Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Today's Laugh

Oh man. I laughed till I cried :)

How to Train a Green Horse to Like Water in 17 Easy Steps

0 702
cate chestnut mare
The test subject!
By Cate Jones
Step 1) Catch horse from pasture. You didn’t have room in the trunk of your Jetta for a saddle, so all you have is a bridle and willpower. It’s mud season, so make sure that you get as much heavy mud on your boots as possible while running back and forth across ten acres in an attempt to catch your horse. This will help weigh you down later in the exercise.
Step 2) Realize that you don’t have a mounting block and you don’t think that climbing on from the hood of your car is the greatest idea. It worked when you were 10, but probably won’t now that you’re 25. Line mare up to the fence and attempt to climb on that way. Acknowledge the fact that George Morris would not approve of this method.
Step 3) Catch mare.
Step 4) Scrap mud off your backside and attempt to mount again from the fence. Grab mane so that you don’t repeat the somersault over her shoulder when she puts her head down to eat grass. Remain topside this time, and drag mare’s head up from the lovely patch of grass. Crinkle candy wrapper as incentive.
Step 5) Point mare towards direction of the pond. You’ve decided that since she’s going to be an event horse, she has to be okay with water, and that is your goal for today. Enjoy scenery and give mare loose rein.
Step 6) Catch mare.
Step 7) Fetch neck strap out of car, remount, and walk towards the pond again. This time WITH PURPOSE. Tell yourself you won’t try to take anymore “between the ears” pictures until you’re sure you won’t fall off again when mare hears the shutter click sound and levitates sideways.
Step 8) Get to pond. Gather reins as mare’s head has shot up at the sight of the body of water and you question that she actually is a Thoroughbred and not a Saddlebred. Mare freezes and snorts. Maybe she’s an Arabian?
Step 9) Catch mare.
Step 10) Apologize for Arabian comment. Remount, grab neck strap, and squeeze WITH PURPOSE. Homegirl is GOING to get into the water. TODAY. Squeeze harder. Kick. Flail. Mare takes a baby step towards pond. Lavish mare with candy and praise.
Step 11) Mare is now standing at the edge of the pond. She’s a little tense. You have a very firm grip on your neck strap. Kick WITH PURPOSE. Cluck. Beg. Plead. Pray. SIT BACK. Please. Just sit back.
Step 12) Shake hands with the nice folks at the NASA space station, as your mare has just launched herself into outer space in an attempt to clear the entire one acre pond. Sit back upon landing, as mare will realize she failed to clear the entire pond, and will launch herself again. Confirm in the back of your mind that mare is a bit of a drama queen. Wish you had brought a snorkel, as you are fairly sure the amount of water that mare is kicking up in her temper tantrum will drown you.
Step 13) Mare is now standing still in the middle of the pond. Glaring at you. Surpress shiver of fear about the retaliatory thoughts probably going through her head. She is chestnut, after all. Pat her and tell her she is the most wonderful creature in the world. Shovel lots of candy in her face.
Step 14) Catch mare.
Step 15) Remount, somehow, in the middle of the pond and wonder what possessed you to let go of the neck strap. Must have been red horse Jedi mind trickery. Wish you had gotten more mud on your boots during step one, as you really could have used more of an anchor. Pat mare, walk small circle in water. Grip neck strap firmly as you direct mare out of water. Wave to NASA as you launch yourselves onto dry land.
Step 16) Ride mare back to pasture, dismount, and praise thoroughly. Pat yourself on the back as you survived. Duck as massive mud clods are thrown in your direction, as mare bolts away at mach 90 to rejoin her friends.
Step 17) Call mare up for dinner that night. Notice she isn’t with the group. Walk into pasture and over the hill to find mare standing in the middle of the pond in her field, staring at you as if to say, “What? I love the water, Mom!” Shake your head and accept defeat. Ponder possible career in the Dressage ring.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Disturbing Truth About Neck Threadworms and Your Itchy Horse

