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Who needs insurance for their horse?

Who needs insurance for their horse? This is the question that I asked and insurance agent. What do you think he said?

I was expecting him to say “everyone” but to my surprise he didn’t.  His answer was, “If you can’t write a check to replace the horse, then you should consider insurance.”

Hum, this sounded a lot like the training I had received about insurance when I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace class. And it was fairly similar to advice I have given over the years.

I have never, personally, insured a horse…but I have recommended that other people do. Why the difference?

The last person I helped walk through this decision was a lady who had been saving up to buy a really nice reining horse for several years. She purchased a horse that was ready to show for about $20,000. What she had purchased was a sane, sound and ready to show horse that had several years of training with a professional. She had also purchased a friendly, kind horse that was a joy to be around. Insurance would not be able to help her through the pain of losing her horse but it would give her the ability to purchase one trained to the same level again.

The most valuable horse I have personally owned was my stallion, Vaquero. I purchased him when he was three and he died at the age of six. I had considered insuring him but I chose not to. My reasoning was that I could not walk out and buy another one that was trained to his same level. If something were to happen to Vaquero then I knew I would be starting from scratch with another horse and would be investing years in training. Essentially, I could have insured him for his ‘raw’ value, the untrained value, but either way I was going to be putting in the time again.

I had no idea that I would lose Vaquero so young. He died in 2012 and I just now –almost -have a horse trained to that level again. Although I didn’t have insurance I did have the ‘next’ horse already standing in the barn, Newt. Insurance would have paid me for my time but nothing can help me know if the horse I am investing my time in will ever reach bridleless competition level.

Do I regret not having Vaquero insured? Yes…and no. The money would have helped pay for the vet bills that I ran up trying to save him and it would have given me the opportunity to possibly purchase another young prospect. But, there was one moment where I was very happy NOT to have insurance.

THE FOLLOWING is not a reason to skip insuring…but I do wish I had been more emotionally prepared.

When things were looking really bad for Vaquero and we were at the vets they have to try to tell you how bad it is. One of the ways they tell you is they will say, “Insurance company guidelines will allow…” and this makes sense. You don’t want vets declaring horses beyond saving…if they really aren’t. But when the vets told me that, had Vaquero been insured, the insurance company would have approved euthanizing…I remember feeling conflicted. There was a moment where I was glad that he wasn’t insured because I WANTED the feeling of loss and I didn’t want a feeling of gain. I didn’t want to wonder why I made the choice.

In hindsight this was a very emotional reaction at a very emotional time, but I am still thankful that I experienced it. I know I made the choice I would have made either way. Maybe in the future I will have an insured horse and will have to make the same decision again. I really hope I’m NEVER in that situation again though. Maybe it will benefit someone who reads this though. From my experience when the vets say it is this bad…it is bad.

The majority of horses that I have had in training over the years have not been insured. Do you have your horses insured? If so, what are they insured against?

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Vaquero after his second trip to the vet, just before his last trip to the vet.

Vaquero six months earlier.

For the rest of Vaquero’s blogs:

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2014 in Life, Thought provoking, Video

 

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How long did you ride while you were pregnant?

“Stacy, I know you have 3 boys, and I was just wondering how long you rode while you were pregnant. Did you compete, or was it more riding for pleasure?Thanks, and I look forward to hearing your response!”-Sharli

“Stacy, Just wondering what ideas you might have for a pregnant gal to keep her horse in shape for next year. I’m 5 months along now and my husband has asked that I stay safe and do not canter or trot my horse. We do mostly gaming. If you have any ideas I would appreciate it. Thank you!”-Crystal N.

I do have three sons and I received differing advice during my pregnancies from professionals. My first advice would be to follow your doctors orders. For fun I will also recap some of what I did.Stacy Westfall's son and horse

I became pregnant with my first son in the fall. I was newly married and I had a job as a bank teller. I had recently sold my only horse (with a promise to buy him back someday) and Jesse and I hadn’t started our training business yet. This made it easy for me to not ride. The temptation of riding a horse I knew wasn’t there and I wasn’t interested in experimenting with other horses. Over that winter Jesse started riding a few horses for people and I grew restless without horses to work. I cleaned stalls, brushed horses and watched Jesse ride. That spring I trained a filly for the yearling lounge line class. I have a win photo from a show shortly after my son was born…but it is buried in my storage unit in Ohio. My Doctor recommended that I wait to ride for 6-8 weeks after my son was born so I did.

When I became pregnant with my second son we were training horses and I was staying home with my first son. I rode, with permission, quite awhile into my pregnancy. I tended to lose weight for the first three months and then it took a month or two to gain back to my original weight. It didn’t seem like a big deal to ride because all of the horses were broke (no colt starting) and it didn’t seem uncomfortable…until around 5-6 months. At that point I noticed several things. First, my balance was affected. Not huge, but it was there. Second, I could feel the supporting muscles in my stomach being stressed-especially at a lope. At the time the doctor and I were both operating under the idea that ‘if I was in shape for it, it probably would be safe’. The thinking was very similar to the runner, Alysia Montano, in California who competed while 8.5 months pregnant.

Stacy Westfall's boys ridingI was due January 1st and when the Congress entries had to be mailed in August 20th I thought it was a good idea to sign up for the Ladies Reining. Keep in mind that shortly after this is when I started to notice the symptoms above. By September Jesse was riding the horse for me most of the time and I would get on occasionally. I did show at the Congress in October and my son was born December 22. I have a photo sliding and placing at the Congress while very pregnant. It is buried somewhere in my storage unit in Ohio…but maybe it should stay there, if I remember correctly it was taken after midnight and we all look worn out, lol.

The third time was a bit more interesting because of one woman I met. My third pregnancy started out like the rest and I rode. People didn’t even know I was pregnant for quite awhile and I continued riding aged horses and showing. One day I was at a small local show and a lady walked up and introduced herself to me. She told me she was a nurse and she worked with my sister-in-law. We visited for a few minutes and then she mentioned that she had heard I was pregnant. I confirmed this and then she said, “I know it isn’t any of my business but I feel the need to tell you something. I am a nurse. I specifically work with newborns. You are an expert in the horse world and I respect that. I also would guess that, as a professional, you have seen more than most when it comes to bad things that can happen.”

I nodded in agreement. She went on, “You have probably learned both from mistakes you have made…but also from mistakes you have seen other people make.” I nodded again.

“I am asking you to consider not riding. I know it feels safe because you know the horses but think of the risk. I work everyday with children who are born premature, who are injured before they are even born. I see the problems and the pain it causes their families. If they could go back and change things they would. What if your horse trips? Just a simple trip could cost your babies life.”The barn help

As you can tell, she was very convincing. I had seen a horse trip and go down in a smooth arena, on a loose rein, for no reason and the rider suffered from a dislocated shoulder. Accidents do happen and as soon as she gave me her perspective I couldn’t erase it from my mind. I went home and didn’t ride for the remainder of that pregnancy. I still cleaned stalls and spent time in the barn. I am aware that accidents can still happen on the ground or driving in a car, but I also had two small children and when I looked at them I knew I wanted to do all I could to reduce any chance of hurting the baby I was carrying.

I believe that if I had met this lady during my first pregnancy I would never have ridden during any of them.

I wouldn’t feel bad turning my horse out during my pregnancy and accepting the idea that we could both get fit together after my baby was born. I can imagine doing groundwork once the doctor has cleared you for lifting weight, etc after the baby was born and then, when cleared by the doctor, I could see my horse getting fit along with me. Horses that are turned out will stay in shape pretty well. Another option would be to lease the horse to a friend or someone you trust. The options are almost limitless when doing this-you could choose to keep the horse at your house, you could give lessons, you could allow the horse to go to someone’s barn that you trust-the list goes on and on.

Congratulations. Enjoy this time. I loved being pregnant. Keep safe and remember there will be plenty of time for riding in the future. Getting back on after some time off is a little bit like a Christmas present to yourself.

 

 
19 Comments

Posted by on December 2, 2014 in Life, Members Question, Thought provoking

 

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Goal setting…even if you’re not sure how to measure the results.

A little over a year ago I set a goal for myself to blog every day for one year. That was a measurable goal. I also set the goal of having the #1 Horse Blog on the internet. Here is the interesting thing.

I had no idea how to measure if I had reached that goal. I’m not a tech person, I don’t know web analytics and I’d never seen a award given for the ‘best horse blog.’

But I’m not a stranger to setting goals that are difficult to measure. Sure, I can set out to ride my horse five days a week, that is a very measurable goal but often I want more. I want to have a good ‘relationship’ with my horse. How do I measure that? Should I give him a survey at the end of the year? If we have one bad day does it erase three good ones? In the end I have to accept that some goals are easier to measure than others.

This week I was surprised, and thrilled, to see the photo below pop up on my Facebook page. I know that HorseClicks isn’t trying to say that I’m the #1 Horse Blogger out there…but the post was still exciting for me to see. Maybe I did reach that goal. Maybe I didn’t. Maybe I will never know. But I’m still glad I set it because it helped point me in the direction I wanted to go.

Stacy Westfall #1 Horse Blogger?

Setting goals doesn’t always require knowing the end result.

 

 

 
8 Comments

Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Life

 

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“How do you decide how long a training session with your horse should be?” -brought to you by Weaver Leather

“How do you decide how long a  training session with your horse should be?”-Cindy M

There are many factors that go into deciding how long a training session should be. Often people decide how much training time by how long they have but it is generally better if we can set the goal to be primarily physical or emotional.

In a training session we are either trying to change something physically or mentally with the horse. Knowing what your focus is will help you determine how long the session will be. For example, in this video I am riding Al, an off the track Thoroughbred that is being retrained as a riding horse. This video is one entire training session and yes, it is only about three minutes long. During this session I was mostly focused on the mental training. Al anticipated hard work so I purposely chose to do some very short rides, even if I rode him once in the morning and once in the evening. My purpose was to change the way he thought about a typical ride.

Al also preferred going to the right instead of the left so I purposely only rode him to the left. I was again trying to plant a mental seed of ‘left’ being the answer.

Also, notice that I didn’t try to accomplish a lot of different things in this time period. I stayed smooth and steady which will help Al have a positive experience.

There have been other horses, on other days where I was trying to accomplish other goals so my rides were drastically different. For example, I have ridden horses with ‘relax’ as the goal, so I spent 2-3 hours riding them but not working them hard. This was planting the seed that neither one of us was going to rush through the process so we should both relax.

Other times I have been working on more physical goals such as improving the spin or the slide. Physical training often requires repetition much like learning to dance and it would be common for me to reward the physical improvement.

We are always training both the physical and the emotional but I have a plan before I head out to ride as to which will be my focus for that day. I am free to end the session if I see any improvement or if I am ‘planting’ a seed. Remember, any improvement should be considered a success.

 
 

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What should you look for in your first horse?

“How do you know what a horse is really suited for in the way of a discipline? I am new to riding and looking at a beautiful 8 year old palomino mare… walker…. She has not been worked in awhile but we connected immediately! These are naive questions, but can you train for barrels, reining, or what breeds are more suited for particular disciplines? She is really smart and special!!
Thanks so much” …. Rozanne

What should you look for in your first horse?

Buying a horse is a big deal, especially if you are new to riding. This generally means that you will have less experience and, like any other area of life, less experience means your direction is probably not as clear. It is good that you are asking questions like this one but at the same time it is possible that a year from now you will have a better idea of the direction you are headed.

I am going to answer your question from several different angles. First, many breeds can compete at lower levels in a variety of disciplines. When you look at the high levels in specific disciplines you will tend to see certain breeds that excel. Sometimes breeds are lumped into categories because they have similarities. For example, if someone says that the ‘stock breeds’ tend to excel in reining they are lumping Quarter Horses, Paints and Appaloosas together under one title. If you are looking at a walking horse it would be good to look at what areas they excel in and see if those appeal to you.

When considering what appeals to you think about what the majority of your time will be spent doing with your horse. If you will mostly trail ride but occasionally show then your needs will be different then if you mostly show and occasionally trail ride. If you have been taking lessons from someone then ask them to sit down and evaluate things with you. Get their professional opinion of your strengths and weaknesses as a rider.

Many people also go about this with a completely different approach, especially with their first horse. They often buy a horse while they have little experience and accept the idea that they have no real idea of where they are headed except out for a ride. In this case these people tend to look at the horse for direction; they own a walking horse so they pick events that the horse would excel at.

Even inside specific breeds looking to the horse is important. I own a horse, Popcorn, that I bought at the Road to the Horse. He is a Quarter Horse and they typically do well in reining but he isn’t bred strongly for it.  Although I trained him and showed him successfully in reining, it was not his strength so I changed gears. He is my favorite trail horse, I use him when training my young horses and he has won me several belt buckles in mounted shooting. Popcorn wasn’t bought to excel in one sport, he was bought to be my horse and we do what we like.

When I am competing in reining I select horses that are strongly bred for that discipline but I rode horses for close to fifteen years before I began to focus on reining.

My first horse.

My first horse.

I do remember the excitement of buying my first horse. I also remember thinking about all of the different options out there and I worried that I would choose wrong. Much like you I looked at horses and picked the one that I connected with…strange how that happens. We also had a professional evaluate the horse and we did a vet check. I played with many, many things over the years from trail riding to contesting, parades, swimming and jumping. I never regretted my choice.

Not everyone has that same first horse experience, but many do. One of the advantages that experience gives is that quite often things become more clear, because much learning takes place in our mistakes. I tried many things with my first horse but we didn’t excel at all of them…but we still had fun.

If I had one piece of advice, beyond getting hands on advice from a pro, it would be to remember to buy a horse you will enjoy being with. That includes both the appropriate training level and who the horse is at the core. Are you drawn to horses with a sweet temperament? Goofy? Serious? Many aspects of your horse can be trained and improved but their personality should be one you enjoy.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on September 13, 2014 in Members Question

 

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Should I breed my mare: Things to consider before breeding your mare.

Newt foal cost

1-Commitment Are you breeding to sell or for your personal enjoyment? Many people own a mare that they love and would like to raise one foal out of. This decision is usually made more from an emotional level than from a selling stand point.

I personally made this decision with my mare when I was 17 years old. I loved her and wanted one foal out of her. I had no intention of selling and was willing to make a lifetime commitment. As much as that is possible anyway. In my youthful ignorance I never considered financial difficulties, unseen health problems or death.

Because I made the decision from an emotional level and was not well informed I bred a horse that would not have had much resale value. In hindsight, it is in the horses best interest if he is considered ‘valuable’ to a larger group of people than only me…that way if something happens to me he has more of a future.

A horse will be dependent on a human for the rest of his life.

2-Marketability-Some people breed with the intention of selling. All people should consider what would happen if the horse needed to be sold. Even people with the intention of keeping the horse forever should consider the fact that the future may surprise them. Job loss, financial difficultly, unforeseen health problems, job change, divorce, drug use and death affect many people, and horses, each year.

What will happen if you die? Try to imagine where the horse you create will or could end up. The larger number of people the horse would appeal to the safer the horses future will be.

3-Danger– Breeding has risks. That includes the breeding and the foaling process. There is a risk of a rectal tear during artificial insemination which leads to death. Older mares that have never been breed have a higher risk of uterine artery rupture. Delivering a foal that is not positioned correctly can be dangerous or deadly. Retained placentas can be deadly. Maiden mares are often confused by the process. My roommate from college nearly lost her mare to a uterine torsion which she caught early (colic type symptoms). The mare had to have emergency surgery to prevent death. Shortly after this surgery, similar to colic surgery, she went into labor and gave birth (c-sections are risky). The foal then required intensive care and medications that have had long term negative effects. And lots of money.

We nearly lost one of our mares during foaling just due to confusion on her part. She refused to lay down and was repeatedly beginning to deliver,  pushing the feet clear and between contractions the foal would slip back inside. Three of us, with foaling experience, were unable to help her until she finally laid down. She quickly delivered but the damage had been done.

In six hours it became evident that she had damaged all the nerves to her hind end causing the inability to pass manure or urine. Not good.

We were informed this could be permanent damage. We were advised that if it was permanent that the mare would require daily removal of the manure by hand; literally reaching inside to clean her out.

Thankfully she responded to IV drugs administered at Ohio State University.

4-Cost-If you have read this far you can do the math and see that often the stud fee is the cheap part. Artificial Newt cost 4 yr oldinsemination, sexually transmitted disease and infection from live cover, cost of ownership and potential problems all need to be factored in beyond just the stud fee. Increasing the horses value also involves training as they get older which is also costly whether it costs you in time or cash.

Information is power. Planning can also be prevention. Please use this article as a starting point and continue to gather information before making this decision.

As for me, I have bred and foaled out ten mares that we personally owned. Of that ten we still own five, one died as a weanling and we sold four. Three of the four we sold are in their forever homes…as much as that is possible. One has been trained and is currently for sale. We haven’t bred any mares in the last three year.

If we choose to breed again we will do so because we think we can improve the equine industry with the resulting foal.

But what if you really, really want one of those cute foals! Have no fear, there is still another answer. Adopt.

Check out somewhere like The Last Chance Corral. Victoria and the staff can show you how you can have the emotional experience of both raising and SAVING the life of one of those cute little foals.

 
35 Comments

Posted by on January 11, 2014 in Life, Video

 

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Should I sell my horse?

Breaking Up is Hard to Do….an article I wrote as published in Americas Horse magazine.

By Stacy Westfall

There’s no doubt that some of the happiest moments of horse ownership come when you take delivery of that new horse.  It’s kind of like infatuation —easy to see all the great things about the new partner, and any negatives or possible problems are easily overlooked.  Expectations are high and as far as potential success goes, the sky’s the limit.  You figure you and your new horse will be riding together years in the future, still enjoying a fruitful and fulfilling relationship.

The other end of that spectrum is coming to the conclusion that it might be time to part ways with your horse.  This can happen after years together, or soon after a new purchase.  Either way, the realization is unsettling — and usually for the very reason that the initial expectations were so high.

When someone asks my advice about selling a horse, I like to stick to some general points.  The final decision is a difficult one each individual needs to make on their own.  There are three things I tell them to consider: safety, enjoyment, and purpose.

Safety

When you feel unsafe around your horse, or if your instructor or some other professional is warning you about your safety, take it seriously.  No amount of loyalty to your horse is worth getting hurt.strike

Behaviors that threaten your safety include biting, kicking, rearing, bucking and striking.  If you can’t control your horse, even if someone else can, the horse is still dangerous to you.  You do have options if you consider your horse a safety threat.

Sending your horse to a professional trainer is one possibility.  The downside of this is twofold. #1 a good professional trainer can be expensive.  If you don’t have the money to see the training through, it’s time to consider selling.  #2-can you maintain what the trainer has done?  Some horses become wise and know the difference between the trainer and the owner. If you can’t maintain it, the training will not benefit you.

If you have the ability, time and inclination to train these behaviors out of your horse, it’s time to get to work fixing the situation.  Be realistic.  Are you really capable of addressing the dangerous behaviors in your horse?  Are you willing to commit to the time necessary (a minimum of four times per week) to correct the behavior?  Are you willing to be consistent over time (fixing your horse could take weeks, months or more)?  Are you willing to postpone your goals?  For instance, you may have had a goal to do some trail riding or enter a show this summer, and if you switch gears to fix bad behavior, that goal might not be possible.

If you hesitate in answering any of these questions, it’s time to consider selling. The area of safety is a serious one. This is one area where it is reasonable to expect your horse to change but if you don’t have the time or resources to facilitate this change-sell.

Enjoyment

If you’re like me, the reason you spend time with horses is that horses bring you joy.  Why do something so expensive and time-consuming if you don’t absolutely love it?  So ask yourself if you’re still enjoying your horse.  Do you look forward to riding or do you avoid or dread heading out to the barn?  Have you noticed that you are riding less often, and when you do it’s for shorter periods of time?  Does thinking of your horse make you smile, or do you wince?

If any of this sounds like you, it’s time to ask yourself why the joy is gone.  Two things can strongly impact your enjoyment with your horse — personality conflicts and energy level.  Look for your enjoyment issues here.

Horses, like people, have distinct personalities.  Some are affectionate and seem to enjoy your attention.  Others are more stand-offish and businesslike.  If you want your horse to LIKE you, to run to you from the pasture and nudge you for a snack, don’t get your hopes up if your horse is of the second type.

I once trained a horse that was successful in the reining pen, but the horse and the owner didn’t ‘click’.  The owner had always had horses that were curious, friendly and loved treats and interactions. Her gelding however, would never eat a treat — not an apple or carrot or any of the expensive horse cookies.  And he was stand-offish. He did his job and then wanted to be left alone.  She always felt something was missing and in the end she chose to sell.  In doing so she was able to find him a home where he was enjoyed for who he was.

Likewise, if what’s most important to you is the way you and your horse perform, no matter how cute and attentive it is, if it doesn’t live up to your expectations in the arena, you’re going to have a hard time really enjoying it. Is it fair to try to change him? Consider your horse’s strengths and weaknesses before trying to change him too much.Improve

Mismatched energy levels can also lead to lack of enjoyment.  A forward, excitable horse is going to be a challenge for someone to enjoy whose idea of a nice ride is a meandering walk along a trail.  Rather than relaxing, they’re likely to be constantly pulling the horse back, wishing it would just chill out and walk.  On the other hand, a lazy walker that resents moving to a trot can be frustrating to ride when your aim is to lope a pattern.

You get the picture.  Like with certain people, you move at the same speed or you don’t, you like the same things or you don’t.  If you suspect that the lack of enjoyment you’re feeling with your horse is a personality or energy issue, it’s time to consider selling.  Those characteristics are innate, and won’t be easily changed in either of you.  Not surprisingly, if you are constantly trying to change your horse, for example trying to make a lazy horse become a get-up-and-go horse, your horse is probably not enjoying the relationship much either.

Purpose

What do you want to do with your horse?  Your current horse may have been the perfect match when you first got it.  It’s possible, however, that your goals and skills have evolved since then.  The key question is, is your horse suited to you and what you want to do NOW?

Let’s say you started out content to ride trails.  The horse you have is perfectly capable of that.  But now you’ve decided you would like to try to compete in endurance rides.  Your horse, while able to pick its way over rocks, cross creeks and step over logs, may not be up to the demanding pace required to be a successful endurance competitor.  Consider how important it is to you to achieve that next goal.  If your horse is holding you back, you’re going to begin to resent it.  Trying to change your horse into something he is not can also make him resentful. Instead, consider selling your horse to someone who can appreciate him for who he is, the way you did when your goals were different.

Scrapper and Popcorn in pasture

Older show horses can be great starter horses

That retired show horse with some arthritis in his hocks may have been a great choice for your eight-year-old daughter to learn to ride on. Now that she is twelve and has decided to take jumping lessons things have changed. Pushing a horse to do something it’s not suited to is a recipe for disaster.  Consider selling such a horse to someone who can use it to its abilities.

While it’s rarely easy to end a relationship, sometimes it’s the best thing to do. Many horse owners hang onto their horses based on the idea that they are the only ones in the world who will take care of them. There are many responsible horse owners out there, and for one of them, your horse could be that special once-in-a-lifetime partner.

 
28 Comments

Posted by on December 9, 2013 in Thought provoking

 

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