thank you, DG

Hi DG,

I prefer to not feed treats by hand for safety reasons and behavior issues. When a horse reaches for a treat in your hand, he can't see your hand or the treat. He could easily take your glove, finger or other part of your hand by mistake. That's why as a very young child I was always told "flat palm" when feeding treats. Well, I know of people who have had their fingers accidentally nipped off when feeding by hand so I do not recommend it whether you use a flat palm or not. Also, if you hand feed, then almost any time you have your hands near your horse's head, for haltering, bridling, etc., the horse will anticipate the possibility of a treat, so can nuzzle or nip. Not good. Horses can become extremely pushy when it comes to treats or feed of any type. To see more about this topic and also when and how to safely use treats, see the DVD 101 Horsekeeping Tips.

A horse's nose is a very sensitive tactile portion of the body and is not the most appropriate place to pet a horse. I rub the forehead or scratch the wither area instead. Although we are not exactly like horses, imagine how you would like it if your friend greeted you by placing his hand on your nose.........you can read about a horse's senses, communication and behavior in How to Think Like a Horse.

Hauling One Horse in a Slant Load

I have a two-horse slant trailer with a movable divider. If I'm carrying only one horse, I assumed I should put her at the front of the trailer and then lock the divider in place. Is that wrong? Should I instead lock the divider in place (dividing the trailer into two sections) and then put her in the back end, closer to the door, and leave the front section empty? If so, why? Laura

Hi Laura,

When carrying one horse in a slant load, load the horse in the front stall, lock the center divider and leave the rear stall empty. This results in the weight of the horse being up front toward the hitch and towing vehicle which results in a more balanced load. If you were to leave the front stall empty and load the horse in the rear stall empty, it would imbalance the trailer to the rear which would, in essence, lift up the front of the trailer and cause trailer sway and instability. This is sometimes referred to as the "tail wagging the dog" because the trailer would likely sway from side to side and result in instability of the towing vehicle. For more on trailer safety, read Trailering Your Horse or Equipping Your Horse Farm.

 

Weaning for How Long?

I have a 6 month old colt and I don't know how long to wean him for. A friend of mine said to wean them for two weeks by just putting him in the stall, of course with food and water. But I have another friend who says it takes much longer, almost a year, and you do it by separating the colt and dam completely. I'm only 13 and don't have much experience with horses, so what should I do? Lisa

Hi Lisa,

It is best if the foal is housed and pastured separately from the dam until the foal is at least one year old. And even then, you should keep an eye on the foal to be sure he doesn't try to nurse again. If the mare has another foal and is producing milk for the new foal, and you put the yearling in with the mare and foal, it would not surprise me to hear that the yearling might start drinking milk again !! So the best routine is complete separation for at least a year.

Best of luck,

Balking

Hi, Ms. Hill,

I'm sure by the volume of mail you get, my question most likely won't be answered. But I had to try. I'm a 47 year old woman with a 12 year old Arab/Saddlebred mare. I've only had her since November. The previous owner kept her sedated so her problems were not discovered until I got her home. The horse is terribly anxiety ridden, buddy/person sour, and absolutely hates to be left alone. After an unsuccessful attempt at training, I stopped and have spent the past 6 months doing pretty much nothing but ground work. We've worked out about 80% of her issues, but still have a few left to tackle. Jigging/Prancing on the trail is one, but I've found excellent info on your website to help me work with.

Here's my problem that I can't find an answer to. I've been riding my horse for a few months now..mostly just walking (she's gaited so it's taken time to adjust to her gaits). In the arena, she responds to everything beautifully. But when we go for a ranch ride, she refuses to pass the last barn before the gate leading out, and refuses to pass past her tie rack (on the opposite side of the ranch). She will only turn left, I can't get her to turn right, and
refuses to go forward. I've tried dismounting and walking her past these points, and she does so with no trouble. But under saddle, she just won't go. I'm a little afraid to correct too much because I'm weary she'll rear (which she's never done before while I've been on her.

