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How do you get over the grief of losing your beloved horses?

“Stacy, how do you get over the grief of losing your beloved horses?. Roxy & Vaquero. I lost my Paint gelding, Boo, last year. I had to put him down on Christmas day. The closer it gets to Christmas the more emotional I get. I am in tears as I am writing this. I miss him so much. In July my Paint mare Montana coliced and I had to have her put down. I raised both of them from babies and it has been really hard for me. I am riding again but I still miss them so much.”-Joyce P.

RoxyheadstoneI was fortunate to grow up in a family that had animals…which also meant that I learned early about death. We had rabbits, chickens, dogs just to name a few, which also meant that I learned that they all had varying natural lifespans. According to a quick Google search, the average human lifespan in the US is 79 and the average for horses is 25-30 years. I also learned at an early age, when my rabbit died of mastitis, that sometimes even that time is cut short.

It was very public when Roxy and Vaquero died, both at young ages but I have had other horses live well into their 20’s and 30’s. When they died the only real difference was that it was a little more expected…but not necessarily easier.

The morning Roxy died I stood in the vets clinic with Greg and through tears told him a quote that I had read somewhere, “Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.” Knowing this didn’t stop the tears but it has helped me to remember the good times. And I think that might be the key.

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My remuda in heaven…

Stacy rearing Misty- Stacy 11, Misty 21

Stacy rearing Misty- Stacy 11, Misty 21

Stacy Westfall and Bay- High School graduation

Stacy Westfall and Bay- High School graduation

 

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2014 in Video

 

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What is your opinion about hand feeding treats to horses? Jac Review Week

“Hi Stacy,  In the Jac videos- Episode 9-you talked about the youthful stallion drive toward dominance and biting.  What is your opinion about hand feeding treats to horses?  I’ve seen other opinions stating that one should never hand feed because it puts us submissive to the horses while others disagree.  I’ve got 9 horses whose ages range from 24 to yearlings.  Two of my three yearlings like to try to get in my bubble to get at the treats, so I’m working on this personal space issue.  Interestingly, the two are stallions while the third more respectful youngster is a mare.  What’s your opinion on treat feeding?  (PS  The other six in the herd take treats respectfully, although we have a special needs gelding who suffered brain damage due to an accident before we got him so care is needed feeding him because he’s simply uncoordinated, even with his mouth!)”-Joan J.

I am not opposed to feeding treats to horses but I do set rules and conditions. Over the years I have made some observations that I turned into general rules that I use with my horses.

#1- You can’t buy love…so don’t try to with treats.

I want my horses to engage with me, respect me and, yes, even love me but I don’t use treats to get this behavior. In fact, I don’t use treats at all until the horse is already respecting me. As a general rule I don’t give treats to a horse until they are pretty well trained both on the ground and under saddle. The age of the horse really isn’t the key here, but rather the amount of training time. Personally, it is rare for me to feed treats to a horse that I have had in training for less than a year. I make exceptions to this occasionally based on the horses previous experience and individual personality but I would rather delay giving treats than start too early.

#2- Treats can be a distraction and get in the way of the relationshipRoxy loved peppermints

One reason I wait to give treats is because it is possible for horses to become ‘all about the treats.’ If the horse becomes so focused on ‘do I get a treat, now? now? now?’ then it is a good sign that the treat is becoming a distraction. If relationship is what you are trying to build then you need to ask yourself if the horse is thinking about you…or the treat. If the answer is the treat then the relationship will suffer. Have you ever seen a child who was given more and more toys? Or expected a toy every time a parent returned home? The giver may have generated interest in the child through buying stuff…but usually with a cost to the relationship.

#3- The horses that demand treats…don’t get them.

If a horse is searching the human for treats then it is likely that treat giving has gone too far. Too many horses cross the line from curious to demanding. This is usually the stage where biting begins to occur. Not all horses that are given treats progress to this stage but some do. Other horses can eat treats for years and never become pushy or demanding while others seem to become a problem after a short time. This is because the issue isn’t really the treat…it is the individual nature of each horse coming out. The nature of the horse combined with the leadership of the handler is TESTED when treats are given.

#4-Treats can be used for a reward if respect is gained and not lost.

There are horses out there that benefit greatly from receiving treats. Ironically these horses often don’t want treats. I am specifically talking about horses that have been trained with methods that discourage the horse from expressing themselves. I wrote an entire article about retraining these ‘robotic’ horses (click here) but I didn’t go into detail about using treats. I use treats with these horses specifically because it breaks the structure of the way they have been handled by humans in the past. The treats give these horses the hope that humans may have more to offer them than work alone. In essence the treat is used to enhance the mood…a bit like the difference between a candlelight dinner vs florescent lighting.

When Roxy was on the Ellen show they bought her a bucket full of these treats...she was one happy pony! Just after the show went off air she dumped the entire bucket on the floor in the studio to the amusement of the entire audience:)

When Roxy was on the Ellen show they bought her a bucket full of these treats…she was one happy pony! Just after the show went off air she dumped the entire bucket on the floor in the studio to the amusement of the entire audience:)

If I had to sum up my strongest reason for using treats it would be that it can be fun for both the horse and the rider. I fed Roxy countless treats while hanging out or waiting around for our name to be called to show. I didn’t give her any treats early in training. I never used them directly as a reward for a specific maneuver; for example I DID NOT ask her to spin and then give her a treat. I DID use them as we were waiting to show, sometimes for an hour, to keep ourselves entertained. We had both worked hard and then we both enjoyed a peppermint while waiting.

To sum it all up and give you the short answer: I do feed treats to horses…but only if they are respectful.

 
 

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“Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”

Don't let yesterday use up too much of today. cherokee proverb

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in Life

 

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“People have problems with horses because they either don’t know or don’t pay attention.” Jesse Westfall quote

“People have problems with horses because they either don’t know or don’t pay attention.” Jesse Westfall quote

My husband, Jesse, was giving a lesson one day and I heard him say, “People have problems with horses because they either don’t know or don’t pay attention.” I quickly wrote it down and made a mental note to find a photo that would match it. There is so much truth in the statement. I don’t know anyone who chooses to have problems with horse. Most problems are caused because the human didn’t know;

  • didn’t know that running home every day would cause a horse who would run away
  • didn’t know that catching horses only to work them often ends in a horse who avoids being caught
  • didn’t know that rides either add to or subtract from the horses training…and a horse can be ‘untrained’ as well as trained

Sometimes ‘not knowing’ also is a lack of seeing the ’cause and effect’ which is part of the learning process. Someone paying attention would begin to notice when:

  • the horse begins to anticipate running home
  • the horse begins to avoid being caught
  • the horse is declining in training

Many things like rearing can be prevented or stopped if you can see the beginning…the head tossing, the refusal to go forward. Inexperience often causes people to miss these smaller signs. People who succeed with horses often:

  • ride with other experts-take a lesson, etc
  • watch videos of themselves riding to improve themselves
  • reflect on mistakes they have made and make a plan to improve

Everyone makes mistakes…but not everyone learns from them. Be one who learns.

 
25 Comments

Posted by on April 21, 2014 in quote, Training

 

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Doing everything vs doing what is important quote.

People expect us to do everything quote

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2014 in quote

 

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