WORK IN PROGESS - ...but we wanted to post it...
Success Strategies For Your New Horse
What we have learned from our customers
In one capacity or another, I have been raising and selling horses for over a decade. Over the years, I have come to appreciate and often been called upon to assist new horse owners in the successful integration of their new horse to his/her enviroment and the transition to a working partnership with the new human partners. I've witnessed many success stories, seen the pitfalls, and helped turn situations around as well as well as help horse owners to recognize when an equine relationship is unsalvageable. The advice contained in this article should sound like common sense to experienced horsemen and women, but life is a journey and we dont start at the finish line.
Prerequisite success factors:
Just as in a marriage, while the spark may be ignited upon first glance, the fire has a better chance of taking hold if you can benefit from a process of understanding your needs and desires as well as understanding who you are and what traits in a partner are likely to spell success and failure. Bringing a new horse home is akin to life changes like getting married or adopting a child, you must choose well, and prepare for the new arrival. Like children, horses learn and develop with each new experience. Like modeling clay, THEY CHANGE...and we are the sculptors.
Whether we are speaking or a marriage, raising a child or choosing a horse, The Greek aphorism "know thyself" is the starting point. Its important for us as horseman to understand who we are today and where we can realistically go with our equine partner in the next few years. The key to sucess is a well defined and communicated set of requirements.
Facilities review and preparation
It is very important that the facility that you bring your horse into be proper, adequate, safe and complete. Horses need adequate turnout and shelter. They need a STURDY FENCE... Electric fences are fine as long as they are STRONG, WELL CHARGED fences in 100% working order. Areas of new construction should be thoroughly swept with magnets for nails and debris before introducing horses. Please pay your board bill on time and visit boarding facilities often...if you expect your horse to receive the top notch care that it deserves. Review and monitor your horse's turnout situation and the horses which are pasture mates. If you horse is pastured with what is likely to be an improperly castrated gelding...have it moved... Dont allow your horse to form unhealthy bonds such that it become "herdbound"...this is a dangerous condition.
Critical Success Factors
The following factors are CRITICAL to the success of transitioning your horse to his environment. Please read and CALL US if you have any questions.
Draft cross horses should NEVER be fed sweet feed.... They dont need sugar, nor do they need High Quality hay such as Alfalfa. A clean medium quality grass hay ...FREE CHOICE...(this means all that they can eat....in front of them at all times) is generally sufficient. We always recommend than customers take a baseline weight measurement when you take possesion of your horse and check it periodically. If you want your horse to remain the calm and sensible horse that you purchased, dont overfeed it... The term "Fat and Sassy"... describes what happens to overfed horses. While overweight horses sure are pretty, they have or develop the same health problems that overweight people develop. We have raised these horses well...please dont overfeed them!! Fat may be the prettiest color...but thats not what is going to keep you out of the hospital or keep your horse healthy... your horse's health problems will QUICKLY drain your checkbook.
YOUNG DRAFT horses are often gawky and young Shires and Clydes can be rangey. THEY ARE NOT MEANT to look like adult horses. Overfeeding or changing a horse's weight in any way other than a gradual way is not recommended. Buy a weight tape from the feed store and record your horse's weight if you must increase a young horses' weight - do it AFTER they have settled into their new environment and you have established that you are firmly in control of their training/riding and it is progressing favorably. Record the weight and check it at the end of every week - it is highly recommended NOT to increase the weight of a newly arrived horse until he and you have settled. If you are a complete newbie and have shipped a horse a long distance for the first time, its important to understand that even under the best of conditions they will have lost some weight and appear "sucked up" by the journey. Dont show yourself by behaving badly towards the shipper or the seller.
Our horses are accustomed to 24hr turnout. If you decrease the hours of turnout, you will likely need to decrease feed or increase exercise accordingly... Horses are social animals...they need the company of at LEAST ONE OTHER HORSE... Please do not purchase a horse from us that you intend to keep by itself and please do not purchase a horse and then take away and not replace pasture mates. If your new horse is stabled in a boarding or lesson barn...take the time to investigate the turnout conditions..make sure there is free choice hay, and adequate fencing AND that the turnout is well managed... If your draft cross is turned out in a pasture with little grass where "2 flakes" per day, per horses are blindly dispensed...this could spell disaster... If he/she is turned out on a pasture with little grass in the spring with lushious grass on the other side of the fence...a GOOD working solution to this such as STURDY HIGH VOLTAGE electric must also be encorporated. If you are changing the turnout situation...please take this into consideration and use good judgement... If you change a horse from 24hr to 12hr turnout...its not wise to pull him directly from the stall in the am and ride him until he has FULLY settled in with his new routine and rider.
