RSS

Tag Archives: natural

What is your input on blanketing a horse or not in the winter and also how cold is too cold to let them out in pasture?

“What is your input on blanketing a horse or not in the winter and also how cold is to cold to let them out in pasture?”-Kimberly M.

I think that there are valid reasons both for and against blanketing horses and each person needs to evaluate what is best for their horse.

StacyWestfall'sfirsthorseI grew up in Maine and we never blanketed our horses. Sometimes the thermometer, without windchill, would go as low as -40…below zero. It got cold. Thankfully the wind didn’t blow when it was that cold and our horses grew thick coats and never shivered. All was good.

My mom still lives in Maine but she has different horses. One horse is in his 20’s and is a hard keeper. He grows a thick hair coat and doesn’t shiver but putting a rain sheet or waterproof blanket on him when it is extremely cold helps him to conserve energy and hold his weight better.

The other is a middle aged mare who is an easy keeper but naturally doesn’t grow much hair. I know because she lived with me for years and we kept her in a pasture with a run-in shed. Each year everyone else in the pasture grew enough hair to stay warm but this mare would only grow an average hair coat and then would shiver. Some people have told me that shivering is ‘natural’, which is obvious in one sense of the word, but whenever I have personally experienced shivering I have found it to be very unpleasant. I am convinced that some horses are ‘naturally’ given to growing more or less hair and as the mare can’t migrate south…I sent my mom a rain sheet and a waterproof blanket.

When I have horses in training that I am riding multiple times per week I keep them blanketed. I do this because if I don’t then they tend to overheat when working…imagine dressing in your best winter overalls and coat and then shoveling snow for an hour straight. Heavy winter wear is not the best when you’re doing heavy work. Every time I make that mistake I end up needing to remove layers, something my horse cannot choose to do if it is hair. By blanketing my horses that I am working I can help them regulate their temperature plus I can help them cool out quicker. A horse with a heavy hair coat that does get soaking wet from a workout can take hours to cool out and dry properly. A horse that has been blanketed can be cooled out in thirty minutes or less with a wool cooler.Luke, I am your father!

The choice to blanket also comes with the responsibility to check and maintain the horses regularly. If I have horses that I am blanketing it is a lot of extra work in the fall and the spring. I have to pay attention to the daytime and nighttime temperatures and change their layers accordingly. For a fully blanketed show horse it is normal to change their layers every ten degrees. I do not choose to blanket horses just for the fun of it…it is far too much work if that is the only reason.

If you don’t need a short hair coat because you are working the horse regularly but want to blanket sometimes then consider only adding below a certain temperature. If you choose to only blanket when the temperature is below ten degrees then your horse will still grow a pretty thick hair coat. Plus by selecting a low temperature like zero or ten degrees you won’t have all of the extra work in the spring and fall.

I prefer to leave horses that aren’t working regularly without blankets and allow them to grow as much hair as possible. I also recognize that some times blanketing can be either helpful, as in the training situation, or best, such as with the hard keeper.

As far as how cold is too cold I think there are different factors to look at. How healthy the horse is, what type of shelter or wind break is available, and how much forage is available are all part of the equation. Keep in mind that a great source of internal heat for horses in the winter is digesting hay and fresh, unfrozen, water is always a must.Mini horses in snow

Each situation will be a little different and I’m sure that many people will leave comments about the temperatures their horses have successfully lived in. Here is a comment following my blog on “How cold is too cold to ride a horse.” 

“Up here in Canada if we don’t ride when it’s “too cold” – we wouldn’t ride for half the year! 😉 At our barn we just make sure we ride the horses according to the temperature. On the really cold days we might just play with some trail obstacles or do ground work in order to not sweat the horses up. Oh, and I’ve discovered that “hot paws” are a girl’s best friend in the winter! They are little heated pads that go inside your gloves and boots. Life savers! (or should I say “digit savers”!)”-Kim

I have more often kept my horses in because of ice or poor footing instead of the weather being too cold. Unfortunately, someone will leave a comment saying that it is totally natural for horses to endure any weather. While it is true that horses live in the wild, they also can suffer in the wild. I have personally seen horses with half their ears because the tops were frozen off…natural, yes, but not something I’m interested in.

While googling for info I found a great article on Discoverhorses.com quoting Dr. Joyce Harman, “There is no temperature where it is too cold for a horse to be ridden or to go outside if they are adapted to it.”

I think each person needs to evaluate their situation. Some places are going to get extreme wind, others extreme snow or ice and still others extreme cold, each brings its own challenges. Keep in mind that sudden or unusual weather won’t allow the horses time to adapt.