Reposted from

The Disturbing Truth About Neck Threadworms and Your Itchy Horse

Look on any ivermectin or moxidectin-based wormer packet and you’ll see a long list of parasites. Tucked in neatly at the end – it’s nearly always at the end – you’ll see the words Onchocerca Microfilariae, otherwise known as neck threadworms.
Also known as neck threadworms, these critters vary in length from 6cm to 30cm (think the length of a regular ruler). Astonishingly, they live in the horse’s nuchal ligament.
Yes, the nuchal ligament. It runs the full length of the neck, from poll to withers, with a flat ligament part connecting with the cervical vertebrae.
Apparently, most horses have Onchocerca. For many they’re not a problem, but some horses develop a reaction to their microscopic larvae (the microfilariae). This is known as Onchocerciasis. The horses become itchy, mostly around the head, neck, chest, shoulders and underside of the belly. That’s why owners often make the understandable assumption that their horse has Queensland itch or sweet itch.
(This article can also be found under:

A quick introduction to neck threadworms

Original article by Jane Clothier, posted on, June 2013. All text and photographs (c) Jane Clothier. No reproduction without permission, sorry. Links to this page are fine.
Onchocerca is what’s known as a parasitic filarial worm (nematode). One reason these worms get relatively little attention is that they never live in the intestines. The microscopic larval form live in the horse’s skin, mostly around the head, neck, shoulders, chest and underside of the belly. It is the adult worm that later makes its home in the nuchal ligament.
The problem is global and horses in most countries have been found to have this parasite. Unfortunately for those of us who keep horses in warmer, humid climates, it’s more frequent here. The biting insect that serves as a carrier is the Culicoides fly, which is also connected to Queensland Itch (aka Sweet Itch, Summer Itch, etc.).
It’s an unfortunate coincidence of environment that leads to many cases of neck threadworms being missed, because they’re assumed to be Itch.

Does your horse have “the itch” – or neck threadworms?

It’s a humdinger of a thought. If your horse is itchy, something different could be happening to what you think is happening.
  •  Your horse has the ‘regular’ itch (ie, Queensland, sweet, whatever it’s called in your region) and are reacting to midge spit – and nothing else. (The point of this article certainly isn’t to try and say that all itch cases are due to neck threadworms. Just some.)
  •  Your horse has neck threadworms and its inflammatory reaction to them has increased its sensitivity, so it’s now reacting to fly bites everywhere – in other words, Queensland/sweet itch has been triggered as a secondary response.
  • Your horse only has neck threadworms, in which case they’re probably rubbing along the mane and particularly the base of mane, around the neck and face, under the chest and down the ventral line (under the belly), but not on the tail head – or at least, relatively little.
Are you by any chance now thinking other horses you know? If so, they might be suffering from Onchocerciasis. There’s a lot of it about.

So how do we identify neck threadworms?

A pony with the Itch and neck threadworms. It's Autumn and she's stopped rubbing out her entire mane, but is still itching that tell-tale area in front of the withers. Her coat has raised in a temporary histamine reaction to the ivermectin wormer.
A pony with the Itch and neck threadworms. It’s Autumn and she’s stopped rubbing out her entire mane – it has grown back – but is still itching that tell-tale area in front of the withers. Her coat is raised in a temporary histamine reaction to the ivermectin wormer.
Neck threadworms have a distinctive life cycle, but as is so often the case, the problem presents in  different ways, depending on the individual.
In my brumby Colo, it started with him scratching the underside of his neck on posts. That was about 3 months before I had an inkling it might be neck threadworms. How I wish I’d known  what it was at that point, so that I could have nipped the problem in the bud…
I’ve also seen it manifest as a new, previously unseen itchy and scurfy patch on the lower part of the neck of a horse who’d never been itchy. And I’ve heard of a local horse who suddenly started furiously itching his face, bang in the middle of the forehead, to the point that it bled. He had never been itchy before.
These are the classic early signs, usually recognised by the owner only through miserable hindsight. Other signs include small lumps forming along the underside of the horse and on its neck and face, weeping spots, and a scaly crest to an area of the mane through rubbing.
The base of the mane, just in front of the withers, seems to be party central where neck threadworms are concerned.

