If you have read any literature on feeding horses, you have probably come across the idea of “forage first.” Forage for horses is grass. This includes varieties of grass including Timothy, Orchard, Bermuda, and Oat.
The concept of feeding forage first is that your horse should be eating at least 1 – 2% of its body weight a day in grass either in the pasture or in the form of hay. Ideally, this should be offered throughout the day so your horse can have small meals and move between mouthfuls.
Wild horses have access to lots of plants and grasses in a single day. Domestic horses, on the other hand, are usually only served up the basic “meat and potatoes.” We rarely give them variety in their hay or pasture intake, and we usually feed a dense, high-calorie additive in the form of grain. Sometimes we give them the rest of their dietary needs through powders and pelleted minerals.
Can you imagine eating just one type of food every day? Or eating only plain salad with protein powder to supplement your other dietary needs? What if all you ever ate was chocolate cake (yum… maybe for the first few days anyway!) or just lived on apples… As you can imagine, you would only be excited about your meals for a day or two before even the tastiest foods would look dull. Not to mention how unbalanced your diet would be to only have one source of sustenance!
Horses are very much like us. They love having variety in their meals. I like to offer my horses a selection of foods. This allows them to balance their dietary needs and also makes mealtime more interesting. If I have a horse that is a picky eater, this is often a sign of a major mineral imbalance in their diet. If I adjust his diet, I often see the picky eater become more interested in other food options.
A major way to offer your horse variety is to have free choice minerals available in their living area. I always offer salt in both white and trace mineral forms. My horses do well on the blocks designed for cattle, but some horses prefer loose salt. Offer both to your horse for a few weeks and see which he prefers.
I also offer a trace mineral feed called izmine, which offers over sixty trace minerals in one supplement. In addition, I offer two ratios of calcium and phosphorus. One is 1:1 and the other is 2:1 calcium to phosphorus. This allows my horses to nibble on either ratio to reach their preferred 1.5:1 ratio depending on the levels they are eating through their forage. Usually offering these four mineral supplements is enough to help my horses to balance their daily forage intake and also allows them to self-adjust for any change in their diets.
Horses that are missing nutrients in their diet crave particular minerals or herbs and eat huge amounts of them until they finally reach saturation. Offer the free choice mineral in adequate supply each day to help the horse get what it needs. Then after the horse stops gobbling it down, offer a smaller amount–just in case they still need it.
Free choice minerals do need to be kept out of the weather, so put the feeders inside a covered run or other shelters.
Many horses love exploring new tastes, textures, and flavors.If you are a fan of treating your horse, why not offer variety in the treating process? If you can offer different hays (even just a bale or two), switch out some of the offerings in the grain bucket. You can also give several different forms of treats to your horse as a reward or a gift. You will see that your horse will be much more interested in what is being served.
Using food to enhance your relationship with your horse or horses can be a fun and interesting. Test your imagination. Have you ever tried any of these treats with your horses before: bananas (and peels), oranges, mangoes, watermelon, carrots, apples, oats, alfalfa or grass pellets, flax seed cookies, peaches, pears, radishes, beet tops, carrot tops, peppermint candies, sugar cubes, molasses cookies, etc.?
There are many safe and nutritional foods you can try with your horse – just use moderation with treats, and check with your vet if your horse has special dietary needs.
Have fun exploring what your horses like!
*Excerpts from my book
Want to learn more about free choice minerals? Visit www.dynamitespecialty.mvoffice.com/mattiecowherd
Born Lucille Wood Smith, her parents soon changed her name to Frances Octavia Smith. When she started her radio career, she took the name, Marion Lee. In 1930 she changed her name to Dale Evans.
Evans started her singing career at seven years of age singing gospel solos at church. Bright and more advanced than her classmates, she skipped several grades. She fell in love with Thomas Frederick Fox and married him at 14 years of age. The couple had a child, Thomas Fox, Jr. when she was 15, and she divorced Fox when she was 16.
Back in the day, it wouldn’t do for a woman’s career, especially one is show business to be a mother, much less a young mother. In 1945, after her marriage to R. Dale Butts, Evans acknowledged Thomas as her son.
Evans got her start in radio as a young woman. Her voice and movie star looks led to Hollywood where she signed a contract with 20th Century pictures. Evans then went on to sign with Republic pictures where she appeared in more movies including The Cowboy and The Senorita. Dale met her fourth and final husband Roy Rogers on the set of that movie.
