Morning Feed Routine

Every morning the feed routine is the same. I go out and gather up the feed pans. Sky comes over and goes into her little pen and then everyone waits by the gate for me to come back out.

I go into the garage to my feed mixing station and start mixing up their feed:

thefeedstation

  • Captain Planet gets 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of Timothy grass pellets and one scoop of Remission and 2 Tablespoons of ground flax.
  • Zorro gets 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of Timothy grass pellets and 1/2 a scoop of California Trace minerals and 2 Tablespoons of ground flax.
  • Sky gets 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of Timothy grass pellets, 1 Tablespoon of Crypto Aero PLUS, 2 Tablespoons of ground flax and 1/2 a scoop of California Trace minerals.
  • Bonnie gets 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of Timothy grass pellets, 2 Tablespoons of ground flax, 1 teaspoon of Thyro-L and 1/2 a scoop of California Trace mineral.
feedcollage

I add water to their feed to help with choking and after I put everything in each pan I give it a stir!

The base feed is always the same, 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero and 1/4 cup of Timothy grass pellets. But the supplements change a bit as the summer goes on. I muscle test everyone to be sure they are getting what they need and if they need more or less of something or something entirely different, then I will make the adjustment. Bodies are an ever changing thing and just feeding the same thing all the time may not be helping the horse as their bodies change and adjust to the weather, the seasons, the differing grasses and hay and even to the supplements offered. As mentioned before I always test my hay. I have spent some time and money testing my grass at different times of day and different times of the spring and summer. I need to know what they are putting in their mouths so I can balance everything – as close as I can anyway.

Then I take the pans out – after stacking them in a particular order so I know which pan goes to which horse – and set them out! Everyone waits their turn, they all stand and eat out of their own pan. Which is a good thing since they all get something different! I have to put Sky in the pen because if she is out with everyone she will eat very fast and sometimes even leave her own pan to go boss everyone away from theirs. She causes so much chaos she is just better off in the pen.

feedingcollage

They all stand at different spots depending on where I have set their pan, but they don’t leave their spot once the pan is down! The photo on the left was taken yesterday (9/8/17). We were drowning in smoke. The photo on the right was taken today. We are MUCH clearer! We even have blue sky!

While the ponies are eating their hard feed I walk over to the hay stack and put out the loose hay. One flake for each pony! Then one at a time they make their way over. Zorro is always first, then Bonnie and Captain come over.

comingtothehay

The photo on the left and in the middle were taken yesterday when we were smoky and the photo on the right was taken this morning!

Then I walk over and let Sky out of her pen.

skyinpen

Photo on the left taken yesterday in the smoke and photo on the right taken today! She has learned to wait patiently. It’s been so good for her!

Sky will wait for me to come back over, she demands that I scratch her belly for a few minutes, then she will wander around and check all the pans for any left overs.

skycollage

Then she makes her way around the track to the forage station.

IMG_2756

Each horse has their own hay pile. Zorro often likes to share and all the ponies will let him share with them. Bonnie can be bossy around the hay, but she settles quickly and lets everyone share with her after a few minutes.

foragestation

Photos on the left and in the middle were taken yesterday… smoky! The photo on the right was taken today. Blue skies!!

allinaline

I love watching them all eat together. Our morning routine is so soothing to me.

The Breast Collar

SONY DSC

Next up on the list of harness parts is the breast collar. There are a few types of breast collars and I happen to have 3 of them! So I’ll go through each and talk about pros and cons.

First up is the regular ‘straight’ breast collar. This one actually has a little bit of a shape to it, it’s not totally straight, it’s narrow and doesn’t have the buckle in traces, but has the sewn in traces. If you have this type and drive over rough ground it’s a good idea to have a breast collar pad. They are just too narrow for my comfort.

SONY DSC

In this photo you can see there is a relative straight line from the breast collar to the breeching. This breast collar was adjusted as big as I could make it. I do feel this harness is a bit too small for Sky since she is such a ‘mature’ mare now 😉 So ideally I would want to drop that breast collar just one more hole. I don’t because I need it to reach back to the saddle and hook on the water hook (or bearing rein hook) as I explain below.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

The photo collage below shows the breast collar properly adjusted, then adjusted too low and then too high!

narrowcollarcollage

Left: Proper adjustment.  Middle: Adjusted too low.  Right: Adjusted too high.

Also pay attention to the neck strap. That is the piece that goes over the neck and holds the breast collar up. This piece tends to carry some weight if there is ANY balance issue with your cart – and even if your cart is well balanced but you drive over rough ground or hit a bump. If you have a breast collar like this the neck strap tends to be narrow and can put a lot of pressure on a skinny spot across the neck causing discomfort. You can actually see this happening. If you aren’t sure, have someone take a few photos or make a video of you driving so you can clearly see that strap. The best thing to do to help your horse is to hook that neck strap back to the water hook on the saddle. You can buy a little leather piece as shown here or simply use a piece of twine! For years I drove my horses with twine tying that piece back. I actually did that because I got so uncomfortable seeing that strap ‘cut’ into my horses neck. Turns out that was exactly the right thing to do! The saddle will help the horse manage the weight that tends to ride on that strap.

SONY DSC

Next up is my favorite breast collar for most every day driving with the proper line of draft –  the Deep V breast collar! This one is from Chimacum Tack and is called the Comfy Fit Breast Collar Deluxe black with the russet leather lining.

In the photo below you can see the relative straight line from the breast collar to the breeching. I love the fact that this collar has the buckle in traces. Once you have buckle in traces you never want to go back!! They are much more adjustable as far as getting them positioned in the shafts just right. This makes them more user friendly.

SONY DSC

The photo collage below shows the breast collar properly adjusted, then adjusted too low and then too high.

deepvcollage

You need to be sure the breast collar clears the point of shoulder but doesn’t cut into the wind pipe. This can take some adjusting to get it just right.

SONY DSC

I love the fact that it has the double strap neck strap. Again the neck strap has a buckle that goes back to that water hook. This keeps in place. The width of the neck strap helps if any extra weight happens to land there. I do all I can with the balance of my cart to assure there isn’t much weight there. Using the correct collar with the correct line of draft is extremely important for the comfort of your horse, as you’ll see soon!

SONY DSC

And from the front. I love the V as it helps the collar sit at the right spot without interfering with the windpipe.

SONY DSC

Okay now we are going to get into the interesting stuff!!! Breast collars were designed with a certain line of draft in mind. When using your typical breast collar, as shown above, you need to have a line of draft that goes from the breast collar relatively straight back to the front of the cart – with the single tree in line behind the horses rear end.

SONY DSC

If you are using a cart that has a low line of draft, with the single tree below the horse’s rear end then you need to use a different collar, the collar and hames. There is a reason they use these collars for hard working horses that are dragging logs, farm machinery, harrows, and/or fore carts. The collar and hames helps the horse manage the lower line of draft by allowing the horse to pull from the chest and shoulders and NOT the neck strap. When you use a regular collar for a low line of draft most of the weight from behind (the weight of you and your vehicle) ends up on that neck strap. Just flip through some photos online and you’ll see the pressure that ends up on that neck strap!

We set up a little experiment here today and harnessed Sky to my sled and put 3 tires in the sled for weight. I didn’t want her to work too hard as we have so much smoke from the fires all over our state, but I did want to show this! It’s absolutely astounding how much weight ends up in that neck strap when driving with the low line of draft.

SONY DSC

My son took the photo on the right right after we stopped moving and you can see how upset Sky is about this set up. She is not shy about telling me when she isn’t happy or is uncomfortable… plus she is in heat right now so she is even more sensitive! I hope you can see the pressure that is pushing down on her neck strap. Watching her try to pull this wasn’t fun. You’ll see in the video below!

improperdraftcollage

I talked about this issue with several people over the last year. Trying to understand why this happens and what to do about it. When I showed some photos I found to my Handsome Hubby (who went to college for engineering) he knew what the problem was immediately. He explained to me that the weight from the load behind is traveling up the traces and then hits the Y where the breast collar goes around the chest and over the neck. So the weight tries to disperse across BOTH places. It does not just disperse across the chest. My youngest son, who is my photographer and videographer, doesn’t know anything about horses or harnesses or carts (I know. It’s so sad and breaks my heart a tiny bit.) BUT he could see how hard it was for Sky to pull this load. He said her legs were buckling more with the deep V collar than when we switched to the proper collar and hames. It was so noticeable.

Now we’ll see the proper collar for this low line of draft, the collar and hames! My son took this photo immediately after we stopped and she looks relaxed and happy. The draft collar allows the horse to pull the vehicle weight with the front of their shoulders and their chest. When she was pulling this set up she could lean into the collar. When she was pulling with the deep V collar she didn’t feel able to lean in because of the pinching across her neck.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

I see people driving their beautiful marathon vehicles (or two wheeled vehicles) that have this low line of draft and using a regular style breast collar all the time. I am constantly cruising the internet studying driving photos and videos as I feel I have so much to learn. But when I see these set ups it breaks my heart a tiny bit for the horses. When you can visibly see the weight pressing down on the horse’s neck in photos it just starts to seem so obvious! I hope that this post helps you understand why it’s so important to use the correct breast collar or collar and hames based on your vehicle and it’s line of draft.