The real nastiness of neck threadworms

The microscopic larvae can travel to the eye, although this is rare.
The microscopic larvae can travel to the eye, although this is rare. 
It just gets better: the larvae can travel to the horse’s eyes, where they can cause untold damage. This cheering sentence from Scott and Miller’s Equine Dermatology sums it up: “O. cervicalis microfilariae may also invade ocular tissues, where they may be associated with keratitis, uveitis, peripapillary choroidal sclerosis, and vitiligo of the bulbar conjunctiva of the lateral limbus.”
Oh heck. Nobody’s sure how common this is. All I know is that I don’t want to find out the hard way.
Consider this: in humans, a slightly different strain of Onchocerca infestation is known as River Blindness.
Please remember this detail when you’re deciding whether to worm for neck threadworms or not.

The very strange lifecycle of the neck threadworm

These worms have a complicated existence. They’re among the shapeshifters of the parasitic worm world, developing through several larval stages before reaching adulthood.
The first stage microfilariae live in the horse, close to the skin. Their numbers are highest in the spring and decrease to their lowest point in mid-winter. They live in clusters, which is why you may first notice patches of scurfy skin where the horse has started itching. This is a reaction to the dead or dying larvae.
Itching down the midline. Mine have itched neck and shoulders only - so far. (Photo courtesy of blog, Baba Yaga's Mirror)
Itching down the midline. Mine have itched neck and shoulders only – so far. (Photo courtesy of blog, Baba Yaga’s Mirror)
At this point, our good friends the culicoid flies make a contribution, by biting the horse and ingesting a good number of microfilariae along with blood. Within the fly, the larvae then develop through a further stage (or two). They are then deposited back into a horse when the flies bite. The flies can do this for an impressive 20 to 25 days after first hoovering up the larvae.
Back in a host horse, the larvae then make their way via the bloodstream to the connective tissue of the nuchal ligament, which runs along the crest of the neck. Here they moult and develop into adult worms. The adults live for around 10 years and in this time, the females release thousands of microfilariae (larvae) very year.
Original article by Jane Clothier, posted on, June 2013. All text and photographs (c) Jane Clothier. No reproduction without permission, sorry. Links to this page are fine.
No matter where the adult worms settle, the itchiness is caused by the microfilariae that aren’t lucky enough to be consumed by a fly and are instead left to die off.
The next part’s really not fair. The more the horse itches and breaks the skin, the more the flies will bite exactly where the microfilariae are located, before transporting them to the same or another horse, to start all over again.
Unsurprisingly, horses with most lesions have higher microfilariae counts – it’s a perfect ascending spiral of parasite-induced discomfort.
The Onchecerca life cycle lasts for 4 to 5 months.

Can we test for neck threadworms?

The microfilariae can be identified in the living horse through a biopsy of the nuchal ligament. Published veterinary research shows you won’t get any indication within 34 days of worming, so the timing is critical.
Worming with ivermectin can lead to weeping spots in the mane. This was after they'd cleared.
Worming with ivermectin can lead to weeping spots in the mane. These can be painful. This photo was taken after they’d cleared, leaving bald areas. Sometimes the hair grows back white.
A dose of ivermectin-based wormer is the quickest way to tell if your horse has them. If the microfilariae are present, the horse usually responds with intense itching – and I mean, manically intense, demented itching – around 48 to 72 hours after worming.
It may develop weeping, gunky spots at the base of the mane. (If you live in a paralysis tick area, it’s similar to the localised reaction you see in response to the ticks.) These are very specific spots around 1cm in diameter, with hair loss after they’ve erupted.
My brumby responded this way, rolling furiously and rubbing vigorously against posts. Unsurprisingly, he was also hard to handle for a few days. He was definitely sore at the base of the neck, where the weeping eruptions came out, and didn’t want to be touched there. I have to say that the scale of his reaction came as a shock to me, so take heed and be prepared with some soothing salves.