So, two places on the ranch, both refusing to ride past. Have you any articles you can stir me to that might give me something to work with? She's been a total project horse and I'm so very proud of all her accomplishments in the past 9 months, but this one has me stumped. It may just be that I'm too timid to work her through it, but I just wanted to ask. Thanks, Ms. Hill! Lisa

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for the great letter. It sounds like you are a conscientious horseowner trying to do the right thing. And you may have already answered your own question when you say you don't want to confront your horse and that you may be too timid, although I might say that you are not projecting enough confidence to your horse which she needs from you. We all want to be safe and avoid confrontation but when a horse says "NO", it is a form of balking which, if left unchecked, can leak into other currently problem-free areas. So, to nip this in the bud you can try these techniques. First, make an actual lesson out of leading her back and forth past and near these two problem areas. I know you said if you dismount she will do it, but now, do it with all kinds of variations, distractions, turning this way and that, getting closer, farther away and so on. Make this THE lesson for the day (forget the ride).

Do this until you have absolutely NO DOUBT that she will walk and turn, stop, perhaps back and do any ground work exercise in these trouble areas. Then, after such a successful in-hand session, have a very capable assistant lead her past the trouble spots as your ride (or if you feed more capable to lead, you could lead her while someone else rides). Be sure you have "follow through", in other words, your mind and body have to project "Forward". You are currently probably projecting hesitation which undermines her confidence. To gain more insight on what makes your horse tick, I'd suggest you read How to Think Like a Horse.

Best of luck,

Barn Gloves

Hi Cherry, Where can I find grooming gloves, suitable for use on the face? I've searched the internet and find rubber mitts but these don't seem supple enough to use on the face and legs. I appreciate any reference to a where I can purchase the type of glove shown in your book page 64 (Horse Handling & Grooming).

Many thanks, Carla

Hi Carla,

Ah, my favorite all around barn gloves ! I have several types. One type is cotton with the rubber bumps and they are actually garden gloves - the bumps help gardeners grip their tools. They are often made of a cotton or cotton blend and have colorful patterns. They are great for summer barn work and wash up well. I bought my last batch at a farm store but I've seen them at many of the large discount department stores - look in the garden section.

For the winter version, I like a little heavier knit glove with the rubber bumps. Recently I've found these in two places. One is in the gloves section of a large building supply store - they are work gloves as they help workmen grip their tools. Another places is in a dollar store, sold as inexpensive driving gloves, they help grip the steering wheel !

Buy grooming gloves here: Grooming Gloves for Horses.

Small Acreage Turnout Area

Dear Cherry,

What would make a horse more content - 1 hour turn-out on grass or all-day turn-out in a dirt area? PLEASE HELP! I am trying to choose the best quality of life for the animals on my small acreage. I live on one acre and have 2 miniature horses and one 14.2 horse. Each horse has their own paddock with shelter (the horse has 900 sq. Ft., the minis each have approx. 500 sq. Ft.). I am learning to ride so, as yet, I do not ride the horse more than once per week (in a neighbor's sand arena) and the mini's are not exercised in any formal manner. My pasture/turn-out area is only 60' x 100' (6,000 sq. .ft.). I could not maintain grass on such a small area if I allowed the horses lengthy turn-outs together, and I felt as though they would be happier with more freedom and companionship, so I allowed the pasture space to become a dirt lot. Now, I'm doubting my decision.

Please tell me what would make my horses more content and happy - having a very short (one hour) daily turn-out where they can graze in the company of other horses OR being allowed all day turn-out with others but no REAL grazing, only foraging grass hay that I have set out on the dirt? (I will always plan on feeding grass hay year round, only relying on the pasture area as a boredom breaker.)

In one of your books (How to Think Like A Horse) you noted that both domestic and wild horses only spend 2 hours per day interacting socially. This leads me to think maybe they'd do o.k. With less turn- out. Also, is there a grass that is better suited to small, over- grazed areas? I live in Colorado and was going to plant brome.

Thank you so much, Jennifer


Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for the great letter. As a fellow Coloradoan, I empathize with your situation. Have you read the second edition of Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage?

There is so much food for thought in that book for you in terms of facility design, management and horse care that is tailored to your small acreage situation. Without seeing your situation specifically, I'd say that having a grassy turnout area would be better for several reasons. First for that one hour turn out with a bit of grazing. Second for keeping down the dust. Third, a cleaner place to feed grass hay (you will have to feed grass hay during turnout some months of the year). And finally for neighborly relations. A nice grass lot is more pleasing to most neighbors than a dirt lot.

Brome might work great but that is a very broad family and I encourage pasture mixes anyway because when one species might falter, another might thrive. To find out specifically what mix you should seed with, I'd suggest contacting your local extension agent and ask him or her for a recommendation for a trample and drought resistant pasture mix.

Read the article from the Round Up page on Turnout Areas for more information.

Best of luck,

 

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