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Maria Wachter

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Best of HN: 10 Ways To Make Sure Your Horse Is Absolutely Happy

Pixabay/PixelWunderByRebecca/CC

A happy, willing partner means letting your horse do everything he wants… right? Well, there’s always too much of a good thing. This tongue-in-cheek list might take it just a little too far.

1. Grab your horse from the barn, tack him up, and then decide not to ride that day. You don’t like other people telling you when to exercise, and he probably doesn’t either.

2. Hook up the trailer and try to get him to load; when he refuses, stuff a treat in his mouth and take him back to the corral. He must know something about the trailer that you don’t.

3. When your horse won’t stand still to be shod for the farrier, find a holistic barefoot trimmer whose star sign matches your horse and who also appreciates you shoveling treats into his mouth during the whole process.

4. Never, ever bathe your horse. Your horse spent a lot of time trying to get that dirty. If he wants to be hosed off, he’ll let you know when you’re filling water troughs.

5. Flies are bad; fly spray is even worse. You know he doesn’t like the smell of fly spray, and the spraying action actually scares him. But he also can’t stand to be eaten alive by flies, so for the love of God, bring your horse into your house during the middle of the day. That’s why you have all those fancy screened-in windows and central air.

6. Don’t ever ride your horse — he’s your pet! You don’t ride your dog, do you? Why would you discriminate?

7. Only sweet feed and alfalfa must be fed to your horse. Regular grass hays and grain without molasses are tasteless. We have all evolved for millions of years and now we have things called taste buds. To feed anything lacking flavor is like going back to the cavemen times, where we would be lucky to not be eaten by a saber-tooth tiger and not lucky enough to own a horse. You wouldn’t want to eat something bland and tasteless, so why would your horse?

8. When your horse acts buddy or barn sour, make sure he gets his way. If he bucks or rears under saddle, you should get off and walk the rest of the way. Clearly if you loved him, you’d let him be a horse.

9. Don’t suppress your mare’s inner witchiness. She’s mean for a reason, and the reason is probably you. When she pins her ears back at you, give her her darned space, and whatever else she demands. She’s trying to communicate with you, and you’re not listening. Haven’t you heard of horse whispering? Maybe you need to go to another clinic!

10. Your horse’s happiness revolves around you. You need to check on your horse 24/7 to prevent anything bad from happening to him. Never go on a vacation, and make sure you have a job that allows you a lunch break to check on your horse. The ideal situation for your horse’s happiness: work from home and sleep in the barn.

All jests aside, it takes a careful balance to create the perfect horse life. Have fun walking that tightrope! And go riding.

Best of HN: 5 Equine Companions You DON’T Want to Own

Good morning, beautiful. Flickr/Gozamos/CC

Disclaimer: horses are social animals and thrive with companionship. Some horses are happiest with other horses while others can thrive with a friend from a different species. This piece is meant as a humorous list to make you laugh rather than make you angry.

We get it — your horse is lonely and you don’t want to buy another horse to keep him company. Another horse means more money spent on the farrier, more money spent on board, exercise and training for said horse, etc. So why not get a companion animal for your horse? It’s the lazy… I mean, the right thing to do.

Here’s why these common companion animals are the worst:

1. Pigs

Pigs are so cute and so smart! (As in: they will make your five-year-old kid look like an idiot and make you question why you decided to raise kids instead of pigs.)

Pigs also have the palate of a dumpster and are the ultimate living/breathing garbage disposal. But pigs and horses rarely get along. Most horses fall into two categories when it comes to dealing with pigs: they either are petrified of them OR they want to kill them. So this means you’ll be paying for vet bills either way — from injury to your horse or injury to your pet pig. If there is a slim chance your horse and pig DO get along, you’ll never want to eat bacon again, and that would be a crying shame.

2. Goats

Goats are so cute. That’s where the line is drawn between pros and cons.

Goats are also destructive little a-holes that will eat you out of house and home… literally. They actually like the taste of drywall and rusty nails. Not only are they like owning a wrecking ball with hooves and horns, they also like to head butt anything that gets in their space and they poop like a Pez dispenser. They’ll climb all over your horse, your horse will become buddy sour to them, and then they’ll die at the old age of seven and your horse will go into a great depression.