What can we do about adult neck threadworms?

Here’s the depressing answer: not much. But we can manage them.
The nuchal ligament runs from poll to wither and links with the vertebrae. Yellow = funicular part, home to neck threadworms.
The nuchal ligament runs from poll to wither and links with the vertebrae. Yellow = funicular part, home to neck threadworms. (Image copyright Sustainable Dressage.)
The adults live for 10-12 years and happily inhabit the nuchal ligament. What often happens is that the horse’s body throws down calcification around the adult worms in an attempt to isolate the foreign body. In some horses, you can feel a collection of  pea-like bumps in the nuchal ligament. In the ones that I’ve checked, this was just in front of the withers.
The slightly better news it that the worms are so fine and the lumps so small that it doesn’t seem to affect the function of the ligament, which is tough and fundamentally taut anyway. However, I’ve not yet knowingly seen a horse with a long history of neck threadworms – I’d be interested in doing so.
Heavier calcification is usually most prevalent in horses in their late teens. It figures, as the adult wormers are older, and longer. Apparently they intertwine and live in small clumps. Mid-aged horses have mainly shown inflamed tissue around live parasites.
In horses less than 5yo, the parasites can be present but there’s relatively little immunological response. So if your horse has suddenly developed itchiness at the age of 5 or 6, you could be looking at the presence of this parasite.
Original article by Jane Clothier, posted on, June 2013. All text and photographs (c) Jane Clothier. No reproduction without permission, sorry. Links to this page are fine.

Managing the initial outbreak

Do you worm your horses? Do you want to reduce the itching at the cost of having to worm more? I know I do, but I realise that some people can’t abide the thought of chemical wormers, or their increased use. But here’s what you can do if you want to reduce that dreadful itching and virtually eliminate the possibility of eye damage.
Unfortunately, there’s no single recommended protocol for worming against neck threadworms, so you’re in fairly uncharted territory.
  • wormerTo address the initial outbreak, the advice ‘out in the field’ is to use a regular dosage of an ivermectin-based wormer, multiple timesuntil symptoms subside. The recommended interval I’ve seen is a week, but do check with your *equine* vet first.
  • I’ve also read forum posts by US horse owners stating that a double dosage at fortnightly intervals is the most effective treatment. It’s usually around three doses, or until symptoms subside. One reason is that lower doses do not kill off enough larvae, allowing resistance to develop amongst those that remain. Wormers are certainly tested as safe at higher dosages, but again, horses are individuals, so always check with your *equine* vet first.
  • I’ve read that an injection of ivermectin can be more effective, with off-label use of a product such as Dectomax being recommended as the heavy artillery when all else has failed. Again, do check with your *equine* vet.
Some say that an ivermectin and praziquantel wormer is more effective. One small comfort is that these wormers are available in the lower price ranges. It’s a consideration, because if you’re worming multiple horses, this won’t be a cheap time. It may even be worth looking at the large bottles of liquid wormer used by studs for greater economy.
Published research has shown that moxidectin-based wormers are equally as effective in addressing the microfilariae (but don’t double-dose with this one – only with ivermectin). That’s good, as it means you can address the neck threadworms, while covering your horse for encysted strongyles too (ivermectin wormers don’t).
Whichever option you follow, it’s worth following this worming protocol with prebiotics, probiotics and ‘buffers’ such as aloe vera to support a healthy gut lining.
More about Neck Threadworms
The questions we’re still asking about neck threadworms and how they make a horse itch – Why Thinking About Neck Threadworms Still Leaves Us Scratching Our Heads