Evans wanted to appear in musicals. She somewhat got her wish; she appeared in a multitude of musical Westerns.
People assumed because she was from Texas, she knew how to handle and ride horses. She did not until she met Rogers and he taught her to ride on the set of their first movie together. Later in their television show, her favorite side-kick, besides Roy, was her faithful horse–a buckskin quarterhorse named Buttermilk.
Dale and Roy had one child together, Robin Elizabeth, who died from Downs Syndrome before the age of two. Besides her son Thomas, Evans and Roy had four more children but adopted them. She and Roy spent endless hours and much of their fortune in devotion to children, especially those “at risk.” They also developed the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation.
A devoted Christian and loving person, Evans opened her heart and her home to four adopted children. Having lost her first child to Downs Syndrome, the heartache continued when Debbie, her adopted Korean daughter died at age 12 in a bus accident, and her adopted son, Sandy, died while serving in the army in Germany.
With Roy Rogers alone she appeared in 28 feature films. She and Roy produced over 100 episodes of their television show. A devout Christian, Evans wrote and published over 20 inspirational books. And, a talented songwriter, Evans wrote many songs including the theme of their television show, “Happy Trails.”
Velma Bronn Johnston knew pain and suffering. Born to Joseph Bronn and Gertrude Clay in 1912, Velma, at eleven years of age contracted polio and was confined to a cast and hospitalization for several months. The disease left her physically disfigured, and the subject of ridiculing and cruelty by her schoolmates. Velma consoled herself with writing and drawing and taking care of the many animals on her parents’ ranch, the Double Lazy Heart Ranch in Reno, Nevada.
Velma had a particular love of horses, as did her father, who, as an infant came to the West with his parents in a covered wagon. It is said that during the during the arduous journey across the desert, his mother, for whatever reason, could not provide milk for him, so resorted to feeding him the milk of a Mustang mare–an act that saved his life. Later in life, Joseph Bronn, to help support his growing family and keep his ranch in operation, ran a freighting service. Many of the horses he used to pull the wagons were Mustangs.
While many of her peers made fun of Velma for her disfigurement, Charlie Johnston, a neighbor, became smitten with her. The two married and eventually took over Velma’s father’s ranch. To make extra money, Velma took a job as a secretary to insurance executive Gordon Harris and worked for him for the next forty years. Unable to have children of their own, Velma and Charlie also opened their home and ranch to many of Nevada’s youth, where they taught them how to ranch and care for animals.
One day, in 1950 while driving either to or from work (accounts vary,) Velma was following a stock trailer and noticed blood oozing from the bottom of the doors. She followed the truck and found out that the wild horses inside were on their way to a slaughterhouse. The blood came from a young foal who was being trampled to death by the frightened older horses.
During that time period, wild horses, many of them Mustangs, were captured and slaughtered for pet food. Their capture consisted of rounding them up with airplanes, and then once they were in a more cohesive group, trucks would chase them and the men hanging out of the windows or in the bed of the truck would lasso them to the ground. Horses who were more difficult to rope, were sometimes “hamstringed,” or shot in the back of the legs, rendering them unable to run. Then, the perpetrators crammed the frightened animals into stock trailers and took them to the slaughterhouse.
Velma’s witnessing of the gruesome scene as she traveled to or from work instigated her lifelong pursuit to stop the cruelty toward Nevada’s wild horses.
She began in the early 1950’s and succeeded with the 1955 bill in the Nevada State Legislature that banned aircraft and land vehicles from capturing wild animals on state lands. It was then she earned her nickname, “Wild Horse Annie.” But, Velma had a long way to go. She became a passionate speaker and made it her mission to save wild horses and burros throughout the nation. In 1971, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was signed into law.
She also established wild horse refuges in the southwest. During the rest of her lifetime, she kept vigilant watch over America’s wild horses and called to task anyone who did not obey the laws she helped put into place. Wild Horse Annie worked hard to promote the idea that wild horses and Burros were “integral to the landscape” and seen as “living symbols of the pioneer spirit of the West.” She came up against many who wanted to silence her, and some even threatened her life, but Velma soldiered on.
After the death of her husband, Annie lived out the rest of her life with her mother. She died at age 65 in 1977 from cancer.
Selika Laszevski is in fact so little known, many historians question her existence at all.
The portrait here was taken by Felix Nadar in 1891, Paris, France. The photo is thought to be of Lasveski, but it is not certain. Some historians speculate that this photograph was taken of an unknown model and Nadar attached a story to her to promote his work.
Whether fictionalized or not, the story goes that Laszevski was a 19th-century equestrian, an écuyère of the Haute école, or equestrian of the high school of dressage. High school meaning of the highest level in classical dressage–the disciplined “equestrian ballet” that has its origins in the military, going as far back as Xenophon’s On Horsemanship, one of the two works of literature on horsemanship by the Greek soldier Xenophone who lived c. 430 – 354 BC.
Although little is know of this equestrian, a short film has made and produced about her by award-winning writer-director Sybil Mair Sybil Mair. The film titled “The Adventures of Salika was released in September of 2017. It is a coming of age story about an African princess who must forge her own way in the world after being displaced by war. She ends up in France and makes her way to the Haute école.
For more information on the film, click here.
For me, there is a certain peace achieved after a day of riding. In that moment, I can drift away from the past, or my distraction of the future. This allows me to simply BE – soothed by the passing of the moments rather than the struggle of my thoughts. I believe that peace and calmness are essential to developing the true art of horsemanship.
I still laugh when I remember my students’ faces as I galloped past them on a fat little cob during a trail clinic in Wales — eating an apple! The concept of peacefulness in full motion didn’t make sense to them. But, if I have true harmony and partnership with my horses, not even galloping at full speed should separate us.
Peacefulness should also extend to teaching your horse something that is scary or new. Pressuring a horse when it is on adrenaline is never a good idea. This natural drug in the horses’s system sets off its flight-or-flight responses. Horses don’t think when they are on adrenaline. Yes, you can force a horse through the experience, but you are likely going to have to repeat this lesson – again and again and again — because the horse is not mentally present. The horse’s brain is shut off, and it is operating strictly on instinct. If you use calmness, clear communication with your body, and patience, your horse will learn that he can make mistakes, and retreat when he is fearful. He will trust you to show him the way through a problem.
I believe that peaceful horsemanship starts with awareness – first of yourself, and then of your horse’s internal and external states. Are you tight? Are you worried? Is there a good reason for this? Can you foresee any issues during your groundwork session or your riding and if so, can you simply avert it by being passively proactive? And can your horse check in with you and see that things are indeed okay? Can he see that you have been a patient and progressive leader for him? Can he trust that you will not be afraid or offended by what he needs to do?
Perhaps I notice more strongly now what a true partnership feels like because I also know what a false partnership feels like. I can feel the lack of attention and the lack of trust. I feel the discordant communications when a horse is terrified and unable to think.
I can also feel the harmony and the moments of true oneness. I can see my horse reaching across our communication to ask me a question or answer confidently when he understands.
I feel the moments when my horse and I are slightly out of sync, and yet, I can refocus my energy and my intentions to bring us back to harmony in an instant. If I feel my horse and I are out of sync during new lessons or a moment of fear, I can ask my horse to trust me and let me guide him to the right answer.
It’s like a dance. You can’t dance with another person when you are both intent on correcting or defending yourselves.
You need silence between the notes.
Stillness between moments of movement is vitally important to your horse’s understanding. If you do not pause or release completely, your horse does not have a chance to learn.
It is in moments of stress or learning with our horses that our attention to PRESENCE is so important to our communication and relationship with them. Horses are only in the now – adjusting to the present with reference to memories of past experiences. Create your best self when you are with your horses. Strengthen the positive responses with reassurance and attention. Your horses will seek this praise with enthusiasm and will approach future learning opportunities knowing that their partners have their backs.
To learn more about Mattie, go to her website here.
For many horses and horse owners, happy trailer loading is a mystery. Let’s face it, to a horse, the trailer is just a metal box on wheels where they can be trapped for an indeterminate amount of time. For an animal whose natural environment is thousands of acres to roam, it is easy to understand why trailer loading and transport can be harried for everyone involved. Not all horses have the luck or luxury of traveling in big semi rigs with a controlled climate and the cush of air ride.
Every summer for the past few years, I have taken natural horsemanship courses at the Parelli campus in Pagosa Springs, CO. It is a great way for me to further the bond, connection, and relationships with my horses. This summer will be no exception, and this time, I will take my youngest horse, Stormy, an 8-year old half-arabian mare.
As I thought about taking Stormy to the ranch, it occurred to me she has not been in the trailer by herself very often. As a foal, she accompanied her mother for a visit to the vet a few times. My husband also played with her for the first year of her life, and they worked on trailer loading and other introductory experiences. In her adulthood, I’d taken her to several shows, but always in the company of one of my other horses.