Here are a few videos to leave you with. Hopefully they will give you something to think about 🙂

I have permission from Patty at Patty’s Pony Place to share this video:

 

 

How to Determine What Length Shaft You Need For Your Miniature Horse Cart

Knowing what length shaft you need for your miniature horse is very important for the comfort and safety of your horse and yourself! It can feel tricky and confusing. I thought it would be a great topic for my blog. I am not an expert by any means so I asked my friend Patty at Patty’s Pony Place a few questions and will share her answers here. I will also share my thoughts and opinions on this as well -because I am nothing if not opinionated!

There are a few different types of vehicles, the easy entry cart, the marathon cart, the hyperbike, the four wheeled vehicle. Then there are the different shaft types, curved shafts, straight shafts, marathon shafts. Because there are many different variables it can feel like there are many different rules. However you can figure out what length of shaft you need by following a few general rules of thumb.

You want your shafts set so your horse is about 12 inches in front of the single tree. -Patty from Patty’s Pony Place

Of course this is a general rule of thumb as there will be variables. Here is a photo Patty shared with me showing a pony with about 12″ from the back of it’s butt to the single tree which is placed higher for the breast plate line of draft:

In this photo there is about 15″ from the back of the horse’s butt to the single tree. This is because the single tree is placed lower for a buggy collar:

34 inch tall mini…about 15 inches from the front of the cart. Shafts level…cart level…hold backs off breeching straight forward to the front of the horse – perfect line of draft with custom placed singletree for collar and hame harness. – Patty from Patty’s Pony Place (The cart in the photo is a custom Cricket cart)

When you look at these two photos you can see why placing the horse further forward when using a lower line of draft is so important.

In the top photo the pony has about 12″ between the back of it’s butt to the single tree. In the bottom photo the same pony has about 15″ between the back of it’s butt and the single tree that is lower to change the line of draft. The pony is 34″ tall.

In the top photo you can see that his length of stride will help dictate where he should be placed in the shafts. If he was only 12″ from the single tree in the bottom photo he would hit his ankles on the single tree when he really trots out.

The 15 inch distance is due to the location of the singletree. Because it is low, we need the couple more inches to account for his hind legs reaching “under’ where the breast plate harness singletree would be.   -Patty from Patty’s Pony Place

Here’s a photo of Sky in her easy entry cart.

She has more than 12″ between the back of her butt and the single tree. It’s probably closer to the 15-18″ mark.

Another thing to think about when cart shopping is quality. The cart I use is from Kingston Saddlery and is made in China. It was $525 including shipping, so very affordable. It’s a well built cart but has a few issues that bother me. One is the placement of the breeching loops. They are too far back making it difficult to adjust the breeching properly. With the loop this far back the breeching is often looser than I would like. When she is actively pulling there will be complete slack in the breeching and even gaping sometimes. I hate that because if we go down a hill or hit a bump the breeching will “grab” her by tightening suddenly. This can be startling to some horses.

SONY DSC

In the photo below I’ve shown where I would like the breeching loop to be. Patty’s husband, Kelly, is the designer/builder of her carts over at Patty’s Pony Place. He also makes adjustable, slide on, breeching loops! I have an order in and can’t wait to share them when they arrive. I will be able to put these loops exactly where I want them on my shafts.

SONY DSC

There was a discussion on Facebook when someone asked where the shaft loops should sit on the shaft, in front of or behind the tug stops. A friend that I met online at L’il Beginnings shared that the shaft loop should ALWAYS go in front of the tug stop as it acts as a back up to the breeching. If the breeching fails the tug stops are meant to stop the cart from running up on the horse’s rear end. That makes total sense! However my shafts have the tug stop positioned incorrectly. And as I went around the internet looking at other curved shafts I noticed that many of them don’t have any tug stops at all as the curved part of the shaft stops the cart from running up on the horse. So another reason to buy quality whenever you can. I went through many of my old photos and noticed that my old straight shaft carts didn’t have a tug stop at all. That is something you can have welded on.

 

Another annoying thing about this cart is that the shafts are not exactly the same length. They are between 1/4″ and a 1/2″ different. I have worked and worked to get them adjusted so the cart pulls nice and straight and also is well balanced. I know that if I could afford a quality cart from Patty’s Pony Place (such as the Cricket or the Scorpion!) I wouldn’t have to work hard to balance the cart at all. A quality cart will have shafts that are the same length, and adjustable(!!) as well as be easy to balance and will not cause fatigue to the pony pulling it. It will also offer a nice ride. My cart is comfortable on the gravel roads, but I like to go off road a lot and it’s a bit of a rough ride then. I have also ordered a suspension kit from Patty and will share that when I get it as well!

The shafts on my cart are curved shafts. They are adjustable as far as width goes. I just loosen the two bolts on one side and the two bolts on the other side and then I can adjust the shaft width. This also helps with the balance of the cart.

closeupofbolts

My shafts are 53″ long. I have the curved part of the shafts just behind her shoulders for balance.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Here are is a photo of shafts that are too short:

513XcyCzvyL._SX355_

Too short and what is going on with the shaft loops being so high? This was on eBay and was advertising the harness. Even if the pony was forward in the shafts they would be too short for him. This is probably a goat cart.

And a photo of shafts that are too big:

s-l300

These shafts are too long and too wide for this particular mini. You don’t want the end of your shafts sticking out past the shoulder like this. It’s so easy for them to hook a rein and panic.

Hyperbikes are a different story.

Three basic shafts are available :

  • A shaft is 48″ long and features a bend down. It is generally used with equines measuring from 28″ to 32″.

  • B shaft is also 48″ long and is a straight shaft. It is used on equines measuring from 33″ to 37″.

  • C shaft is 56.5″ long and features multiple bends to provide a natural 4″ rise in the shaft set. This shaft is used with equines measuring from 38″ to 44″. -straight from the Hyperbike website

With the Hyperbike your horse is positioned right in front of you. Their butt is within arms length of you sitting in the seat. The single tree is under the front of the seat.

hyperbikeshafts

hyperbikecollage(2)

This mare was 36″ tall. The end of the shaft is still at the shoulder here. If they were shorter they would jab her in the shoulder when she turns. If they were longer she could hook the rein and could possibly jab herself in the neck when turning.

I think technically from the back of the mare’s butt to the single tree under the seat is 12″. It just looks different because of the placement of the horse!

Marathon shafts are different in that they have an enclosed end of shaft. You need a different shaft loop to attach to the marathon shafts and the end of the shaft will end at the saddle, not the shoulder. Typically marathon carts have the lower line of draft meaning they are not meant to be pulled by a breast collar harness AND the distance between the back of the horse and the single tree will be a bit more – 15″ or a little more. Also horses will be galloping when hitched to a marathon vehicle so a little more room is a good idea so they won’t hit their hind legs on the front of the cart.

asat5_640x

This marathon vehicle is a Frey.  You can read more about it HERE.

Another closed marathon shaft:

arden_cocky_08

This horse seems a bit close to the front of the cart to me. I would prefer a bit more room personally.

Ray_1024x

Galloping through water and turning at the same time. The shorter shaft length, ending at the saddle allows for more shoulder movement. The shafts are typically wide at the back as well to allow the horse to really move it’s hind end from side to side which helps it corner better. This is also a Frey carriage.

Hopefully this post helps answer the question of how to determine the length of shaft you need for your miniature horse. If you have any questions or something to add feel free to ask in the comments or email me!

Nicker Nickels!

I found out about Nicker Nickels on Facebook when a friend shared them. I was immediately interested as I am always looking for healthier treats for my ponies. I loved these because they are a nice size, but soft enough to break into smaller pieces. This enables me to know exactly how many treats they are getting and to make one treat stretch over a session. (Since ponies can count I know that one piece of treat just won’t cut it most days!)

They do have molasses in them so I don’t give them to Bonnie but everyone else LOVES them! Surprisingly my ponies are very picky when it comes to treats. There have been quite a few different treats I’ve tried and they just spit them right out. These ones they ate right away!

Nicker Nickels – The Elite Training Treat For Your Horses

These are the faces I see when Zorro thinks I have Nicker Nickels…

“Please give me a Nicker Nickel!! Please please please!”

I just love this nose.

I think your horses will love these treats too. Head on over to their site to order some!

The Bridle

SONY DSC

After my last post there were a few questions about different parts of the harness so I thought I would do a post about them! I’ll start with the bridle.

As I stated in my last post I like to have only one wrinkle at the corner of my horse’s mouth. When I was in 4-H I was told to have 3 wrinkles and I remember the judge checking that! But I was told by an old cowboy friend to do that to myself and see how it felt. It didn’t feel good so I started having only one wrinkle or if the horse will allow, no wrinkle. (No wrinkle means the horse really has to hold the bit. When the bit is this loose they can get their tongue over it and that is very painful for the horse!)

The photo on the left is a close up of one wrinkle. Then I took a photo a bit farther back so you can see how the bridle looks. Not too loose and not too tight!

Photo on the left shows 2-3 wrinkles and a bridle that is much too tight. Not only is the bit too high in the mouth but it would be very difficult to get the horse’s ears into this bridle without bending them in half. You do have to slip the ears into the bridle but needing to cram them under it by bending the ear means everything is just too tight.

I like there to be a bit of space between the corner of my horse’s mouth and the bit. I don’t like the sides of the bit to touch the corner of the mouth.

This bit is from Chimacum Tack and is the 4″ bit. However when you measure it with a soft tape it measures 4 1/4″. Her old bit measures 4″. Even that little bit mattered! When I put this bit in her mouth she completely stopped chewing the bit and was less reactive when turning.

Here is a video of how I bridle Sky:

The horse’s eye should be in the middle of the blinders. Not higher and not lower. This can be tricky to adjust and sometimes you need to put a hole in between the holes on either the upper part or the lower part of the cheek pieces. When we were adjusting this harness for Sky many years ago we realized that Sky’s eyes are actually set quite high on her face. We hadn’t really noticed that before!

You can see that her eye is exactly in the middle of the blinders!

In the above photo you can see that her eye is too high inside the blinders. This means the upper part of the cheek strap needs to be tightened up! But if your bit is sitting just right and you have to tighten the top strap to adjust the blinders, then you need to adjust the lower cheek strap down one hole so your bit doesn’t get too tight.

Hopefully this cleared a few things up for those that had questions. If it brought up more questions please feel free to ask!

Proper Driving – From Posture to Harnessing

Proper Driving From Posture to Harnessing - www.theessentialhorse.com

Miniature horses have some of the biggest hearts of the equine world… especially pound for pound. They will throw their entire body, heart and soul into working for someone they love and have a connection with – contrary to popular belief that all ponies and minis are a$$holes! (Believe me I’ve heard that over and over in all the years I’ve been driving ponies and minis!!)

With that in mind what can we do to help make their job easier and more enjoyable? There are many little things that add up to a happy horse and happy driver!

First of all – posture. Posture is very important when riding, though I feel it’s often overlooked when driving. After all, we are sitting in a cart not on the horse – so how could our body position effect the horse? The answer is A LOT! I see so many people driving their horses like this:

SONY DSC

Arms straight out, back rounded, leaning forward in the cart. Surprisingly I see many people driving like this in the show ring! The posture in the above photo isn’t even as bad as I’ve seen. Typically when someone is driving like this they are putting pressure on the saddle of the harness which is putting weight and pressure directly on the horse. If you find yourself driving like this… lengthen your reins!! Typically people are doing this when they feel a bit out of control and are shortening their reins too much. A rule of thumb –  don’t put pressure on BOTH reins at the same time as that just causes the horse to push into the pressure more. Hold lightly with one rein and put a little bit of pressure on the other. Not turning pressure but “talking” pressure.

SONY DSC

In this photo you can see that the cart is tipping slightly forward, messing with the carefully managed balance of the cart.

Just as when riding, you want a bend in your elbow when holding the reins. There should not a straight line from the horse’s mouth through to your shoulder, but a straight line from the horse’s mouth to your elbow…

SONY DSC

This is Sky’s power extended trot. She is such an amazing mare! This trot is the most awesome thing to sit behind! Notice how the cart is now balanced correctly. The shafts are literally floating the shaft loops. Here’s a video of that as well:

 

 

Something that I notice is often missing is the single tree. This is actually a very important thing for every single cart to have. If your cart doesn’t have one, buy one and put it on! The single tree helps the horse pull the weight of your vehicle by allowing the swinging motion of the horses shoulders. If you don’t have a single tree your horse will become sore in both the shoulders and the neck. Also please, please do not wrap your traces around your shafts before hooking them to the single tree. If your traces are so long then get shorter ones.

Here is a video of the single tree in action:

How you sit in the cart will directly effect how well your horse can do it’s job – give you an enjoyable ride. You are not sitting in a recliner so don’t kick back and be lazy. If you are driving an easy entry cart, have one foot forward to prevent you from bouncing forward onto your mini if you hit a big bump or your mini stops suddenly or spooks.

SONY DSC

Contrary to popular belief there is a weight limit per mini. As a rule of thumb I do not expect my mini to pull more than her own weight for long periods of time. If that means I have to lose some weight then so be it! I have lost over 30 pounds since February in order to make Sky’s load more equal to her weight, including the cart. For shorter periods of time and with a properly fitting harness and well balanced cart a mini horse can pull 1 1/2 times their own weight. With a properly fitting harness and a well built four wheeled vehicle a mini can pull twice their body weight on flat, smooth ground for short periods of time. Typically my mini pulled this much weight when we were in parades with my wooden buggy, pulling me and my two little boys plus, our combined weight plus the wagon weight. You will hear many different opinions about how much a mini can pull, most of them are wrong. To make a small, fine boned mini pull more than their own weight is unfair and will ensure your mini does not have a good time when driving.

I always pay attention to how my mini feels about me catching her (or him!). If they meet me when I’m carrying the halter or even meet me at the gate then I know I’m doing a good job of keeping them comfortable and they are having a good time. This does not mean you can’t make your mini work! Sky pulls me up some pretty steep inclines, we bounce across fields and through ditches, she walks, trots and canters in cart and we explore all over our area. She comes home sweating but she is always happy to have me halter her and most of the time her ears are forward and happy when we are out and about! If she walks away from me when I go out to catch her I know that the last drive was a bit much. So I’ll make sure to take it a little easier on her this time and see if that changes how she feels about being caught. It always does!

Now onto the harness! Please, please make sure your harness fits your horse well. A too small or a too large harness will make their job more difficult and less comfortable. A harness that is not adjusted well will make their job more difficult and uncomfortable. Your harness should be adjusted the same on both sides. If your girth is on the second hole on the right side, then it needs to be on the second hole on the left side.

**The girth on a harness NEVER needs to be tight. Don’t tighten it down like you would if you were riding. It’s just not necessary.

Make sure your saddle and back strap are in the middle of your horses back…

 

 

 

 

Sky was resting a foot in this photo, but you can see how everything is properly centered. And note that her crupper is on the first hole on the left and the right! I have seen horses get some pretty bad sores from a crupper that isn’t balanced on both sides. That leads me to having the back strap adjusted correctly. It should NOT be loose. The crupper should have just enough space for one finger to slide under it when your finger is flat to their body. This is mostly adjusted by the back strap.

Next is the breeching. This must be about half way down the horse’s butt. I often see it far too low which could result in sweeping the horse’s legs right out from under it as you go down a hill. I’ve actually witnessed this happen to someone else’s horse and it wasn’t pretty! The breeching should be adjusted in such a way that when it engages on a hill it doesn’t tighten with a slap! My rule of thumb is I should be able to just fit three fingers between my horse’s butt and the inside of the breeching. This allows the breeching to engage without “grabbing” my horse…

IMG_2346

My breeching loop on my cart is too far back. I have adjusted my wrapping to make up for this but I recently found out that Patty’s Pony Place sells adjustable breeching loops! I have a set on order so I can adjust my breeching more correctly.

**Side note! We do some pretty rough driving around here so I am also going to order Patty’s Pony Place suspension kit for my easy entry cart.

As for the bridle I don’t like to have that too tight. The old rule of thumb was to have 3 wrinkles at the corners of the horse’s mouth. I had an old cowboy friend have me pull my lips tight and see how that felt after a few seconds. It did not feel good! He always let his horse hold the bit. You have to adjust it a little bit so it doesn’t drop down and hit the horse’s teeth, but I like just one wrinkle, leaving some room for them to hold the bit without it being jammed into their mouth…

 

This bit is from Chimacum tack. It’s the 4″ bit. She had a smaller 3 1/2″ bit earlier in the year and it fit exactly to the corners of her mouth. But when I switched her to this bit she was much happier, less chewing of the bit and less dramatic turning. I like to have a little space on each side of the bit once it’s in the horse’s mouth. There is no need to have everything jammed up as tight as it can be, nor hanging down flapping around as loose as it can be. There is a happy medium!

The horse’s eye should be in the center of the blinders. And a bridle that doesn’t have the wire holding the blinders is not worth having! Without that wire the blinders will often sit right on the horse’s eyes. The blinders should not touch the horse’s eyelashes!

cropped-funonthefarmpinterest

If there is rubbing from the buckles on the girth and the shaft loop straps you can get a girth cover to help pad that area. You can also cut the foot off a pair of socks and use the tube part to pad the girth! I’ve done that so many times! This is a big black fleece I found on Amazon.

IMG_2337

I need to make a few adjustments to it. It’s a bit too wide so I’ll cut it and resew it to a better width.

There are many ways you can make your horse’s job easier when pulling a vehicle. This information plus much more can be found in my book, Step-By-Step Guide to Training a Miniature Horse to Drive.

Now it’s time to get out there and enjoy your horse! I wish you many happy trails 🙂

 

Spa Day!

Spa Day - www.theessentialhorse.com

Today was the day to bathe and trim and clip some ponies around here! I love having nice, neat, clean ponies. Then I can stand back and admire them. There is just so much to admire!

And of course here are some before and after photos!

skycollagesummer(2)2017

First up is Sky! The before photo is from this spring. I thought she was fat then… and yet she looks fatter now! I do love how her topline is rounding out with all the driving we are doing. I can not believe she can be so round with all the exercise she is getting. I feed all the ponies 2 flakes of hay in each of the 4 hay nets plus 2 flakes of loose hay spread out on the track. That’s it in a 24 hour period! And they always have hay left over in the nets. Sometimes they have loose hay left over as well. So they don’t eat everything in site. Sky gets 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy hay pellets topped with 1 teaspoon of Thyro-L and California Trace. I just recently bought some Mojo to address her soreness. I have been thinking that maybe she is getting arthritis. So I’ll slowly add that in. I won’t feed her California Trace at the same time I’m feeding the Mojo because I don’t want to double up on things. We drive 4-5 times a week between 3 and 4 miles a drive. Sometimes we take Zorro and sometimes we go alone! We have only been able to fit in the one hike so far. Life got so crazy and both my truck and my Tahoe broke down so I didn’t have a tow vehicle to get the to the mountains. But the Tahoe is fixed so maybe next week we’ll go hiking! I did have her blood drawn when I had Bonnie’s done and everything came back totally normal. I don’t understand why she won’t lose weight.

bonniessummercollage

Next up is Bonnie! If you look closely at the summer photo you can just see her ribs. She is completely losing her topline. No hiking, no muscles! She is getting a bit of a belly and I wish I could give her more protein but I have to be so careful because she doesn’t utilize protein very well. She is bright eyed and loves being out on the track all the time with the rest of the ponies. She walks, trots and canters around all the time, snacking on the little things she comes across. So far so good! I keep my fingers crossed all the time. She is getting the same hay as above and I just lowered her back down to 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy pellets, 1 teaspoon of Thyro-L, and 1/2 a scoop of California Trace mineral. The only exercise she gets is life on the track. I don’t want to cause any mechanical founder by taking her out on the road.

zorrocollagesummer2017

Now onto Zorro! Boy does he looks good!!! I wish every single one of you could come here and see him in person. He really is a stunning boy. It’s very hard to get him to be expressive in these photo shoots as nothing startles him or causes him any surprise at all! He stands there sighing and so bored no matter what I throw at him, plastic bags, umbrellas, buckets of grain, the cat, Angus…

SONY DSC

He just thinks it’s all so NORMAL and BORING. I got the expression in the above collage by showing him a peppermint with the wrapper half ripped so he could smell it. Then he got to spend some time licking it….

zorropeppermintcollage

He loved it!!

Zorro is such a wonderful boy. I keep saying that but it can’t be said enough. When I go outside I can call his name from anywhere and he will come running to me. If I go out to catch Sky for a drive and don’t take him he tries to body block me from getting to her. He stands at the gate with his head resting on the rails just watching us get ready. If I do pick him he is so so happy! He loves going out no matter what it is we are doing. Sky does kicks his butt when driving because she loves to trot and trot. He does his best to keep up but is very relieved when we get to walk a little bit. He is still a baby. He’ll grow into himself! He gets the hay listed above and 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy hay pellets and 1/2 scoop of California Trace.

captainplanetsummercollage

Last but not least is Captain Planet! The track life has made such a difference in him! WOW!! Also roaching his mane was a really good idea. He is heavy but he is built to carry it. He has signs of being IR or at least metabolically challenged so I treat him as such. He gets the same hay as above and 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy pellets and 1 scoop of Remission. He is a pet and a companion and does that job perfectly! He and Bonnie will pick on each other a bit. It’s actually funny to watch them. He knows all the buttons to push to make her chase him! But Bonnie doesn’t put much effort into being mean so it’s over almost as soon as it starts.

I just to love my track and so do the ponies!

 

Pasture Analysis: What the WHAT!?

Pasture Analysis: What the WHAT!?

Since Bonnie has been diagnosed with Insulin Resistance I have been obsessed with sugars. Sugars in the hay, sugars in the feed, sugars in the grass, sugars, sugars, sugars. I am so tired of trying to guess where the sugar triggers may be! But I did know that the pasture has a good chance of being high in sugar so I decided I better test it.

I took my first sample on June 24th at 7:30 in the morning after a fairly warm night.

While grass tends to be lower in sugar/starch during the summer, the situation changes as the night time temperatures drop below 40 degrees F, making it especially challenging (and dangerous!) to allow pasture grazing.  -Dr. Julie Getty ‘Testing Your Pasture – For Peace of Mind’

According to the research I’ve been doing my grass ‘should’ be lowest in sugar and starch early in the morning after a relatively warm-ish night. And yet my test came back high in sugar and starch. Sigh. I was so frustrated. It seemed that I wouldn’t be able to use my pasture at all for my ponies.

Trying to decipher the pasture analysis was very confusing. I followed Dr. Getty’s suggestions in her article, Testing Your Pasture – For Peace of Mind

She says you read the “Dry Matter” column for pasture. You need to know the NSC (Non-structural carbohydrates- this will not be on the report. It is calculated as WSC+Starch) and the ESC (Simple Sugars= ESC+Starch) levels. She says we want grass that has NSC below 12% and the ESC+Starch less than 10%.

My analysis shows the ESC is 11.5% and the NSC is 14.3%. Far too high for Bonnie, my IR pony, and too high for my other healthy ponies as well.

morningpastureanalysis

So I thought I would do another analysis in the afternoon. I waited for a very hot day that had a very cool night the night before. That turned out to be July 4th. It was nearly 100 degrees out that afternoon. I took the sample at 3:30 in the afternoon. The results surprised me!!

afternoonanalysis

The NSC is 9.1% and should be below 12%. And the ESC is 6.5% and should be below 10%!! What the WHAT!? I feel like I’m in bizarro world. EVERYTHING I’ve read says this should not be. Everything. I don’t understand what is going on here, at my place, but everything seems to be backwards. So now my ponies can go out on pasture for a little while in the afternoon/early evening! I don’t let them out every day and I don’t leave them out for more than an hour and Bonnie wears her muzzle, but they do enjoy their time out!

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

bonniemuzzlecollage

So if anyone can explain what is going on around here I am open to an explanation! I am on a mission to learn and understand everything I can so I can help Bonnie and keep everyone else healthy and happy!

**A little update on Bonnie –> She can now go all afternoon without her boots on. She is starting to really grow some sole! Whoot whoot! She has also graduated to spending nights out on the track without her muzzle. She is so happy being out with everyone. I have a few adjustments to make with the track and my new hay shed and then she will stay out on the track 24/7. I’m so excited about how well she’s doing! I pray for her every day. I pray that she will continue to do well and will winter well. I’ve been running around trying to find low sugar/low starch hay, testing hay stacks here and hay stacks there! It’s definitely getting expensive, but I have to know what is going on with the hay and my pasture. I will know that I’ve done everything I could to help her be healthy. Now it’s up to her body to repair and rebuild.

 

Our Hike

We went on a beautiful morning hike today. I brought Sky and Zorro. I’ve hiked with Sky around our house and into BLM but we haven’t been able to go up into the mountains until today. And Sky is a hiking MACHINE!!! She absolutely LOVED it. Zorro, on the other hand, looked pretty miserable until we were going downhill. LOL! He was so funny. I think he was pouting because he had to wear bear bells. But they both sounded so happy walking and trotting up the trail… even if Zorro was making faces!

Turn up your volume for the video!

IMG_2029IMG_2032

Sky felt like she should be the leader. So if my boys were ahead of us on the trail she was literally dragging me up the trail to be in front!

IMG_2041IMG_2046

We were standing on the side of the mountain. Zorro looked longingly down the mountain.

skyandzorrocollage

Sky is a wonderful trail horse. When we got into the thick rocky areas she would lower her head and really watch where she was putting her feet.

IMG_2060

Her miniature horse back pack was awesome! I am loving it. I need to save up and get at least one more. That way when we all go hiking the minis can carry our lunch, our water and our sweatshirts.

IMG_2059

At the top of our climb the trail opens up into a lovely meadow. That was our destination today, just a short hike to start Zorro out. Once there I let them graze for a little while.

IMG_2072

Then we started back down the trail! Zorro had a few moments of confusion and rebellion. Interestingly when he is having a little fit he will throw himself down on the ground. We had another mini that used to do that when we made her mad! LOL! It’s an experience! My boys and Sky watched him having his temper tantrum with interest. Finally he was ready to just walk or trot straight down the trail while not body slamming either myself or Sky. Phew! I’ll bet the next time we go hiking, next week, he will follow the trail perfectly! This boy learns things so quickly.

skyandzorroonthetrail

We have to cross the creek to go up this trail. There is a nice bridge and with a little time to think about it Zorro walked across beautifully! Sky confidently stepped right on and strode across… no thinking needed! LOL On the way back down I wanted to let them look at the water. Zorro was very interested, Sky just wanted to eat.

IMG_2102

Zorro walked right up on the bridge on the way back across! Smart boy! They both were watching the water. I love Sky’s ear in the photo below…

skyandzorroonbridgecollage

What a wonderful way to start the day! The plan is to take the ponies on a hike once a week until the snow flies. It’s a great way to exercise them as well as get my boys out of the house and off their computers 😉