Often I have to laugh when I go out in the cold with my horses. Some of my best memories are with my horses in the winter. They tend to be fresh and full of energy and for the most part they seem to handle the cold weather much better than I do.

 
25 Comments

Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Life, Members Question

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Video: Horse that falls down to avoid being ridden.

“Stacy Westfall , Have you seen this video? What would you do to fix this?”-Ashley N.

No, I hadn’t seen this video until you posted it here. It was an interesting watch and I think I will answer your question in two parts.

First, if the horse is laying down to avoid being ridden he has learned that there is a reward for lying down. The simplest answer is to either prevent the behavior that leads up to the horse going down or to make it uncomfortable for the horse to stay down. Tapping persistently until the horse chooses to stand up would be enough to make him think about getting up.

My issue with the video is that it looks like this horse was trained to lay down on purpose. I have seen horses trained ‘accidentally’ to lie down. One example of this was when I was in college and I saw a horse get dizzy while learning to spin like a reiner. All was fine during the spin but when the rider said ‘whoa’ and the horse stopped he started wobbling, lost his balance and chose to lie down. It was slow motion and no one got hurt…in fact the girl got off and laughed. Everyone laughed. The horse got a nice break and eventually stood up. Apparently the break was long enough because the next time the girl asked him to spin he started to…but then chose to lie down. Again she laughed and didn’t make him get up. Within a couple of days he would lay down every time she asked him to spin…then she stopped laughing.

The key difference with that horse and the one in the video is that the one in this video doesn’t lie down smoothly like a horse in a pasture would. Horses choosing to lay down usually look like…well, horses choosing to lay down. This one is unnaturally stiff. He does get smoother on the second time but he also backs into it which is also unusual unless trained.

This one looks like it was trained to bow on two knees and then had its head pulled to the side. Notice how stiff the horse is when it collapse to the ground. When is the last time you saw a horse lay down like that on its own? If this horse had thought of this on his own, the odds are he would be smoother. Even if it is trained he will get smoother with practice.

I have trained several horses to lay down. The first few I taught to bow and then lie down and they all had this stiff look shown in the video. I didn’t like the look and the horses had trouble connecting what I wanted so I changed my methods. Now my horses draw their legs together and choose to lay down very smooth the way they do naturally.

Once down most horses do tend to lay very still, almost stiff, when on their sides. I have never tried sticking a carrot in their mouth to see what they would do…but I think I will be buying a carrot and giving it a try with Newt, lol.

Who knows, maybe I am wrong. Maybe this horse did just start doing this stiff fall on his own. Stranger things have happened. Horses are certainly smart enough to connect the dots if they find an easy way out of work.

 

 
18 Comments

Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Members Question, Thought provoking, Training, Video

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why does my horse paw while eating grain?

“Help!! I just got my mare a year ago, and from day one, whenever I feed her grain, she picks up her front foot. She isn’t aggressive in any way, shape, or form. Has anyone ever seen any type of behavior like this? Eating grain is the only time she does it. Thanks!!”-Kelly S.

When I watch horses eat their ‘natural’ food source, grass, it is easy to see that they have to work a little to eat it.  If you watch a horse eat grass they pull, tear or rip it up.

If you give a young horse hay or grass from your hand they gather it in their lips and pull like they are going to tear it from the ground. As they get more experience they often learn that this isn’t necessary, but it does tend to be their first response. I have even seen horses that pull apart round bales seeming to prefer to eat hay that requires them to pull on it over the loose stuff on the ground. Not all do this and some horses are content to eat the loose hay on the ground.

Low corner feeder discourages pawing while eating grain.

Low corner feeder discourages pawing while eating grain.

My theory is that the grain is easy for them to pick up but easy isn’t what they were designed for. Some horses that are picky eaters are ok with nibbling but others seem to struggle with feeling satisfied by the method of feeding. There have been entire books written about the the pros and cons of feeding grain so I will save that topic for another day.

If the grain feeder is raised the pawing is generally more animated with the leg being lifted higher. If the grain is fed on the ground the horse tends to spread it out…and then nibble around for it.

In our barn we built low corner feeders with a concrete base that was ground level and the boards were about knee height. This eliminated almost 100% of pawing in all the horses because it is more difficult to paw with their heads down and the board in the way. Occasionally a new horse would paw and bump their leg into the board but either the board or the difficulty of the position discouraged pawing and they stopped.

My horses have free choice hay and the minimum about of grain necessary. I use a ration balancing feed that doesn’t require a large amount which makes it easier to digest and they tend to eat it and then return to their hay.