I took for granted that Stormy loads when led, and rides quietly with another horse. I remembered the few times I have trailered her by herself, the distance only a handful of miles, and she pawed and called for help the whole way. It hardly seemed fair that I will expect her to travel 4-5 hours to Pagosa Springs by herself. I decided to start trailer loading with Stormy from square one. What better way to test the foundation, right?
The first day provided many distractions. Dogs barking, people riding bikes on the ditch behind our property, and the other three horses of her herd looking on like kids watching a movie. She wanted to look and be everywhere but the trailer. I had to remind myself what Pat Parelli always says – “It’s not about the trailer.” It is about the relationship.
Here are some of the steps I’ve taken to help Stormy feel confident and secure enough with the trailer to load and travel alone. It is important to note that my trailer is a two horse slant load with a ramp. Slant loads provide more room for the horse to get into the trailer and are less claustrophobic than straight loads.
(As I mentioned before, this was not Stormy’s first time loading onto a trailer or riding in a trailer. Because of this, I knew she could advance a little faster than a horse who’d had horrible experiences in a trailer or who’d never loaded onto a trailer before. If your horse has had trouble before, you might want to stop at this point. Use your best judgement.)
We had accomplished so much in this session, that I felt it a good time to stop. It is important to know when to stop – when your horse accomplishes the task in a relaxed and confident manner. This is hard to do because when things are going well, it is natural to want to keep going. It’s important to remember that trailer loading, or doing anything that is out of your horse’s comfort zone, can be mentally and emotionally taxing for them. Quit while you are ahead. Your next session will go so much faster!
Stormy and I are still working on our trailer loading until we leave for Pagosa at the end of July. I will slowly increase our excursions and unload at different “safe” areas around town, like the public arena or trail heads near the Rio Grande. We’ll do some exploring either on line or under saddle while we are out, and then load up again, and head home.
I will keep you informed on our progress! To learn more about the Parelli Program and trailer loading click here.
Making time to spend with your horse can sometimes be a challenge. Family responsibilities, work, and everyday life commitments sometimes don’t allow us to be with our horses as much as we want. When we do get the opportunity, we want to be able to make the most it. We want to ensure that our relationship with our favorite horse pal is still on track. Here are some tips to get the most out of your play date with your horse.
1. Schedule an appointment with your horse at least once a week and stick to it.
As you know, this is harder than it sounds. With responsibilities and distractions pressing on us every day, it’s easy to put off our horse time for more “important” things. I know I have been guilty of this myself. But, we have to remember—we have a responsibility to our equine pal. You probably didn’t purchase him or rescue him to have him sit in a pen by himself, or never have any human interaction. Tending your relationship with your horse is as important as tending your personal or business relationships. Your horse needs you to check in with him on a regular basis. You have to make time for him to get the most out of your relationship.
2. Greet our horse with respect and friendliness.
Sometimes we get so focused on what we are going to do with our horses, we just walk straight in to the pen or field and halter up. If you think about it, isn’t that kind of rude? If you made a date to pick up a friend for lunch, you wouldn’t just storm into her house, grab her hand, and drag her to the car, would you? I hope not! The same applies to your horse. Approach the pen with a friendly, non-rushed demeanor. Bring carrots or cookies. Scratch your horse’s favorite itchy spots. Talk to them. Greet them. Then slip on the halter. I promise, it will make a difference in whatever you plan to do with your horse that day.
3. Use essential oils with your horse during your grooming session.
Everyone likes to be pampered, even horses! Once you’ve greeted your horse and gotten him out of the pen or the field, set up a pleasant grooming experience. Read your horse’s expression or body language to see how he might be feeling. Does he seem cranky or sullen? Present him with a bottle of peppermint essential oils. Let him sniff the bottle with the cap on. If he seems receptive, put a few drops of peppermint essential oil mixed with some olive oil in your palms and rub them together. Then stroke your horse between the ears or down his neck. If your horse seems nervous or anxious, do the same with lavender oil. Lavender is very gentle, so a carrier oil isn’t necessary. If your mare is a little moody, see my article “Unlocking the Mystery of the Mare”
4. Have a plan.
As I mentioned before, with our crazy schedules, we need to make the most out of the time we get to spend with our horses. It’s good to have an idea of what you want to work on, whether it’s working on the ground or in the saddle. Keep a list of the things you’d like to accomplish with your horse, and then pick one or two for the day. Have a third in your back pocket in case things are going swell and you are both game for more fun. Have a backup plan in case of inclement weather or other obstacles come your way. You’ve scheduled this time, so make the most of it by being organized. Your horse will see and feel your leadership, and it will help her from getting bored.
For ideas on what to do with your horse if you cannot ride that day see my previous article “Can’t Ride Your Horse? 10 Non Riding Activities”
5. Adjust if the plan gets derailed.
One of the most important things about having a plan is being able to make a new plan on the fly. If you wanted to practice your leg yields that day, and the communication between you and your horse seems off, break down the task. Go back to the basics, if only for a little while. Remind your horse, and yourself, how subtle your communication can be. Work on yielding the hind quarters, then the shoulders. Then maybe work on your sideways. See how refined and light your communication can be. If nothing is working, stop and breathe. Give your horse some love. Maybe it’s a better day for a trail ride, or a nice bath. The worst thing you can do in a frustrating situation is to push the agenda. Be kind to your horse, be kind to yourself. As Scarlett O’Hara said, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”
Dealing with a mare in season can be a pain. Figuring out how to help her can sometimes be a mystery. While some mares show little symptoms of their heat cycle, other mares show sides of themselves you didn’t know they had. And, their behavior can vary from month to month. At times they can be fractious, angry and distracted, and at other times they can be sullen, depressed, or moody. In other words, not themselves.
Like women, mares can feel upset or physically uncomfortable from their cycle. There are many ways to manage this ranging from using natural supplements to prescribing hormone therapy. It is important talk to your vet about what your options are and what will work best for you and your horse.
One thing you can do is to help find relief for your mare through essential oils. While essential oils do not treat, diagnose, or cure disease or illness, they can help with
emotional and physical discomfort.
My 8-year old Arabian/Saddlebred mare, Stormy, is often uncomfortable when she is in heat. Emotionally, she becomes distracted, herd-bound, sometimes frantic, worried, and even more right-brained than usual. Physically, her back gets tight causing saddling and riding to be painful.
Here are five essential oils I’ve found to be helpful to unlocking the mystery of Stormy. (Please read how to use essential oils on your horse below)
Progessence Plus (Young Living Essential Oils blend)
Progessence Plus oil contains the natural progesterone produced by wild yam extract. With sacred frankincense, peppermint, bergamot and coconut, it has soothing and uplifting properties that can calm or combat sluggishness.
Dragon Time (Young Living Essential Oils blend)
Dragon Time, a natural phytoestrogen (dietary estrogen) is a blend of jasmine, clary sage, marjoram, lavender, fennel, and blue yarrow essential oils that helps to promote emotional balance in human and animal females. It releases anger, frustration, and other emotions associated with a monthly cycle.
This sweet smelling oil helps to balance hormones. It compensates for both lack of hormones and excess of hormones. It calms and relaxes, and also supports the nervous and circulatory systems.
This light blue oil supports the body’s natural response to irritation by clearing heat from the body. It’s sweet, grassy aroma promotes feelings of peace and calmness. It is similar to yarrow in its properties to relieve physical discomfort.
Clary Sage works as an anti-spasmodic and is good for mares prone to back pain and tension during their cycle. It stimulates the production of progesterone and is warm and comforting. It also promotes focus and relaxation, and also helps with previous trauma.
Other oils to comfort your mare during her cycle:
How to use essential oils on your horse:
Present the oil with the cap on, first. See how she reacts.
If she sniffs at it, nuzzles it, or tries to eat it out of your hand, you have
been given the green light! If she sniffs it, turns away, and then comes back
to it, you might take off the cap and present it to her again. Go slowly.
Sometimes it takes horses a while to process the oil. If your horse seems to
accept the smell of the oil, put a few drops in your hand and let her sniff it
again. Signs of acceptance, licking and chewing, licking the oil out of your
hand, lowering of the head, blowing out – relaxation or signs of relief. Signs
of rejection. Turning away and staying away, trying to walk away, wrinkling of
the nose, flipping of the upper lip.
If you get the green light, rub a few drops on the oil on your palms, rub on the nose, poll, chest, withers or insides of the hind legs.
What kind of essential oils to use on your horse?
I use only Young Living Essential Oils on myself and on my animals. Young Living oils are 100% pure, therapeutic grade oils with no added chemicals or solvents and they back their products with their Seed to Seal Guarantee (https://www.youngliving.com/en_US/discover/seed-to-seal)
If you have questions about or would like to obtain Young Living Oils, contact Kari at Kari.firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.youngliving.org/Karibovee