Reducing the larval population

After the initial worming, it’s a matter of management. What you’re trying to do is keep the numbers of microfilaraie low, so that the horse’s itching is reduced. Remember, most horses show little reaction, although the parasites are present. The aim has to be to bring them down to levels the horses’ systems can deal with, while taking other measures to boost the horses’ immune system.
  • Some vets say a single dose every 6-8 weeks during the fly season.
  • Others say every 3 months, timed in accordance with the larval lifecycle, which is 4 to 5 months.
  • In humid sub-tropical zones, where all parasite burdens are dramatically higher, I’ve heard of people doing it as frequently as once a month.
Beyond that, you’re back to the barrier treatments – fly rugs, lotions and potions to deflect the flies and to insulate the skin, lotions to soften the skin and heal the lesions, fly screens on shelters during the day, etc. And don’t forget about boosting your horse’s immune system generally through sound nutritional approaches.
Why you should never use ONLY mectin wormers, even if your horse has neck threadworms, as here’s a particularly dangerous gastric worm – The Worm That Kills – And Why Only Two Worming Chemicals Can Stop It

And if we do nothing?

If we don’t address the problem one way or another, we have very itchy horses, for their entire lives.
Researchers say that the calcification in the ligaments has no effect, but you’ve got to wonder. There’s no guarantee that those scientists had a highly developed understanding of equine biomechanics. Maybe they did, but… who knows. A lot of the small amount of research available is over 20 years old and the knowledge base has since grown.
There’s a small but serious risk of damage to the eyes.
On the plus side, Onchocerciasis hasn’t been found to have any association with fistulous withers.
How to put together a program of treatment for your horse with neck threadworms (and maybe the Itch) – How to Fight the Big Fight against Neck Threadworms

To recap…

Onchocerciasis is so often masked by the itch that awareness, even in the regions where it’s rife, is low.
And in those same regions, there are so many highly prevalent and deadly parasites – the worms that cause colic, that drag down the horse’s condition, that can kill through spontaneous mass emergence from encysted larval stages – that the neck threadworm larvae simply doesn’t get much of a look-in.
To repeat, I’m not saying that all cases of itch are neck threadworms. Just that these parasites may be involved and can be a contributory factor in a heightened immunological response that leads to Queensland itch (or sweet itch, or whatever you know it as).
However, some horses definitely have neck threadworms. The earlier we can identify and manage it, the better.
We can’t eliminate the neck threadworms, but we can certainly manage the effects and make our horses’ lives more comfortable.
(c) Jane Clothier – no reproduction without permission –

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

tour numéro deux :)

Queen had her second backed ride today. Admittedly, there were parts of this scenario that were ill advised. A friend who was planning to ride with me was supposed to have both Queen and Classy Lady up and groomed so that we could hop on when I got there and get some work done before dark, but she hadn't even caught them yet when I pulled in. I said, "Eh, ok."

So we got them groomed and we got them tacked, and Queen made it apparent that she was antsy. Classy Lady was being a bit fussy as well. Still, we managed to get finished before dark, but it was getting kind of close.

Classy Lady was ok for mounting. Queen initially gave some objection when I tightened her girth again before mounting, but after a small correction, she let me get mounted. We walked around in circles in the front yard for a bit. So far so good.

Classy Lady proceeds to stumble and fall to her knees after one of the cats streaked across the yard in front of her. My friend let out a shriek from the surprise, and Classy Lady scrambled to recover while Queen went a little sideways from the movement and from my friend's loud shriek. I stayed put in the saddle, and Queen didn't go far. She didn't tremble either. Lots of praise for the black filly :)

After Classy Lady recovered some, we managed to collect ourselves and walk down the road a little while continuing to be ponied. Queen got a little tense at one point, but she settled fairly well. We went halfway to the next driveway down the road, then turned around. I dismounted and gave her some praise.

After lunging Queen for a few rotations in each direction, we repeated the jaunt down the road, this time with me walking next to her and my friend continuing to pony her off of Classy Lady. Queen was a bit more relaxed this time. I think I need to bulk up her conditioning program to strengthen her and balance her a bit so she's strong enough to carry weight. I'm not super heavy and my saddle isn't either, but she'd benefit from a stronger topline and better balance in her gaits.