We have also noticed that the horses that we have that would normally paw while eating alone in their stalls don’t tend to exhibit this as much when out in a group. They seem to know that they had better spend more time eating and less time playing if they want to get their fair share.

Try experimenting with some of the things listed above and let me know how it goes.

Have a suggestion or thought? Leave it below.

 

 

 
34 Comments

Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Members Question

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac…New Beginnings

Life has many twists and turns and I am constantly intrigued by the directions it takes. When I started my journey with Jac it was a personal milestone for me. It was accepting what had happened with Roxy and seeing that I had something to offer Jac.Jac’s progress was shared with the world.

I tried to imagine what it would be like to video Jac’s progress and share it with the world. I knew it would be an interesting journey…because every horse I have trained has been an interesting journey. There are always questions that come up during the process, some have clear answers; correct Jac when he bites, others are not as easy; do I show him now or wait another month?

What I love about training horses is that there are always breakthroughs. Many of these moments happen in the barn and are never seen by anyone but the horse and rider. Following Jac allowed many of these moments to be caught on film. Most of these breakthroughs are small, incremental steps. These steps lead the horses forward, sometime that is a path to greatness in the show pen and other times it is to a life of bringing joy to someone in their backyard. The point isn’t to make horses that are great in the show pen…it is to make horses that are great individuals no matter where they are.

And as predicted, horses have setbacks, that was illustrated by Jac along the way. Simple things like when I went out of town and Jac didn’t get trained to bigger things like dental trips, vets and chiropractic adjustments. Many of you identified with the sometimes difficult decisions that surround owning horses.

I am very satisfied with everything that I accomplished with Jac. I believe that the foundation he has will be with him for a lifetime. I am also glad that I chose to be a part of Jac’s journey. You may remember that I struggled at first with the idea that he would look like Roxy and the relief that I found in the simple fact that he was a different color. The more I got to know Jac the more I was able to see him as a unique individual, which was a good thing. It was a good thing for me because it helped to move me away from directly comparing him to Roxy. It was a good thing for Jac because he has his own uniqueness and shouldn’t have to spend his life trying to be someone else.

As of Monday, Jac was sold.

As of Monday, Jac was sold.

When the video project started we committed to bringing you the ups, the downs “and everything in between” during Jac’s journey and this week Jac has moved into another phase of his life.

It was fitting that I received this question after last weeks episode of Jac;

“Laughing, really, at my self for thinking this but: What does Greg do? Haha. I mean what does he do to earn enough money to invest in horses, their care and training with you? You are all truly blessed.” -Natalie

Greg really is a regular guy who decided to try reining. He works in a small family business in the office where he manages the accounting. He cleans stalls, saves his money and goes to horse shows when he can. Like many other people across the country he keeps horses in training with professionals because horses are the hobby he has chosen instead of golf or fishing or any other sport. Greg just happened to call the Westfall’s who just happened to know of a horse for sale…who just happened to turn out to be Roxy. Life takes interesting turns. Coincidence or Godincidence? I know what I believe.

Greg bred Roxy because she was an amazing horse and he looked for professional guidance to ensure that his decision would also help to improve the breed. I believe that he accomplished that goal with the four foals that she had before she died.

Like most horse owners Greg also knew that he probably wouldn’t keep them all. He struggled with the decision to sell Roxy’s first foal, Roxter, but eventually chose to keep the filly and sell the stallion. The money from Roxter’s sale helped to fund the breeding and eventual training of Jac. Watching Roxter succeed was a blessing because, although a small part of Greg knew he once owned that horse, another part of Greg knew that Roxter may never have reached that same potential while he owned him.

Roxter also played a part in the decision to collect Jac’s semen. Jac has played a different role than Roxter because Roxter was the first of Roxy’s foals, but Jac was the last. Rationally this shouldn’t change things much, but emotionally it changed things a lot. As Jac’s owner Greg has wrestled with the idea of selling Jac. He sold Roxter because he knew he didn’t have the facility to keep a stallion long term but he was still tempted to keep Jac. Greg is a friend as well as a client and throughout this journey we have been trying to help him with the decision. If you listen during episode (12) you can hear me say that Greg is there watching. He also drove down numerous times to watch Jac while we lived in Ohio and flew down to Texas when we were there. It was easy to see that Jac was a nice horse, it was easy to see that he could be successful…but one thing kept nagging Greg. He had made the decision to sell Roxter because he was a stud, why was Jac different? Long term what was best for Jac?Hindsight may be clear but foresight isn’t quite as easy.