Tack and saddle fit
Its important to have a saddle that properly fits your horse. We have taken a horse back in the past that was completely crippled by what the vet termed to "saddle fit and rider position". Most of our young horses fit nicely in medium tree saddles some of the mature adults take med/wide. If a rider chooses to ride in an all purpose saddle that is too small for the riders size and weight, this will throw their weight forward and can result in permanent injury to the horse's spine and/or wither. It can also cause a horse to buck. For what it is worth...as we age, we put on weight, we all want to hold on to that pair of jeans that we know we will just NEVER get back into or cling to beleiving that we are still not far off a weight that we were last comfortable with...it is a far more common phenomenon than you can imagine that those of us who once rode in 16-17' saddles want to cling to our saddle size. This is CRUEL and DAMAGING to the horse. Riding in a close contact saddle you should have room for 3 fingers from your back to the cantle, in an all purpose, you need a fist... Please either 1. Dont allow guests to use your horse 2. Purchase an 18' or greater saddle for guest use 3. Ask your guests to provide their own 18" or greater saddle or dont allow them to ride your horse. In addition to saddle fit, its only fair that the horse be adequately sized to rider...we work diligently with our clients to ensure this as we sell many horses that have good strong backs and are sturdily built...when you purchase a horse, realize that he is sized adequately for you...and may not be so for every person.
If the saddle does not fit properly it can cause the horse to be overly forward and even to buck. When you take a saddle off and see marks or if your horse develops white (scarring) hairs...your saddle does not fit and you are DAMAGING the horse..possibly irreparably. DO NOT put that saddle back on the horse PERIOD....
Its always important to have a support system in place. Surprizingly, some of our greatest success stories have come from customers who were novices who had a good support system in place and called us when they had questions... Some of the least successful situations happened at the homes of "lifelong riders" who had all the answers and did not have a trainer or support system. Your trusted support system should not include random people at your barn, friends or relatives. Professionals such as your trainer and veterinarian should be among the experts whose advise you seek. Individuals that you choose as a trainer should be appropriate for you and your horse. We have found over the years that %95 of the horses that we sell fall into the intended use category of "pleasure"... if you are a beginner pleasure rider, who takes lessons in a dressage saddle.... then an instructor who is skilled at TEACHING PEOPLE TO RIDE..may work much better for you than the dressage trainer who is "THE BEST IN THE AREA".. Find the right trainer...
Be truthful with yourself on this issue... if you have a trainer who you pay on a weekly basis and have for over 6 months...then you "have a trainer" otherwise you do not... If you bring a horse home without a support system or plan in place, please discuss this with us honestly and we will either contract with you to provide this service or contract with you to secure and monitor your horse's successful transition.
DONT RIDE ALONE
Riding alone, is just plain NOT ADVISEABLE. I have many, many customers who want to be able to go out alone on a horse...and in fact may be replacing a trusted companion that you can ride alone. Its just plain NOT A WISE IDEA to take a horse out alone until you have FULLY FULLY settled with it, it has FULLY settled with its environment and riding off alone is a peaceful and stressfree thing to have happen for BOTH horse and rider. If EITHER is nervous, its NOT a good idea.
DONT EVER ATTEMPT TO MOUNT A HORSE THAT DOESNT WANT TO BE MOUNTED
Horses can not talk. They can not say "I stepped on a nail in the pasture last night...could you please pull it from my hoove and give me some antibiotics and painkillers before riding me"...they can not say "the new horse that I am turned out with really nailed me in the left rib last nght...do you think that we could skip the trail ride this morning...I'll probably be ok by the weekend"... It also can not say.... "I'm sorry, I am in a new place and I just havent accepted you as my leader so I cant allow you to ride me because it goes against my survival instinct..." It is OUR JOB to pay attention and develop the ability to READ our horse. We can not read a horse who we do not know...so its ever more important with a new horse..to slow down and pay attention.
If a horse does not want to be mounted.... DON'T..... Have it thoroughly checked out...call in a trainer or another set of eyes...take your time and figure it out. If you persist you will likely be bucked or knocked off, then the horse will have a training issue to resolve... Remember...horses are basically honest...they are not as complicated as we are and they can not talk...pay attention...slow down...and think. Always set a horse up for success.
DONT REMOVE YOUR HORSE'S SHOES
If you purchased the horse from us and it was wearing shoes, unless specifically noted on your paperwork, it needs its shoes to maintain a healthy foot. We do not condone nor recommend the "barefoot trim" for our draft, warmblood or draft cross sport horses. If you can not afford shoes then you can not afford a horse. We will be happy to come and pick up the horse, care for it properly and place it.
Get a GOOD farrier
A good farrier is worth his weight in gold. They are skilled craftsmen who deserve to be paid well for their work.
Its common here (South East) to pay a good farrier from $35 for a trim $45 for a large horse up to $75-85, depending on the area.
The amount of $ that a farrier charges has little to do with how good he is. Often the pricier farriers or those who charge (significantly) more for drafts or draftcrosses are the least experienced or just prima donnas.
Experience is EVERYTHING when it comes to a farrier. Everyone needs to learn, but an inexperienced farrier can RUIN your horse in a few months. Someone whose horse had been nearly ruined by a farrier lately asked me " but where do I find a good farrier...how do I know they are good"..my advice...go to a local feed store...find an old guy...whose been around and ask him who the good farriers in the area are... You want someone who has been doing MANY horses for many years and has a good reputation. Don't ask the ladies at your boarding barn...
Off subject...but I have to say since we are discussing farriers...
One thing that drives me crazy about some inexperienced/incompetant farriers with egos...is that they will never ask for help and many times will advise a client not to buy a horse or to return one thats on trial just because they dont know how to keep the hoof in balance. If you are going to take your farriers advice about a horse purchase...make sure you have a GOOD farrier. If you dont know how to tell if he is a good farrier or not...dont take his advice...on the contrary..if you HAVE a good farrier..do give his advice more weight than a veterinarians as it related to the hoof and soundness...a good farrier is the expert when it comes to the hoof...and always keep in mind...he is only giving advice about one area of the horse...the whole horse must be considered and a farrier is not the person who you want giving you a recommendation about the purchase of a horse.
The first ride
When you bring a new horse home, please take the time to consider and discuss what might be the best scenario for the horse's first ride in the new environment. AGAIN....draw on commonsense...like children, we should seek to set our horses up for success rather than failure. Give your horse a day or two to settle in to the new environment. Pick a quiet time...dont ride your horse at or right before feeding time. Dont attempt to take your horse out alone while his buddies are running and whinnieing in the next pasture... Dont ride alone for the first trail ride...if you can avoid it. Dont ride out from the barn alone on the first trail ride... A good first trail ride scenario might involve having your trainer over on a good clam lead horse and you following on your horse...get comfortable with the new horse and environment together.
"Walking your horse" around the arena or farm and showing him everything that YOU think is scary is NEVER a good idea. If you are considering this please call us and we will help you.
Please dont wait 3 months to ride your horse for the first time... If this happens because it is winter and you are in a cold climate etc... please take into consideration that you may need to make special arrangements before just hopping on your horse and expecting things to go well...particularly if you have made changes to his diet and turnout. If you find yourself in this scenario...please call us so that we can offer some assistance and/or advice.
Building on the sucessfull transition
checkpoints for assessment
Pittfalls...dont be this gal..
Top Ten Reasons for unsuccessful transition
1. Feeding Sweet Feed or Overfeeding
2. Improper feeding, turnout or stable management issues
3. Terrorizing horse with mounting block, fly mask, hose or other objects
4. Riding unshod horse on rocks...riding with resulting stone bruises, abcesses etc.
5. Depriving horse of equine companionship
6. Improper solitary riding
7. Leaving horse unmanaged and unridden for long periods of time and then randomly riding
8. Leaving your young mare or filly with improperly or late gelded male horse. Please be aware that most people who own one of these horses tend to be in DEEP DENIAL of the fact. Leaving a young filly with such a horse may result in the filly developing a DEADLY kicking habit out of self preservation. PLEASE...if ANYONE EVER has so much as SUGGESTED that a horse under your care may be improperly gelded...please dont expose other horses to him...
9. Dont place your horse in a pasture situation where there is contention over food...and if you do so....dont try to intervene... FEED HORSES SEPARATELY.
10. Do NOT hand walk your horse around your property showing them "where all the scary stuff is"...whether you want to admit it or not what you are doing is showing a horse that is trained to be non-reactive in general, things that you would like them to react to in a way that wont scare you...horses can not process this...and this is not a VALID training concept... If you have things on your property that you are worried about, then take a trusted horse with a confident rider out with you and ride past these objects while focusing on your favorite cloud.... If you dont understand this...seek instruction or call me.
11. Dont take your bombproof horse to a bombproofing clinic
12. Dont take your horse who has trailered beautifully since birth to a trailer loading clinic....if YOU have fear...go to the clinic and use the clinician's horse.
Getting back on track
What to do when its no longer working
CALL US... We can help you!