Everyone says they’re like owning a dog — don’t believe the lie. They’re like owning a mini Satan, complete with their own horns.

3. Miniature horses

Unless you’re a little person, have a little kid, like to be pulled in a cart or want a seeing eye dog but don’t like actual dogs, there is really no reason to get a mini horse.

For one thing, they’re very cute and the natural response to anything cute is to feed it. Unfortunately, these things founder faster than you can say “Friday,” so excess treats are out of the question.

Farriers hate to trim them; even though they’re a quarter size of a real horse, the farrier will probably charge you more since they’re hard to get under.

Horses LOVE mini horses, so of course they’ll become buddy sour, and unless you like the ending to Romeo and Juliet, you’ll now have to pony the mini horse on all of your rides to avoid your horse having a complete and utter mental breakdown.

4. Donkeys

Donkeys are cute. They’re also loud, pushy, and blow up on anything more than straight grass hay. So now you’ll have to make a separate stall for your donkey for feeding time and if you’re even one minute late for their breakfast, everyone will know within the closest three counties. You probably see all these cute videos on Facebook of donkeys being super loving to humans, but in reality, you’ll end up with a human-hating, horse-obsessed donkey that will drive you completely bonkers.

5. Llamas and alpacas

They’re so cute, with their Snuffleupagus eyelashes and their Q-tip looking hairdos. Don’t be fooled… llamas and alpacas are jerks.

They will spit on you, they’ll spit on your horse and make god-awful gutteral groans that make them sound like they came from hell itself. They’re probably possessed, and I’m pretty sure they like the taste of blood. I jest. Maybe.

Besides, no one even knows how to care for one of these animals besides Dr. Pol or people from Peru, and both of those are hard to get ahold of in the middle of the night when they get sick.

TL;DR: save yourself the money and headache and just buy another horse. At least you’ll be able to ride it, as it eats its way through your wallet and heart.

Go riding.

Best of HN: 5 Ways I’ve ‘Cheated Death’ In the Barn

Pixabay/CC

A friend told me her story of how she accidentally got Cowboy Magic on everything in her barn and the resulting struggles that ensued, especially with trying to maneuver a full wheelbarrow with slippery hands. As if the horses themselves aren’t dangerous enough, there are plenty of ways to creatively injure yourself at the barn without ever throwing a leg over a horse.

1. ShowSheen.

We’re all guilty of this at some point in our horse lives: when I was young and had lots of time on my hands, and only owned ONE horse, I spoiled him rotten. This included long amounts of time spent grooming and pampering him. I had to have him look his best, so I used ShowSheen like it was going out of style. I would ShowSheen him up and then cover him in his winter blankets.

The thing is, ShowSheen is slicker than snot on a golden tooth, so when I decided to jump on bareback on a cold winter’s night in the barn aisle, I pulled off his blankets and climbed aboard. He turned one way and I slid right off the other way onto the concrete floor. Note to self: do not use ShowSheen anywhere a saddle or human may sit.

2. Spurs.

I always drive with my spurs on. I’ve never had a problem, but my boyfriend always tells me it’s not safe. Well, one day I was hauling my big living quarters trailer and traffic up ahead came to a screeching stop. I quickly lifted my right foot to brake and my left foot to downshift, only to find out my left foot was stuck on the floor mat holder hook by my spur strap. Finally after seeing my life flash before my eyes and a good yank, I was able to pull my foot free and downshift to safety.

3. Trailer loading.

So, remember how I always have spurs on my boots? This time I was walking my horse into the trailer and he was excited to go back home and even more excited on diving into that hay bag in the front of the trailer. I walked into the trailer and my horse followed and planted his hoof right on top of my spur, sending me into a downward face plant. Now when I load them, I send them in first, secure the divider and then tie them. (Alternately, I could just take off the spurs …)

4. Almost crushed by hay bale.

We keep our hay stored in 40-foot connex boxes. One I went in with a hay hook to pull a bale off the top of the stack and accidentally pulled over the whole front line of hay bales. When I backed away out from the impending doom, my feet slipped on the floor, which was covered in frozen wood and loose hay. Thankfully I regained my footing before being crushed by five 100-pound hay bales.