Don’t we all wish we knew what was best long term? Hindsight may be clear but foresight isn’t quite as easy. Jesse and I had decided to sell our house in 2012 and when it sold in 2013 things got more complicated. We want to live nomadically, roaming around the country with our kids and horses for a year or two…but that decision effects other things. Did Jac’s plan fit with ours?

Jac is clearly bred well and he is talented. The reality of being a successful stallion is earning the right to breed, proving that the horse carries the potential to improve the equine world. Am I the right person to give Jac that opportunity? I have confidence in my ability to train a horse but I am also realistic about having the facility and the time.. I have chosen over the last few years to spend less time showing and more time traveling and teaching.

As you all know, I dropped Jac off at Select Breeders to be collected at the end of June. At that time they told us that they would likely need him for a 4-6 weeks. Our son needed to show his horse the second weekend in August in Ohio to finish his green reiner belt buckle points and I told Greg we would plan on picking Jac up after that show. It ended up that Jac completed his ‘job’ at Select Breeders before our son showed and Greg needed to decide what to do with Jac. Greg was still considering selling and we suggested that if he was serious we could suggest a trainer nearby Select Breeders that could evaluate Jac. We knew we liked Jac but there was always the chance that we were biased.

Greg chose to have Jac evaluated and we suggested a trainer that we thought might fit Jac’s style. It turns out that we were not biased, other people agreed Jac was a very nice horse and someone made an offer to buy Jac. Greg accepted the offer and as of Monday, Jac was sold.

It is interesting how life works. The money that Greg received from selling Roxter was used to create and train Jac. Jac was a blessing to Greg, myself and the many viewers of the Jac series and he still has more potential. Will he be a great show horse? A great sire? Only time will tell.

Greg enrolled Jac in the AQHA Full Circle Program

Greg enrolled Jac in the AQHA Full Circle Program

I do know that Greg will use the money to continue the bloodlines. He has kept two fillies out of Roxy and I am looking forward to riding not only Roxy’s sons and daughters, but her granddaughters and more. Greg also signed Jac up for the AQHA Full Circle Program which helps ensure that Greg will always be notified should Jac ever become unwanted or ready for retirement.

Even though I will no longer be training Jac, I still hope to do some follow up blogs and videos. I will aim to attend some of the shows that Jac goes to and I will continue to be his fan. Jesse and I will also be keeping our eyes open for the perfect mare to use some of Jac’s frozen semen with. Riding one of Jac’s foals would be the fourth generation of the bloodline that I have ridden…I would enjoy that.

It is tempting to look at Jac’s sale as an ending but I am choosing to look at it as a new beginning. I expect that Jac will receive exceptional care and planning very similar to what Roxter has. I am also looking forward to the next chapter in my life. I am a trainer at heart and I am seriously considering the suggestion of training a rescue horse as my next project.

I still love the following paragraphs that have been at the end of each Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac, Youtube video. I was tempted to change the first line to “This was the story…” but I am unable to because I believe the story will go on. This is just another twist in the road, and I am excited to see what is around the next bend.

*        *         *

This is the story of Jacs Electric Whiz (Jac), the last baby out of Whizards Baby Doll, better known as “Roxy”. Roxy touched the hearts of horse lovers around the world when she and Stacy Westfall made history with their bareback and bridleless freestyle reining ride. The loss of Roxy in 2012 has left a void in the equine community. Although nobody can replace her, Roxy’s spirit lives on, not only in our hearts, but in Jac as well.

Join us as we follow Jac through weekly videos documenting his training journey from his first session to his first show and more. It is a journey filled with questions, breakthroughs, setbacks and accomplishments… and everything in between.

Below is the video that most of you thought was the end of the season:

Below is the video of our interview with Greg:

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac- Episode 41-Why didn’t Stacy own Roxy? Or Jac?

Ever wondered why Stacy didn’t own Roxy? Or Jac?

Meet Greg, the man who took a risk and bought Roxy for the Westfall’s to train. Greg went from trail riding and camping to owning one of the most famous horses in the world. What was that like and how did it happen?

Listen for

  • The reason why Stacy & Jesse didn’t buy Roxy.
  • Why Stacy doesn’t have regrets
  • Why Greg kept buying Roxy a secret…(I love Jesse’s response to that one, “Well, it turned out OK.”)
  • The fact that Greg owns Roxy’s mother and full sister, two of Roxy’s daughters and Roxy’s granddaughter
  • How many foals did Roxy have?
  • Funny stories about owning Roxy….
  • What was it like owning a famous horse?
 