Still, all in all, a very successful 2nd time under saddle! We will continue to do rides, but I definitely need boots for both Classy Lady and Queen. Time to get these kids trimmed properly and measured for some nice ones.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


I know, I know, it's been forever. In my defense, I've been busy.

Life starts over.

You hit the end of one chapter, you start a new one. Sometimes you feel like it's a whole new reset. It's not just changing the drapes, it's a life remodel.

The last year has been one of those for me.

I think I've had a lot of positive change happen.

Anyway, on to the good stuff!

Queen the bratty pants got back for the first time last week! I should have blogged about this and gotten photos, but so sue me. She did SO well, didn't bat an eye. We also practiced with wearing a bit for ten minutes. After we removed the bit and bridle, we put a mild hackamore on, then Carin led Queen around by the halter while I sat on her for about ten minutes or less. We practiced whoa from pressure from the hackamore, and we practiced walk on. I used Carin's body language as an aid to the pressure from the hackamore and also to walking on from a halt. SMART BABY! I am pleased.

Fast forward to today. I'm reposting the blog entry I typed up for the greyhound foster page (yup, I have one of those of my own now and we just picked up a new foster TODAY!) Read on below for funnies.

Ok, so Dutch and Kori were very good for the car ride home to Birmingham with Deb and myself. They settled in quickly, not a peep the whole way, fantastic car dogs. 

Then we got home.

Kori did very well with "leaving it" after I corrected her for being too interested in my barn kitty who was hanging out on my front porch. After a couple of times of being told no and giving a quick tug on her martingale, she started ignoring the cat (from a distance). 

Dutch also did very well upon arrival at my house, and he did some bonding with my guy, Nathaniel. Nate loves big dogs. He finds it EXTREMELY amusing that if he decides to take a wiz in the woods, Dutch will try to wiz where Nate is doing his business. If he shifts, Dutch shifts with them, and they pee together (keep in mind we are almost two miles from the nearest minor road; our farm is at the end of a long gravel drive). I'm not sure what this says about Dutch's level of dominance that he's trying to mark in the same spot as the man of the house, but at least he's peeing outside and not on my furniture (so far).

Dutch meeting my inside kitty went fairly well at first, except I was surprised to realize that Fur Elise felt absolutely no sense of alarm around Dutch. With his muzzle on, he was very good about meeting her, and she let him even sniff her (with tight supervision). 

After half an hour or so and some very furious rubbing of his face on any body part of ours that he could reach, we decided to see if he could swing it with no muzzle. 

Cue cat experience number two.

Fur Elise decided to climb in my lap, and I was sitting with her when Dutch sighted her and cautiously approached me. He still had his leash on, but we were giving him a break from the muzzle, so he wandered up ssssssllllooowwwwwllllyyy, and was allowed a brief sniff. Everything was going fabulously until he decided to see if he could make her squeak by picking her up in his mouth. 

Cue coming to Jesus moment. 

Cat went one way, dog backed up very fast, I was the one doing all the excited squeaking and "no no no," after which he got a trip to the crate and a swat from the cat. 

He now walks the opposite direction when he sees the cat. I am pleased. 

Fast forward to dinner. Fed Dutch a meal, then we practiced some tricks with all three dogs in the kitchen. He is such a chowhound. He has a VERY good sit. We're still working on uncovering the rest of his tricks, but since it took Maggie a little while to start doing all of hers, I don't expect him to regurgitate every one of his on the first night.

Now we get to bedtime. Our dogs always sleep with us in our bedroom, so we set up an extra bed for him to sleep on since I didn't expect him to dog pile with Maggie and Atlas. I'm finishing up dishes in the kitchen at this point, but Nathaniel and all the dogs headed to the bedroom. Nathaniel takes a slight 15 second detour to check his phone since it was beeping, then follows the dogs into the bedroom, only to find fresh, runny poop on the bed I'd just set up for Dutch. So he calls me in for clean up duty while he walks all three dogs. Yay. 

I try to show Dutch and tell him no, no pooping in the house, and then he FACEPLANTS into his own POOP. Sits up and looks at me, then FACEPLANTS AGAIN. Lays in it, gets it smeared all over the side of his face, and I'm laughing way too hard to be mad or scold him. Nathaniel walks in with the leash to take him outside and get him out of the way, and Dutch is like "nope, nuh uh, staying right here in the bed" and proceeds to LAY IN IT AGAIN! At this point I can't breathe I'm laughing so hard. 

We finally got Dutch cleaned up. He got his face washed, but it's so late that a full bath is going to wait till the morning. What a night! I can't believe he faceplanted multiple times on purpose in his own poop. That was a new one for me. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Book Excerpt: Which Thoroughbred Best Fits My Needs?

Great article!

Book Excerpt: Which Thoroughbred Best Fits My Needs?

Which Thoroughbred Best Fits My Needs?

Guidelines to consider when choosing an off-the-track Thoroughbred for a specific English discipline, from the book Beyond the Track.

If you intend to purchase a horse off the track, or adopt through a program, I recommend you engage the assistance of an experienced friend or trainer to help ascertain the horse's suitability for you and your discipline. Even if you buy and sell horses all the time, a second opinion is always of value.
The most important step is to ask yourself what level of riding or competition you aspire to, as many off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs) are athletic enough to pursue any discipline at the lower levels, and most minor injuries will hold up after proper time off. With this in mind, here are a few additional guidelines to consider when evaluating OTTBs. These are generalized suggestions--there is a lot more to consider when choosing a horse for a specific discipline.
Photo by Carrie Paston
Potential event horse or jumper
Photo by Carrie Paston
The Event Horse
  • High shoulder point (the front of the shoulder is high, with a steeply angled humerus from there to the elbow; this ensures scope over large jumps)
  • Uphill build
  • Medium bone structure (extremely fine bone structure is less likely to hold up)
  • Short- to medium-length back
  • Short- to medium-length pasterns (long pasterns tend to break down)
  • Well-set knees (horses "straight" in the knees are prone to knee injuries)
  • Event horses can range in height. Note that larger horses (in height and mass) can be more difficult to keep sound as they are harder on their legs and feet.
Event horses need to be very athletic with fluid gaits. Prospects should have more "action" at all three gaits than, say, a hunter (see below). This often indicates it will be easier for them to move with impulsion in the dressage ring and that they will pick up their knees better over fences.
Brave, athletic and hard-working. Event prospects need to be bold, brave and forward-going horses that have good endurance. Many of these horses could also be described as "proud" or "arrogant." More energetic horses are often possibilities--as long as they are mentally sane and have a good work ethic, the extra energy is beneficial on the cross-country course.
Injuries to Avoid
  • Breathing issues
  • Severe tendon injuries (mild strains or bows are generally not an issue if given enough time off prior to retraining)
  • Severe suspensory injuries
  • Joint chips or fractures
  • Vision limitations
The Jumper
A jumper prospect will be very similar in build, action and personality to an event horse (see above). When looking for a jumper, put more emphasis on a stronger hind end and shoulder. A jumper does not necessarily need to be built uphill, but he should have a high shoulder point.
Photo by Carrie Paston
Potential hunter
Photo by Carrie Paston
The Hunter 
  • Long, sloping shoulder
  • Neck ties in well with the withers and shoulder
  • Small, attractive head
  • Flat topline
Hunters should be light on their feet and have as little action in their legs as possible. A long, low, rhythmic stride that easily covers a lot of ground is desirable. The horse's head carriage should be long and low.
Easygoing, consistent and stylish. Hunters are judged on rhythm, style, and manners. They need to be calm in nature and consistent in gait and attitude as they move around the ring and over fences.
Injuries to Avoid
  • Severe tendon injuries (mild strains or bows are generally not an issue if given enough time off prior to retraining)
  • Severe suspensory injuries
  • Joint chips or fractures
Photo by Carrie Paston
Potential dressage horse
Photo by Carrie Paston
The Dressage Horse
  • Withers set back from the shoulder
  • Short back
  • Uphill build
  • Strong, well-built hindquarters
  • Neck ties in well with the withers and shoulder (avoid ewe-necked horses)
  • Neck should be medium to long
The horse should naturally engage and drive from his hind end. A regular, even, four-beat walk is ideal. At the trot he should demonstrate natural impulsion and extension while remaining light on his feet. Look for a canter that is not overly "large"--a shorter stride is easier to maneuver around the dressage arena and eventually teach clean flying lead changes.
Hard-working, sensitive and sensible. A dressage prospect should be a sensitive yet sensible horse. He needs to be very responsive to leg, seat, and rein aids rather than dead-sided or hard-mouthed. He cannot become overwrought every time he is confronted with a new task--the ideal horse likes to work and accepts new challenges eagerly.
Injuries to Avoid
  • Severe tendon injuries (mild strains or bows are generally not an issue if given enough time off prior to retraining)
  • Severe suspensory injuries
  • Joint chips or fractures
This article is excerpted from the book Beyond the Track: Retraining the Thoroughbred from Racehorse to Riding Horse, which offers tips on finding the right OTTB and giving him the solid educational foundation he needs to excel in a new career. To order, call 800-952-5813 or visit