5. The adorable cat.

I have three cats, and they really love me … actually, they love everyone. They also love to run in front of your feet while you’re walking and roll onto their backs, belly up like a dog, and try to trip you.

When I was carrying a saddle from the trailer to tack up my horse, one of the cats named King Tut rolled into his belly up pose, except I didn’t see him until it was too late. Me and the saddle came tumbling down, and the cat barely made it out in time before being squashed like a bug. The saddle broke my fall.

It could have been worse. I could have been walking down the stairs!

Stay safe out there!

Best of HN: 10 Things That Are Absolutely the Worst About Hay

Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

Why can’t horses be like dogs in regard to their diet? It would be nice if we could just throw them some dried kibble twice a day that we bought at Walmart and call it good, but no, horses need hay and lots if it. They have finicky bellies and all that other crap we know about their digestion. Yes, you can feed them hay cubes and/or a complete feed instead of hay, but most of us scoff at this idea because we have been taught that hay is the BEST diet for the majority of horses. In no particular order, this is why I hate feeding hay:

1. Mold.

No matter how good the bale looks from the outside, you can still break open a bale and be greeted by that smelly black and white stuff staring you in the face. Yep, another $16 dollar bale is wasted. You’ll be lucky if you can find a hay vendor who will credit you back, you’ll even be more lucky if you can get that hay bale that you busted open back into a grab-able shape so you can actually return it to your hay guy.

2. It gets everywhere!

No matter what you do or how you dress, inevitably you will end up with some of that hay bale in your pockets, in the crease of your T-shirt and on windy days, in your eyes and teeth. No matter how hard I try, I always feel the need to shower after I get done feeding. After I take my clothes off, I realize pieces of hay also got into places I didn’t know they could get into.

3. The weight.

Why are these bales so freaking heavy and why am I so weak? Of course the only way to grab them (if you don’t have a hay hook) is by the baling twine that will definitely feel like you’re trying to carry a 100-pound dead weight holding onto thin strings sharp enough to double as razor blades.

4. The fear of being crushed.

Come on, we all know that one friend of a friend of a friend that was crushed to death by a hale bale that dropped onto her head.

5. The cost.

Yep, anyone on a dry lot envies their friends who have their horses on pasture. An average ton of hay in the western states can cost up to and over $300. That’s a lot of money to be shelling out a month that could be used for more important things … like buying more horses.

6. The itch factor.

I always wear long sleeves to feed. The times I decide to risk it and go bare-armed, I always end up looking like I got in a fight with an angry alley cat that needed a bath and doesn’t like water.

7. The shape.

Most awkward shape ever. I mean, I can’t actually think of a better shape that they could have, but I do know a 100-pound bale of dried grass in a rectangular shape is not the most ergonomic for trying to tote around.

8. The right alfalfa to grass ratio.

Of course my horses always crave the taste of alfalfa and turn up their nose at grass hay. Unfortunately, if fed a diet of complete alfalfa, they turn into bloated, high energy, sweaty monsters that remind me of a very pregnant lady that that just downed a whole pot of coffee and chased it with two Red Bulls.

Now, if they get fed just grass hay they waste away to frail whippets that would only look good on the cover of Vogue or the catwalk. It’s hard to get the correct alfalfa and grass balance, I’m not a mathematician after all.

9. Wild animal magnet.

Hay attracts a lot of wild animals. Right now I’m inundated with a plethora of cotton tail bunnies and jackrabbits that like to scatter their poo all over the tops of the bales of hay. I try and shake off all the turds, but I’m sure I miss a few. I sure hope my horses like “chocolate truffles.”

10. Allergies.

Yep, I’m not even allergic to hay and I still end up with red eyes, snot running down my face and sneezing and foaming at the mouth. I look like I just went through menopause and rabies at the same time.

Go hay. Go riding!

Best of HN: Having Horses vs. Having Kids

Read with a grain of salt. Children are our future, but the decision to have them is individual choice and we respect all choices.