9 Comments

Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Video

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stages of training: How fast or slow should I go when teaching a horse? Jac Review week

“Stacy, my name is Keith I have been starting young horses for 25 years most of them have been cutting horses getting them ready for trainers this is the third time that I try to teach spinning on a young horse and it is beginning to happen I am very excited . So excited that I need someone to tell me how fast or slow should I go. I know that I should wait on the horse and let the horse tell me but I am too excited I need someone to talk to. Please help. I only take in two horses per month I am a truck driver during the day and I ride horses at night that’s why I am so excited about this. Cutting hasn’t been very big in south Louisiana so I have been studying your episodes with Jac for the last six months. I am always willing to learn more about horses so thank you for the episodes of Jac. It has given me something else to learn about and I surely enjoy reining.”

Keith- I am very glad that you have enjoyed the Jac series and that you have found it helpful. The shortest answer is; If you want the horse to be solid then allow the horse time to practice the footwork before you speed things up. Now for the long answer:)

Spinning is an advanced form of steering. Keep that in mind. Even if you don’t need your horse to be a ‘reiner’ you could still work on this foundation to improve the steering on any horse.stages of training a horse

When I am training a horse there are stages of training. In the first stage of training I am often trying to physically show the horse what I want. For steering this starts all the way back during groundwork when I am first picking up on the rein and releasing when the horse turns his head in that direction. The physical pressure is causing the horse to search for the release. I explain and demonstrate this in Episode 24 at minute 2:38.

A little later in episode 24, at minute 5:50,  you can see the first time that I physically show Jac how to start the spin. It takes me physically shaping Jac from around 5:50 to about 7:19 before his body finds the shape I want to fully reward for. I consider this to still be part of the first stage.

  1. Physically showing the horse
  2. allowing the horse to make mistakes and find rewards
  3. Horse mentally chooses

The second stage of training is shown in Episode 25 at minute 1:30. In this video you can clearly see that Jac is no longer in stage 1, instead you can see that Jac is physically and mentally engaging in this. Can you see the difference? From minute 4 to 6:20 is a great example of what this middle stage looks like. I spend most of my time in this stage. I will also return to this stage when I am progressing the horse. Jac is a great example of a horse that is allowing me to physically handle him while he is mentally trying to figure out what is wanted.

The most common mistake in this stage is that people rush the horse. People feel the potential but they incorrectly assume that kicking or pulling harder will make things happen faster. Physically the horse will throw itself around faster…but mentally the horse needs time to choose. Also, physically the horse is better off in the long run if they can practice the steps slow before adding speed.

A great place to see horses that have been rushed in this stage is often at an auction. It is common to see a horse that doesn’t have a solid foundation in the spin being asked to go fast and look flashy as they ride the horse through the pen. Not all auctions are like this but because the ring sizes are often small and the spin is an impressive move I have seen many horses demonstrating poor training in that situation.

A horse that is rushed in the first two stages will have difficulty reaching the third stage which is where the horse mentally chooses to perform the maneuver. How can you tell if you are rushing or if you are moving at a comfortable pace for the horse?

One good indicator is when you can add speed by bumping your leg but using LESS rein. If you have to use more rein then the horse isn’t staying in the spin on his own. They are ready to add speed when they stay in it on their own. Go back and watch the different clips of Jac between episode 24 and episode 31 and look specifically for how much, or how little, I am helping him with my hand vs my leg. Also pay attention to the total training hours. Jac had around 40 hours of training at Episode 24 and was over 120 hours by Episode 31.

In Episode 31 at 6 minutes you can see Jac has reached the third stage of training in the spin. Jac is mentally choosing the spin. I may still use my leg or some rein but it is clear that Jac is not being held in the spin by me…he is choosing it.

Keep in mind that these stages of training exist in all areas with your horse. It is the difference between having a horse that drags you around on a lunge line or one that lunges around you with no line at all. It is also the difference between a horse that rides around with a bridle or without. All of the stages are important.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is the most effective fly spray for horses out there right now?

“Hey Stacy. How about a poll? What is the most effective fly spray out there right now? Anyone got a special mix they are using? I need to control/repel mosquitoes, horn flies, deer flies, and the occasional horse fly.”-Carla V.

How about it? What do you use to control flies around your horses? What flies are a problem for you?

Do you use feed through or spray on or both?

Mud: the all natural fly repellent.

Mud: the all natural fly repellent.

Water based? Oil based? All natural?

Please, leave a comment and help us all learn what you use and why.

Feel free to use product names and what you think the product works best for. Do you like it because it stays on a long time or because it controls mosquitoes? Details please!

 

 
115 Comments

Posted by on August 11, 2014 in Members Question

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,