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Evil Woman

Cue Electric Light Orchestra music in the background.


Sums it up in a word, but to elaborate, PONY mares. Explains so much, doesn't it?

Ponies are closer to the ground, and therefore closer to hell. Pony mares, well, you get the picture.

I have two pony mares. What does that say about me?

ThePone is going to get an attitude adjustment here shortly, and with a quickness.

That is all.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pippa Training Musings

Anytime I mess with Pippa, I keep feeling torn. Her body is maturing early, early enough that when my vet checked her knees a few months before she was 2, he said her legs could stand a rider and work already, but mentally and emotionally I know she wasn't and still isn't ready. My trainer in NC (Sophie Pririe Clifton) is a firm believer in putting HER ponies under saddle at 2.5 years, and she does training from the ground from birth. I have been continuing with all sorts of mental training with both of my youngsters (Pippa and also Queen), exposing them to trail work in-hand and also various obstacles, similar to what they might see on an obstacle course so that they can get the mental challenge. The longer I have Pippa, the more strongly bonded we get to each other, and while I know this means she puts more trust in me and can handle more exposure, it also prompts me to be more protective of her and less anxious to rush into things. I am a firm believer in not backing before 30 months and not really working before 36 months since I really want my kids to be sound still when they hit their 30s. When I look at Paul Belasik's and Andrea Velas's model for excellence with their horses at the Pennsylvania Riding Academy at Lost Hollow Farm (this pair of riders and their program is my measuring stick for excellence, btw), they have such a high standard of care and their stallion, Excelso, is in his 20s, completely sound and never needs joint supplements, plus he is still doing all the grand prix movements every week. To my knowledge, they start a 6 month lunge/longe line program at 2, start backing at 2.5, and have them riding and ready for sale at 3 years old doing w/t/c reliably that an ammy (amateur) rider could purchase and bring them along under an experienced trainer. This is what I want for my horses, being able to ride comfortably and with soundness well into their 20s and 30s at upper level work. I don't really want to part with any of my girls, so I don't really train with any buyers in mind, but I am also aware that crap happens in life sometimes, so they need to be sound, sane, and used to strangers if they ever had to part ways with me at any point and find a new mom (or dad). Oh, what to do, what to do? My big concern with Pippa is making any steps backward since she had a rough start. We have such a good rapport right now, and she trusts me, and I don't want to rush through any training program with her that could damage that trust or injure her in any way. Meh, morning musings...