Yes, we know you can have both. Pixabay/lymoni/CC

When I was little I never wanted children. People always told me, “wait until you get older, you’ll change your mind.” Well, I’m 36 years old and yep, I still don’t want kids. Maybe I’m too selfish, maybe I don’t want to lose hours of sleep every night, maybe the thought of changing diapers and the smell of baby poo disgusts me, maybe I think the world is already overpopulated, maybe I don’t want to raise my kid perfectly and it grow up to be a despicable person anyways, or maybe it’s a combination of everything?

Here are just some of the reasons I prefer horses over babies. This is tongue-in-cheek, so please don’t take this too seriously (especially if you love being a mom or dad and think kids are the best thing that ever happened to you).

1. You can buy the “perfect” horse: the color and disposition you want. Height, weight, sex, personality. You can’t do that with your kid. Yes, you can get artificially inseminated and have a greater chance of getting what you want, but you still don’t know if that kid is going to grow up to be a genius or serial killer. Or both.

2. Horses are WAY cheaper. Yes, horses cost an arm, leg and your soul, but babies cost even more. If you think you only have to pay for your kid until he/she is 18, you’re seriously wrong and delusional.

3. If your horse has vices and behavioral problems, you can pay a trainer to fix that. If your kid has these issues, you’ll feel like you failed as a parent (when clearly you didn’t).

4. You don’t have to help your horse do homework or take it to soccer practice and have to deal with being nice to other soccer moms.

5. Horses won’t put you in a nursing home. (They may put you in the hospital from time to time, however.)

6. Horses don’t care how much money you have, if you have a drinking problem, if you don’t spend every waking moment with them, if you don’t buy them the latest toy or if you don’t read them bedtime stories. They don’t care if they’re in your will or not.

7. You can be totally selfish and controlling with your horse.

8. You can get a horse to make you feel better without any consequences. If you have a kid for that reason, you probably will end up in therapy.

9. You can “spank” your horse without ending up in jail. Sometimes they do need a swift kick in the pants (figuratively speaking).

10. If the horse doesn’t work out, you can sell it. No one will care that much. You, on the other hand, can’t put your kid on Craigslist, no matter how much you want to.

Go riding.

Best of HN: 6 Truths About Owning Mules

Photo by Susan Wachter Photo by Susan Wachter

Photo by Susan Wachter

Mules are a lot like horses: after all their momma (or daddy, if you have a hinny) was one. They also are a lot different from horses. They are all unique and have their own personalities but there are a few things that most mules tend to possess that make them much different than their horse brethren.

1. They tend to be insanely jealous. Yes, horses can be attention and affection hogs, but mules will actually get so jealous that they’ll pout if you ignore them or attack their herd mates hours later in fits of rage if you give more attention to someone else.

2. They are very loyal. Once they bond to you, they act more like a dog than an equine. They holler when they see you, come running for affection and can be turned out loose on the property without wandering off. They’ll even sometimes help you out doing tasks and try to charm you and make you laugh with their personalities. If they’re trying to get your attention they’ll go to all measures: braying annoyingly, banging on fences or grabbing the chain on the gate and making a lot of noise with it.

3. Their brays are all super distinctive. I can sit in my house and know exactly which one of them is talking. Some sound like Foghorns, some sound like giggling school girls, and some sound like they’re getting murdered in a dark alley.

4. They LOVE to roll. Before they eat, after they eat, before they ride, after they ride and anytime in between. They actually are addicted to rolling. They also can get up front first or @$$ (ha, get it?) first. A horse gets up front-end first, a cow gets up back-end first. A mule can do either.

5. Most of them LOVE their ears rubbed. I’m not talking about a gentle ear tip massage, I’m talking about sticking your fingers into their ears and practically scratching their brains. My mules run up to me and put their head down every day to get their daily ear scratchings.

6. They can be wimps compared to horses. Yes, horses can be nervous and spooky, but they tend to live in the moment. Mules can brood over things for days at a time. Something scared them last year? They will be thinking about it scaring them next year. For example, one of my mules had an elk jump out on him from behind a bush, so now every time he’s near the same spot he looks behind every bush waiting for an elk to jump out at him again.

They really won’t do anything unless you convince them it’s safe to do. A horse you can practically ride over a cliff. A mule won’t do that until they trust you and know it won’t hurt them.

Go mules. Go riding.

Need more mules? We suggest one of these fine articles: