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Shellie Sommerson


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About Shellie Sommerson

Eventing Background

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Area II
Highest Level Competed Training
Trainer J. Michael Plumb

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Can Acupuncture Help Your Horse? Presented by Banixx Horse & Pet Care

Equine Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medical treatment that dates back 2,000 years. It is a therapeutic method that uses stimulation of specific areas (points) on the horse’s body to promote balanced function and enhanced energy flow in your horse. Better balance and flow in your horse results in positive physiological changes.

Acupuncture points are locations on your horse that have special electrical and anatomical attributes. The points have lower electrical resistance and a higher electrical conductivity than the surrounding tissue. These points are found in areas of concentrated free nerve endings, small arteries, lymphatic vessels and mast cells.

Several stimulation techniques may be used to activate acupuncture points including needles, injection of the horse’s own blood or using other agents such as laser, electro-acupuncture and moxibustion. Moxibustion uses burned herb close to the acupuncture point or close to a needle at the point for stimulation.

The immense therapeutic results of acupuncture are achieved using a combination of mechanisms in the body. “A multimodal mechanism of action involving a cascade of events in the body” is the current description used to explain acupuncture. Participation from the nervous system, endocrine system and immune system are all required to achieve the desired physiological results.

Photo courtesy of Banixx.

You may be wondering how acupuncture feels for the horse. Do the needles sting? During acupuncture needle placement, many horses show subtle responses to the needle insertion at reactive points. The reactivity of the point varies in each patient and depends on the patient’s general sensitivity as well as the location of the point. Some points are generally thought to be more reactive than others. Point reactivity is unique to the patient’s condition as was observed in our geriatric horse (see below).

Once all the needles are placed, some horses relax, chew, body shake, yawn and/or sleep. Some horses experience a phenomenon called De-Chi translated as the “arrival of Chi.” Human patients describe this experience as tingling, warmth, pressure and so forth. Your horse may respond to similar sensations subtly or with bucking and excitement followed by licking/chewing and, subsequently, a deep exhaling breath. Each patient is unique; the level of response may vary from horse to horse.

Photo courtesy of Banixx.

What can acupuncture be used to treat?

“…Acupuncture can directly and indirectly treat many equine disorders. Using TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine) theory, acupuncture is unique in its ability to aid in prevention of illness and disease. It is also a non-invasive therapy with few contraindications and low incidence of side-effects,” says Dr Nikki Byrd, DVM, who is also a certified veterinary acupuncturist (CVA) and veterinary medical manipulation practitioner (CVMMP). “There are special considerations taken by veterinarians when selecting treatment points for a few conditions such as pregnancy. For example, some acupuncture points and point combinations are useful in inducing parturition, so those points would be avoided in early term pregnancy. Moreover, it’s a powerful adjunctive therapy in numerous illnesses and injuries to promote health and healing.”

A few of the most common uses of acupuncture in horses are for the treatment of:

  • Lameness
  • Poor performance
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Inflammation
  • Immunomodulation
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Stress or anxiety.
  • GI disturbances
  • Stem cell release into circulation
  • Anhidrosis

A horse happily accepting acupuncture treatment. Photo courtesy of Banixx.

Case Study: Acupuncture to Treat a Sarcoid

Lyford presented as a healthy 10-year-old Thoroughbred. All systems looked great apart from a suspected sarcoid on the inside of his right front knee. It precariously close to the cephalic vein and near the medial carpal joint (inside knee). Dr. Nikki Byrd, DVM examined and treated with three treatments of acupuncture and a minor (one needle) follow up at conclusion over the course of two months. The sarcoid was approximately the size of a half dollar. Banixx spray was used morning and evening to keep the area clean. The sarcoid “shed” or “peeled” after the second treatment revealing healthy pink tissue indicative of good blood flow and evidence of healing. During fly season Banixx Wound Care Cream protected the area, acting like a medicated Band-Aid and contains oil of peppermint that is a natural fly repellant.

As the treatments progressed, the sarcoid rapidly shrank. Two months later, hair was growing vigorously at the site, and the horse was pronounced healed. Today, there is absolutely no visible or tactile evidence of any sarcoid.

Sarcoids do not commonly respond well to surgery. Instead, surgery seems to “disturb” the adjacent tissue, resulting in additional lesions and proliferation. Acupuncture is 100% non-invasive; it requires no “recovery time or stall rest and has no side effects. The “side effect” or additional benefit for this horse was improved jumping style!

Case Study: Acupuncture for a Geriatric Horse

Devlin presented as a 32-year-old Quarter Horse with chronic severe Recurrent Airway Obstruction (Heaves). Hydroxyzine and steroids had been administered for several months but were not providing a material improvement in his condition. Acupuncture was performed with the goal of improving his appetite, respiratory condition and overall quality of life. Acupuncture points were selected for his specific pattern (using TCVM diagnosis) to support his respiratory system, nourish his constitution and support his geriatric condition. Dr Byrd commented, “Measurable improvements were observed within one day despite Devlin’s age and advanced condition. His appetite doubled, interaction with his herd improved and his general demeanor was brighter.”

How do you go about finding a good acupuncturist? Talking with your veterinarian about acupuncture is an excellent approach. If your veterinarian doesn’t offer acupuncture services, many general practitioners have excellent relationships with colleagues who can offer provide local referrals. Horse owners who cannot obtain referrals from their veterinarians can find a local CVA by searching online on the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society website [] or on the Chi University website []. Both websites also offer additional information about acupuncture and its application in veterinary medicine.

Dr Nikki Byrd DVM/CVSA/CVMMP, of Byrd Equine, is located in Fair Bluff, Nc. but she practices from Kentucky to Florida.

Happy riding from Banixx!

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Tips to Making Your Ride Effortless – Brought to You by Banixx Horse & Pet Care

“Teach him to ride like a small horse.” J. Michael Plumb. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

You watch a horse and rider that glide around the ring, and it seems like the ride is effortless, and the aids are seamless. You quickly recall your last time in the ring, with your horse, where you were out of breath and exhausted from navigating you and your horse – definitely NOT effortless!

How can your rides become seemingly effortless?

Even very large horses can be sensitive to the aids. Just because a horse is large does not mean he needs a harsh bit and has to be ‘man-handled’. You can teach him to be as light as you want him to be.

Try smarter, not harder.

This saying has many applications when riding. If what you are doing is not working, then try a different approach. If you are doing an exercise and your horse cannot perform the exercise correctly, don’t try it harder; interrupt and do a different exercise or take a break for a bit. Here are some tips you might want to consider for creating a more sensitive horse and a softer/more feeling rider:

 The horse:

  • Every day, decide how much pressure you want in your hands (how heavy you want your horse in the reins), and how strong you want your seat and leg aids to be. Don’t confuse behind the bit or behind the leg (behind the aids) with being soft. Teach your horse the connection to the bridle, but with practice you can choose how heavy or light you want him.
  • When your horse starts to give you the right answer, then soften your rein and/or leg (whichever aids he is responding appropriately to) to let him know that is what you want.
  • Don’t be an overachiever – do only a few steps in an exercise, but make those correct steps, then step out of the exercise (like walk or trot forward). Make all of your riding to be Perfect Practice. As legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” For example, if you start a turn on the forehand, just do one or two steps correctly then move your horse forward out of that exercise. If you keep going but are not doing the exercise correctly then you are not practicing correctly.
  • If your horse pushes into your leg one direction or another, do a leg yield away from that direction.
  • If your horse pulls on a rein one direction or another, ask him to yield his hindquarters away from your leg on the side he is pulling. If he pulls on the left rein, then turn on the forehand to the right.
  • Another helpful exercise is to do a quiet rein back, one step at a time, keeping your horse on the contact. He should not rush backwards or go hollow, but step methodically one step at a time while staying on the contact with the bit and in a round shape.
  • Interrupt your agenda and quietly correct your horse with an exercise – softly but with purpose. For example, if you are jumping a line of fences and your horse drifts right, then turn on the haunches to the left or leg yield left or half pass left – quietly and with tact – and when you have some achieved obedience with this interim exercise, then continue jumping or whatever you were doing. Break down the sub steps and concentrate on getting them done correctly before putting them all back together.

Large horses can be soft too! Photo credit Shellie Sommerson.

The rider:

  • At the start of each ride and during, take lots of breaths (or whatever it takes you to relax)!
  • While you are riding, ignore the rest of the world – it will still be there when you finish your ride. Be present for your horse!
  • Ride without stirrups, if you are safe, and let your legs hang from your hips (noodle legs). Gripping thighs/knees/calves are not what you want. Your legs need to be supple, athletic, and agile – Centered Riding by Sally Swift has excellent exercises to help resolve these types of habits!
  • Ride with more leg and less hand. To help yourself use less hand, here are some ways to hold the reins for practice: use a single bridge of the reins, reins in one hand, driving rein (turn your hands over on the reins), etc. Change up your hands on the reins to break up habits of overusing your reins. Leg yield exercises should not involve a lot of hands/reins, but they should involve your seat and legs. Also, hands close together are often more empathetic than wide hands.
  • Work on riding the hind end (and hind feet) to the front end. Pay attention to your horse’s hind feet and work to connect your legs to them so that you can feel his hind feet under your seat. This might take some time to learn to feel. Can you feel when the left hind footsteps forward? If not, perhaps noticing when a front foot steps forward and then following the cadence of the steps in whatever pace your horse is in, will help you start to feel when a hind foot engages.
  • If you need a reminder about your mission to softness – put a ribbon or yarn in your horse’s mane (suggest to put it near the poll to remind you to work to keep the poll as the highest point). Or put a piece of colored tape on the neck strap of your martingale or neck strap as a visual reminder to be soft.
  • Keep notes; make it easy – keep a notebook with pen handy and keep it brief. What went well with your ride, where can you make some changes, did you believe in yourself and your horse, how did it feel? Ask a friend to video for you. And during the session verbalize what you are feeling; and have that part of the video. For example, are you having a hard time keeping your horse from drifting left? Say that out loud so that you can review the video and know what you were feeling at the time and see what is going on.  The video may show you why your horse is doing what he is doing. Perhaps your left leg is coming off him, or something like that.
  • Heighten your awareness as to being correct and incorrect… Take what you have learned and are learning and continue to practice.

As you reestablish your lines of communication with your horse, test your new relationship. Keep going in your test or course and see how it goes without interrupting to do an exercise. How did it go? Where do you need to go back and do some polishing? Don’t expect everything to be perfect right away; this will be a work in progress, and that progress depends upon your focus and dedication to the softness and sensitivity. But the efforts will pay off! Believe in yourself and your horse.

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Tips for Managing Hard Keepers – Brought to you by Banixx Horse & Pet Care

Hard keepers can keep us guessing! Photo credit: Shellie Sommerson

What do you do with those hard keepers – the horses that need to eat but don’t want to eat or eat but don’t seem to gain weight? Weight loss happens much more quickly than weight gain.

The first step is to make sure there are not any underlying health issues:

  • Teeth – get your horse’s teeth checked (especially if they were last checked 6 or more months ago)
  • Deworm/have an egg count done in a fecal
  • Sand – if you are in a sandy area give a supplement that helps remove sand from your horse’s system
  • Blood – have your veterinarian run a blood panel to ensure your horse’s system is functioning well and there is not an underlying issue (high white blood cell count, Cushing’s, etc.)
  • Non-sweaters – if your horse is a non-sweater talk with your veterinarian about options (clipping, air flow and there are some supplements on the market)

Then review your horse’s diet with your veterinarian. Does he/she feel that the quantity and quality is appropriate for your horse with his activity level or are there some adjustments that should be made? Today, more than ever, there are horse feeds designed for the hard keeper. Talk to the feed company that manufacturers the feed. Most have knowledgeable reps who are also horse people who can help and advise you. Use these experiences to improve your knowledge of what is available. Some feed companies will provide a coupon to get you started on their particular brand. And-remember knowledge is Power, so educate yourself.

The more comfortable and relaxed a horse is in his environment the more likely he is to eat well and not pace/walk off weight. So, review your horse’s living situation.

Be careful to not over blanket and do clip (trace clip) if your horse needs some help staying cool. Likewise, ensure he can get out of the wind, rain, snow, etc. or is properly blanketed. Poor eaters seem to eat even less if they are too hot or too cold.

Does he get anxious when alone, or does he not eat well where his hay is placed because he cannot see others? Environmental adjustments sometimes remedy the issue. Try moving his hay to an area where he can see others, or to the area of his space he seems most prone to hang out in. If your horse was moved recently it can take a bit for him to adjust to his new surrounds and new routine. Sometimes a little patience on our part is needed; however, if his weight drops quickly then you likely need to act right away.

The basics will do more than potions and supplements. The market is full of ‘magic fixes’, so don’t just fall for the latest and greatest weight-gain product – do your own research.  The basics for hard keepers are calories and fiber. Options like hay, pasture, beet pulp, hay stretcher, hay cubes (alfalfa and other mixes) are great for providing fiber, and some provide additional calories; all are good for your horse’s healthy digestive system and can add body mass. Soak anything pelleted to avoid choking issues. If your horse is not used to eating soaked feed, then start with small amounts and not too much water. Many horses enjoy their soaked food being topped lightly or inter-mixed with a fat-laced product such as rice bran, a little grain sprinkled over the top, chopped carrots and/or apples stirred in.

It’s a good idea when testing a different feed to start with very small portions to see what your horse likes. But in all cases avoid over-serving as it can be counterproductive.  Too much food in front of them at a time can be unappealing, just like when you don’t really feel like eating and someone puts a giant portion in front of you. Some horses will overeat at one meal and then not eat the next; their digestive systems are built for grazing, so smaller portions more often usually work best.

And lastly, interact with your horse! If he can still be exercised, then get him out and about with mild exercise or at least hand grazing or a walk in-hand. If he cannot be exercised, you can still interact with him by grooming him, massage or even teach him a simple trick. Horses are social creatures and interaction is part of their ‘need’.

Happy Horse Keeping!

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Where is Your Happy Place? – Brought to you by Banixx Horse & Pet Care

A Happy Place! Photo Credit: Helen Talley

“Happy Place” is a state of mind based on your safety and comfort; when you are there you can unwind and re-energize your soul. The world has been a bit of a roller coaster this year, full of ups and downs. Did you get caught up in the chaos and lose your Happy Place?

Was your Happy Place once with your horse, and now that does not seem to be so? What happened? Where did it go? Did life get rolling along, and riding became another task on the list? Are you feeling unsafe or uncomfortable? It may be that what you really want to be doing has changed (and that is okay!). Or perhaps you lost touch with the peace and joy you once had with your horse.

How can you find your Happy Place again?

Clear the clutter from your head and take some time to look at yourself and your life honestly. Or another way to put it is, do some “soul searching”. Dig deep inside yourself and ask yourself critical questions. Yes, those hard questions!

Are you no longer comfortable at the level you are riding? Are you doing something because everyone else at the barn is doing it? Or have you become so caught up in an overloaded schedule that time with your horse is more of a chore or task? Are you experiencing pain? Is your horse having some issues? Or has your life situation changed? Wherever you are or whatever your situation, here are some tips to help you get on track to your Happy Place:

  1. Make a list of what makes you smile and feel joy
  2. If financial strains are an issue, make a list of necessities and nice to haves
  3. Add to that list what makes you feel safe and comfortable
  4. Take a look at yourself and your situation; look from the outside in, like you are an observer
  5. List the steps you need to progress from where you are to where you want to be based on 1, 2 and 3

Do not allow this process to shut you out entirely or shut you down – don’t get too bogged down in the details! This process should be exploring and empowering. Well, okay, sometimes it is a bit tough, but worth that pain.

Another don’t spend a lot of time talking to others about this; too much talk lessens action and increases the drama. Besides, this is really nobody else’s business but yours! Now, you may need an ally, someone that is supportive and helps you stay on track but do not share your story with everyone. Keep your words with others about your journey to a minimum. You have enough on your plate without adding baggage from others.

If you have physical pain, get that resolved. If you have pain or physical limitations, your ally may be able to help you with things that you cannot do for yourself (like lifting – saddle, trailer ramp, etc.). Also, hiring someone to do tasks that you are physically unable to do or zap the energy you otherwise need to ride your horse. For example, if you have back problems and mucking stalls, lifting feed or cleaning the floors makes it so you cannot ride your horse, then hire or trade out with someone to do those tasks.

If finances are strained, then dig through your unused tack and sell or trade-out for services. Where can you save on expenses without compromising your horse’s health? Perhaps you are in a situation where you can work off some of your horse’s expenses? Get creative.

If fear is your hurdle, get coaching to build your skillset. Step back and rebuild your foundation skills; when we have the skills/knowledge to handle a situation, we are less likely to be frightened by the situation. Sometimes fear builds because your horse’s behavior changes (like he is stopping or does not seem to want to do his job anymore). Get him thoroughly checked over by your team – the entire team – veterinarian, farrier, trainer, and you be present as well. Having the whole team assessing together may cost a bit upfront; however, it will save in the long run! Everyone can get on the same page.

Everyone deserves to spend time in his/her Happy Place. Life is not always easy, so be kind to yourself and take the steps needed to regularly get back to your Happy Place.

Brought to you by BANIXX – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx:

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Brought to you by Banixx: Successful Strategies for Choosing a New Barn for Your Horse

Departing. Photo credit: Shellie Sommerson.

Are your needs and/or your horse’s needs changing? Is the barn no longer a “happy place” for you? Or are you relocating to another area?

How do you go about finding a new barn that fits your and your horse’s needs? Here are some tips on navigating that journey:

Make a list of must-haves, nice to have, can’t live with, and can’t live without. I know – lists – UGH! But the lists will help you keep on track and not get caught up in hype or emotion. This process will help you think it out; knee jerk reactions often fail – and your horse’s well-being is at stake, and yours too.

An agent might be the right answer to help you research barns. The agent can take your list and seek out barns that meet your requirements/needs. If you are relocating to another area, an agent can be a real time-saver by narrowing down barns and reducing your running around in unfamiliar places. For local changes, an agent can keep your identity private until you are ready to make a move gracefully (more on that later). After the search, you may even discover that your current situation is the best option. Other options to aid in your search are Facebook, the World Wide Web, ask your current barn manager, trainer, friends, and ask other barns for suggestions.

Some needs to consider and have detailed on your lists:

  • Full care, partial care, self-care (if you need full service sometimes or all of the time)
  • As a horse ages, his living environment may need some adjustments in more feed and more turn-out, for example. Also, older horses can have a tougher time adjusting to change, so staying put may be the best option.
  • Feed needs – grain quantity and type, hay, supplements, extra feed when needed, hay when out, round bales (if round bales are used, consult with your veterinarian to see if a botulism vaccine is recommended).
  • If your horse has a vice (or vices), be upfront as that will be the best for your horse.
  • Blanketing, exercising, amenities, bathroom facilities, kitchenette, refrigerator, farrier, vet, dogs, outside trainer, deworming program, trailer parking, parking area, inclement weather, storm plan, barn routine, storage area for extra feed, tack room space, holding the horse for farrier and veterinarian – are all important topics to investigate.
  • Turn out, run-in shed, stall, fencing, footing (clay, sand, etc.), turned out alone or in groups or with a buddy? Are mares/geldings/stallions/youngsters/oldsters separated? From my experience, horses of like body types and feed requirements should live together if turning out with others. Be realistic here! A horse that needs lots of feed is not likely a good pasture mate with a horse that is an ‘air fern’!
  • What type of riding do you do? If you want to be a 5* eventer but don’t yet have a horse, perhaps you should set your current needs appropriately and NOT ask Phillip Dutton for a stall.
  • Do you need help with your horse and/or your riding?
  • If you want to trail ride/ride-out, then probably best to select a situation with that available and not requiring hauling to the trails.
  • Location — Consider traffic patterns at all times of the day and night, and days typically go to and from the barn.
  • Cost — What is included in the cost? When is payment due? What is your budget?

There are different types of boarding situations – here are a few:

  • Co-op – Work and responsibilities shared, scheduled among the boarders.
  • Private – Close and ‘cozy’, often the feeling of sharing a house.
  • Commercial – Think LARGE, possibly like being in a warehouse.
  • Training Barn – Part of their training program, sometimes short term for starting/fixing/etc. Visits or time at the barn may be required to be scheduled with the trainer or barn manager.
  • Competition Barn – Often very structured, and your time at the barn may need to be scheduled. The staff may provide all horse care.

Then there are personalities – other boarders, students, coaches, barn manager – what level of involvement and socialization do you want at the barn?

For some of you, perhaps it is time to buy your own farm or build on your property and bring your horse home, and you are finally ready to take that step.

Leaving gracefully – Provide the proper notice that you are leaving. Some barns request/require 30 days notification; know what situation applies to the barn you are leaving and the barn you are moving to. If you can’t say something nice, best to leave it unsaid, don’t get into comparison, criticism, or war of words, do your very best to be gracious and be on good terms. This is not the time and place to “teach someone a lesson.” Keep your thoughts to yourself.

Brought to you by BANIXX – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx:

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: A Guide to a ‘Greener’ Barn, Brought to You by Banixx

Barn trash piles up! Photo by Shellie Sommerson.

At a barn of three horses that are outside most of the time (in during storms), we use about 240 bags of shavings, 64 bags of feed, 12 dewormers, 10 supplement containers, and 120 bales of hay (240 strands of baling twine) per year. That is a lot of waste — and a barn with more horses equals more trash! The debris from all of that does not decompose quickly. Polypropylene baling twine takes 50 years to decompose. The “skinny” on baling twine: Natural fiber baling twine is less available and breaks easier than polypropylene twine, so farmers use the polypropylene twine more often. Some more ‘information’ — biodegradable plastics decompose in three to six months, whereas synthetic bags take several hundred years to decompose.

Yard Art by Ed Bauer from used horseshoes. Photo Credit: Shellie Sommerson.

Typical recyclable items in a barn

  • Feed bags – The bags are usually recyclable. The brown paper liners of feed bags make excellent paper wrapping for poultice wraps. The bags are also great to use as trash bags or storage bags and secure them with baling twine.
  • Brown paper packing from boxes (used as packing material for shipping) – Also great paper for wrapping for poultice wraps.
  • Baling twine – Made of polypropylene, 100% recyclable. It takes 50 years to decompose (or make a hammock out of it so you can relax after a long day). Polypropylene baling twine is NOT suitable to use for break-away tying unless you cut most of the fibers away (weaken it significantly); use natural fiber twine for that purpose!
  • Supplement buckets – Use for halter and lead storage at the gate of turn out areas, or as an electric fence cover, grooming buckets, keep fence and other repair tools in your feed cart.
  • Water tanks and feeders – Make great planters (plant flowers or vegetables).
  • Water bottles, Coffee cups, soda cans/bottles, and other beverage containers can be recycled with your regular household recycling.
  • Old tack and equipment – Reusable or recyclable pieces. Tack repair professionals often desire brass rings and buckles. Cloth is recyclable. Artists may want some of the parts and pieces.
  • Horseshoes – They make great yard art! Or recycle the metal at your local waste management.
  • Dewormer tubes – Cleaned up they make great dosing syringes, and the plastic is usually recyclable.
  • Farm implement type items, old fans – Recycle the metal.

Water tanks for above ground planters. Photo courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Elliott.

What is the “green strategy” at your barn?

Keep a bag, or bags, easily accessible for single-use recyclable items. If your recycling center only accepts items that are separated out by type, then use a separate feed bag for each type; if they accept mixed recyclables, they can go into the same container.

No recycling pickup at your barn? Trade-off with others for taking the recycling home. Be sure not to let it overflow; make it easy and convenient as possible for everyone.

In your vehicle traveling to and from the barn it is easy to accumulate ‘trash’ in your vehicle. A few grocery bags are a simple receptacle for keeping recyclables and trash separate without taking up much room.

Some additional tips:

Reusable cups that are washable – have a few so that you can swap them out for cleaning.

When you pull through the drive-thru for a quick bite, do you really need all that ‘stuff’? Ask them to give you only specific items (exactly what you need, not extras).

Consider having a baggy with utensils (spoons and forks) that you have on hand for when you need them. Did you know that most ‘disposable’ utensils wash well in the dishwasher so you can reuse them?

Large venues:

Horse show venues are another challenge! Heaps of trash, but is it really trash? Did you throw those water bottles in the trash? If recycling bins were available at shows/events, would you use them? Horse show management teams are often stretched with the resources they have, so adding additional tasks, such as recycling, with its tough logistical issues, is often avoided. The logistical challenges being transporting the recyclables to the proper location from the show venue when the show is over.

Start small and build up! If your area has a recycling center that pays for particular recyclables like aluminum, then contact your local 4-H or Pony Club and suggest a recycling fundraiser.

What works for you? Share your tips! We ALL will benefit!

Brought to you by BANIXX – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx.

A Companion for Your Horse? Presented by Banixx

Friends! Photo credit: Lynn McGugan

Horses are herd animals, and as we know, in the wild, they live in groups. Horses often are calmer and less prone to anxious behaviors with a companion; think of it as protection/safety in numbers.

Seabiscuit was difficult to train until he was united with his friend Pumpkin, another horse. Pumpkin accompanied Seabiscuit everywhere. American Pharoah had Smokey the horse as his calming companion. Goats seem to be popular at the racetrack barns as well.

Should you get a companion for your horse? Some options that have some popularity are dogs, cats, goats, ponies, donkeys, miniature horses, pigs, cows/steers, chickens, alpacas, llamas, retired horses, and horses rescued from the kill pen.

Before you start searching Facebook or Craigslist for a new critter, do some research! It might be helpful to answer these questions as you consider your options:

  • What care does the companion need?
  • What is the life expectancy of the new buddy?
  • Are the buddy’s dietary needs compatible with your horse’s needs?
  • Could food competition be an issue? A
  • re the living conditions/shelter/environment suitable for the companion to thrive?
  • Will the new chum attract other critters like foxes and coyotes (chickens and other small animals may attract prey critters as well)?
  • What type of animal are you and your caretakers (think barn sitters, etc.) comfortable with?
  • Is there a veterinarian in your area that is knowledgeable about the type of animal you are considering?

Companion animals can have their own habits/norms and may have behavioral issues, too. And a particular animal may have special needs. Also, certain types of animals have helpful qualities as well; for example, donkeys, burros, llamas, and alpacas are known to ward off coyotes.

I checked in with some horse people that have buddies for their horses, and this was the feedback I received:

Maria Caplan found that Nubian goats are great companions for her horses. They are a large breed of goat, so a horse is not likely to hurt them. They need very little care and live off grass. Their teeth do not need to be done but they do need their hoofs and horns clipped a few times a year.

Maria learned how to trim their feet and horns herself. She has found them to be very loving and friendly, making them great pets. Nubian goats very good with horses, and she has never had a goat hurt a horse or eat its’ tail (as some people think goats will do). The goat looks to the horse as a leader and leaves them alone/respects them as a protector.

Howie and his goats. Photo credit: Maria Caplan

There was a shortlist of cons of goats as companions that Maria shared, too.  They will climb your fence, and it doesn’t matter if it’s electric or no climb wire. There is a joke that if you pour water over your fence and a drop gets through, your fence is not goat proof – they will get out!

It is important to keep the goats happy and busy in their enclosure as they will escape once they are bored. Also, Nubian goats are loud. Maria finds their noise kind of endearing/cute but warns that if you have close neighbors, they may not appreciate their “cute” noise.

Bringing in a companion animal requires some time for getting acquainted safely. Put your horse and his new friend in adjacent stalls or paddocks so they can start to get to know each other from a distance. You want the two animals close enough to see and smell each other, but not close enough that one would be able to injure the other.

Keep that arrangement, if it goes well, for a few days. Then progress to supervised sniffing with your horse on a lead line and in an area where everyone can be safe. When you feel the animals are ready to be in the same area together, provide ample room to get away from one another. Provide a place where the smaller creature can get completely away just in case your horse gets aggressive, but not too much space so the horse cannot run. Until everyone settles in, it is best to allow supervised visits and at unsupervised times, keep the animals near each other but not together.

Before committing to taking on a new animal, it might be good to see if there is a “return policy” if the arrangement does not work out (after an honest effort).

Do your research!  Know the deficits that come with each animal.  Read on for a few pointers.

Goats seem to be popular for racehorses as companions.

Did you know that the life expectancy of a donkey is 25 to 30 years?! That’s something to consider!

Jade. Photo credit: Lynn McGugan

Chickens do eat bugs, even ticks, but their poo is a bit toxic.  Chickens can transmit salmonella, fungal infections, candidiasis, botulism, and streptococcus, so it is best to keep them out of your horse’s hay and feed.

Or do you just get another horse? How about that horse that nobody wants because it is broken down? Sure, it may need some care, perhaps some veterinarian attention and medication but his/her living environment needs are like that of your horse’s, so it may be the simplest alternative.

Many animals need adoption/homes so it really should be easy to find the right companion for your horse without breaking the bank.

Oh, and be able to laugh at yourself because I am sure there will be some adventures ahead if you decide to get your horse a companion!

Brought to you by BANIXX – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx.

How to Make Mane Maintenance Tolerable, Brought to You by BANIXX

Mare with a LONG Mane. Photo Credit Shellie Sommerson.

Does your horse hate anything done with its mane? Here are some ways to get her okay with combing, pulling and braiding.

This may take a few sessions, but it will really pay off if you take a little time with your horse! The amount of time depends upon you keeping your ‘cool’ and the horse. A horse that is extremely sensitive, has little handling or one that does not understand boundaries, will take a little longer. But the biggest factor depends mostly on you keeping your ‘cool’. This CAN be accomplished during your regular grooming sessions.

Safety First

Wearing a helmet is a good idea, even a safety vest. You only have one head and brain, protect it! The vest can protect you from a fall or if you get bumped into. If a mistake is made, or an accident occurs  and you have protective gear on, it could really save you from some pain or worse. And helmet hair is totally in this season (and every season), and safety vests go with everything!

Quietly Establish Boundaries

If your horse pulls away while you are removing her halter, then some boundaries are misaligned. Everything starts with boundaries. You need your horse to understand that she is safe standing quietly with you. She needs to understand that some things may be a bit uncomfortable at times, but she is safe and life is fair (not sure if fair for people and horses really translates to the same!) but there is an ‘agreement’ that you can make with your horse with some things that are not totally comfortable, but discomfort will not last long and all will be okay. So, how do you get there?

If your horse does not understand boundaries, then you will need to take some time to establish those, and a refresher is always good. This really does not take long it is just being consistent about your expectations. So, basic leading and standing are part of this, then you need your horse to not step into your space when something bothers her.

Think about having a hula hoop around you as your personal circle. She is not allowed to step into your ‘personal circle’. Your job is to pay attention to your horse’s body language and soften and reward when she gives the correct answer, yet quietly correct rudeness. This really needs to be part of handling your horse in all situations. Getting the timing with this correctly can be a challenge. Watching someone else that has good timing and a good temperament is a helpful tool (videos of yourself are helpful as well so you can see how you move and respond).

Also, when you are working with your horse on establishing boundaries, it is NOT a time for multi-tasking. If your horse needs your help in this department then it is super important to keep your quiet focus with her.

Teach your horse to lower her head with light pressure from your hand and from the halter; you should be able to do this from either side and while you are in front of her. When a horse lowers her head and neck it relieves tension and is calming (the opposite is high head and neck with high alert senses). When you ask her to lower her head it should be with light pressure and not a pushing/pulling contest.

Pay special attention to, and have the goal, of your horse taking deep breaths while you are handling her. Those deep breaths translate to relaxation and understanding – and you want that!

During these ‘exercises’ your only agenda should be to spend a little time working in the deficit areas, not achieving a specific goal. Some days may feel like you went backwards – don’t fret, stay the course. We all have ups and downs. Also, I do not like to tie or crosstie a horse while working on these exercises and activities until she is able to stay calm while accomplishing them.

Once you and your horse have those areas fairly well accomplished (you will likely need to revisit at times) you can progress.

Combing (yes, combing, not brushing)

Again, probably not good to tie or crosstie when you are working on this step until she gets comfortable with it.

The best tool for combing is a metal pulling comb with a handle. This tool will allow you to comb as little amount of mane hairs as you like without losing control of that part of the process, and it will withstand some pressure without breaking.

However, for a horse that is extremely sensitive to having her mane combed, a metal curry (the round curry with a handle) is a solid faux comb. This tool is helpful to desensitize your Drama Queen about having her mane touched.

Metal Curry

Another, often, productive methodology is to start combing the mane from the other side. Yes, you are bringing the mane to the side you do not want it to lay on; however, many horses will tolerate their mane being combed from the side it does not lay on. Combing pulls out little bits of mane too, so you are establishing some action and sensation situations.

Start working on the part of her neck that she is most tolerant of and if she moves around follow for a few steps, then quietly remind her about the boundaries (stop her as gently as possible). Move her back into the original place and start again. Do only as much or little as she can tolerate without getting terribly upset. And if she does not move and is now compliant with your requests, then stop and rub her neck or face or wherever she likes, maybe even give her a treat.

Take those moments and build on them SLOWLY. Take a little progress and be happy with that for the day, do not keep pushing.

These videos show progress from hating combing…

To tolerating it two days later after sticking with the same methodology.

Pulling the Mane

You’ll need a metal pulling comb with a handle (extra tip: if your horse’s mane is in good shape and you want to get it in really good shape for braiding, use a men’s plastic comb).

Men’s Comb

Pulling after the horse is warm, but not wet, is usually the easiest. Just don’t even attempt to pull a wet mane; your fingers will suffer, and it just does not work out too well. Stick with the same methodology as combing when you are getting your horse comfortable with having her mane pulled – go slowly, take frequent breaks and reward when she is quiet.

Find your horse’s ‘rhythm’ and how many hairs she is comfortable with during each ‘pull’. Some are better when the pulling moves up and down the neck rather than in the same area. Some are okay with larger amounts of hair pulled at a time while others are okay with just a few hairs. And some horses prefer to do the ‘pulling’ (once you select the hairs and wrap them around the comb the horse leans away, the hairs come out and the horse leans back to where it was), and do so calmly after that is all figured out.

For the thicker manes it is easier to pull the underside of the mane, and this holds for the super thick pony type manes. Take hold of the underside (closest to the neck), ‘rat’ the mane upward with your comb, then wrap that underside hair around the comb and pull. It should come out fairly easy. Do this up and down the neck, working more on the areas where the mane is the thickest.

Have a long mane that needs to be shortened up? If it is thick then I start pulling and pull every other day until the mane is close to the thickness desired, then I razor the mane to shorten close to the length desired. I finish up by pulling to the desired length. Why not cut? My experience with scissors on a mane has been DISASTER! I just do not recommend using scissors on a mane.


Have a helper for the first few times. And cookies are okay during this process! The more positive and the less stressful the braiding session is, the easier it will be the next time.

Yarn versus rubber bands? To share some personal experience, I thought rubber bands would be best for an overly sensitive mare’s first time being braided. It did not work out too well because I am no good with rubber bands. I spent more time messing around with the bands and the mare started getting antsy towards the end of the braiding session. Use materials you are comfortable with and know how to use. And, if you are new to braiding, then practice on a horse that is used to the process.

Start braiding where the horse is more comfortable with you working on her neck. If she is more comfortable at the top of her neck, start there. If it is near the withers, start there. If you have to start in the middle of the neck, just mark out your sections with your comb and start in the middle.

If yarn is your material of choice know that the yarn hanging on the horse’s neck adds a ‘tickle’ factor when it hangs on the neck. To alleviate this, braid down a few braids, then tie up and cut off the excess, then continue. Often you can braid down three or four braids on an extremely sensitive horse before needing to tie up and cut off the excess yarn.

Work in breaks during the braiding sessions. They are good for the horse and they are good for you. You need to stay calm and empathetic.

And be okay if you cannot braid the entire mane. For example, you may not be able to get the top 2 or 3 braids in (nearest the ears) or bottom (nearest the withers). But if you are patient and stay the calm and quiet course, over time (and maybe it is another time) you will be able to braid the horse’s entire mane.

These methods and processes have worked well for hot Thoroughbreds, hot chestnut mares, horses that were previously sedated for mane pulling, somewhat feral horses, drama queens, and many types in between. By staying patient, consistent and not getting overzealous just about any horse can learn that having her mane combed, pulled, and braided is all okay.

These tips can help you and your horse be more comfortable and have more enjoyable grooming and show preparation sessions.

Brought to you by BANIXX – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx.

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Gnats, Flies, Ants, Oh My! Presented by Banixx Horse Care

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Fat legs. Photo credit Shellie Sommerson

Summer rains bring more than green grass. They bring bugs. Gnats. Flies. Mosquitos. Ticks. In the southeastern part of the U.S., we have the added curse of fire ants! And your poor horse is the meal for those bugs. Not only do they drink his blood, they cause allergic reactions, swelling, heat and discomfort. And those little tiny bites can get infected. Of course, some horses even injure themselves scratching on objects and biting at themselves due to the itching. Gee isn’t this fun?!

Here’s some help! Below you’ll find temperatures and conditions when certain bugs are most active, and smells that can be used to repel them:

Gnats thrive when the temperature is around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and seem to favor warmer temperatures with high humidity. They can survive almost any temperature above freezing. They are most active mid-morning and dusk. The smell gnats hate is the smell of vanilla.

Mosquitos seem to prefer about 80 degrees Fahrenheit and get lethargic when the temperature drops below 60. They are most are active at night, dusk, and dawn, but some are active during the day. Mosquitos hate the smell of citronella.

Flies like the temperature above 68 degrees Fahrenheit and usually favor low humidity (this summer they seem to love high humidity – at least in North Carolina they are thriving in high humidity). They are most active around 9 – 11 am then again from 4 – 7 pm. And flies are very active just before storms and on humid, cloudy days.  Lemon grass, lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint are deterrents for flies.

Ticks are into temperatures above 45 Fahrenheit. There are many different types of ticks and they can vary on their climate preferences. Black-legged ticks, the type that transmit Lyme disease do not like hot and dry, so keeping the grass as short as possible reduces the shade that the ticks like.  Ticks do not like the smell of peppermint, lavender, rose geranium, cinnamon, lemon, and orange.

Fire Ants prefer sunny and warm conditions and are usually found in fields. All ants, including fire ants, aerate the soil and eat other insects, including mites and ticks – so they are good (until you or your horse get bitten by them of course). Ants do not like to walk across powdery substances. A non-chemical remedy is to sprinkle cayenne pepper around the mound, which keeps them from escaping, then pour cayenne water into the mound. This procedure should be done at each mound as ants have enormous underground structures of chambers and tunnels. The mound is just the top of the underground structure.

An example of an OTTB recovering from fire ant bites with the help of Banixx. Photo by Jane at Banixx.

How to guard your horse against bugs:

Some people swear by flysheets, fly boots, fly masks, bringing the horse in at night or before dusk. Most fly/bug spray does not have the staying power/ability to last for hours. And all that seems to vary regarding effectiveness. Ichthammol, although messy and disgusting, is about the only deterrent that seems to stay on (except in extreme heat). Swipe a bit on your thumb and apply it to your horse’s ears, swipe some on his underline, etc. Climate, location, weather conditions and your horse’s living options are going to dictate some of what you can and cannot do to help your horse avoid being the main course for bugs.

One horse I care for wears a fly sheet, gets allergy shots and is in a stall with fans when the temperature is over 85 F and he still manages to rub the skin off his face occasionally. Another horse appeared to have millions of bites on his front legs and belly. His front legs were swollen/filled and were hot to the touch. With treatment and fly boots he is doing well; the fly boots seem to be keeping the bugs from biting him. This horse did require veterinarian care to get rid of the heat and inflammation.

How to treat extensive bites:

What to do if your horse becomes the victim? If the legs are blown up and/or hot, or your horse seems in any sort of distress – call you veterinarian immediately. The necessity of medication – pain relievers and antihistamines may be in order. Also, infections, like Cellulitis can set in, and some horses unfortunately, tumble into laminitis, so it is really important to consult with your veterinarian.

To help your horse heal from these nasty bites on the outside, your go-to should be Banixx! When you first discover the horrible bites, do not pick off scabs or start scrubbing as those actions will cause more irritation and open all those little spots to outside predators such as flies.

The first day of the bites your horse is going to be sore, so something soothing that is going to start fighting infection is the best approach. All those little bites are “openings” to your horse’s skin and once bacteria enters it can continue into the subcutaneous layers causing full blown cellulitis. Stopping the bacteria and infection is an especially important treatment step.

Spray Banixx Horse & Pet Care Spray all over the affected area and gently massage it in with your hands, in the direction of the hair growth, not against. So, no rubbing or scrubbing, just massage/wipe with your hands to help saturate the hair and tissue. Repeat this twice a day until all those little bumps (bites) are gone.

Banixx Wound Care Cream can be used in the same way – gently massage into the affected area. The Wound Care Cream is highly effective on the belly or mid-line as it sticks well to the areas it is applied. As an added bonus, Banixx Wound Care Cream contains oil of peppermint and eucalyptus, and both ingredients are not favored by flies!

Additionally, on about days 2, 4 and 6 wash, gently, with Banixx Medicated Shampoo. Wet the areas with the bites (bumps, etc.) and apply Banixx Medicated Shampoo and let that sit for 10 to 15 minutes. The 4% Chlorhexidine will help clean and kill bacteria/infection without harming healthy tissues. It will not burn or irritate either. The marine collagen helps rejuvenate tissues and promote healthy tissue growth. After about 7 to 10 days your horse’s skin should be back to normal, depending upon the severity. If very minor, then the healing process will take less; however, the cases I am seeing this summer are not minor.

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“Debris” from gnat bites – Gently massage Banixx Horse & Pet Care Spray on the bites. Photo credit Shellie Sommerson

Brought to you by BANIXX – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here:

Hot to Cold / Cold to Hot: Weather Transition Tips & Reminders Brought to You by Banixx

Hot and sweaty horse on the left; cold and wet horses on the right. Photos by Jane DeMeulemester.

As summer begins to fade and fall emerges, the weather can change from hot to cold or cold to hot quickly, then switch back again. Such weather swings can make horse management a little challenging. Here are some tips and reminders to help keep everyone healthy and happy.

Here are four key areas to monitor and manage:


Keeping your horse properly hydrated is key to his health. Besides clean and fresh water. stay aware of the temperature of your horse’s water; too warm or too cold may discourage your horse from drinking. If you suspect your horse is not drinking enough water, try a little apple juice or Gatorade in a small bucket of water. It is not a bad idea to test out different additives that your horse likes in his water before you are trying to get him to drink more water. While on the subject of water, is your horse urinating more than usual or less than usual? If there is a change in his urination ‘habits,’ contact your veterinarian immediately.


Pasture changes with the season: quality, texture and quantity. Horses need forage for their digestive systems and to manage their internal temperature. For horses that get the majority of their forage from pasture, the seasonal differences, coupled with the weather, make pasture inconsistent. Gradually supplementing with more hay/forage before the pasture starts to ‘drop off’ will help your horse’s digestive system ease into the changes. Older horses and ‘hard keepers’ may need to begin that transition even earlier.

The forage content is essential with regard to the amount of protein it contains; higher protein feeds generate more heat in your horse when he consumes and digests it. So, in the higher weather temperatures, you may need to decrease the amount of protein in your horse’s feed and increase it in the cold. Again, transitioning slowly with the changing seasons is recommended. And, if the weather is making drastic changes, you may be able to help your horse handle the differences more easily with subtle feed adjustments by changing the ratios of feeds he is already getting. For example, on an unexpectedly hot day perhaps feed a bit less of his alfalfa hay and more of his orchard grass hay, or find that bale with a bit less alfalfa in it.


Access to shelter helps when the outside temperatures are high, providing shade and lower temperatures, and providing a wind block. For horses that live outside full time or part-time, a run-in shed, stall, or a heavily treed area will allow them to go where they are most comfortable. Airflow is essential with your horse’s shelter environment; your horse needs fresh air for his health. Avoid the urge to blanket when the weather is going to swing heavily. On those really chilly nights with really warm days, if you cannot be there to pull the blanket before the temperatures rise, then just do not blanket. Overheating from the blanket with warm or hot outside temperatures can cause your horse to colic or suffer from a heat issue.

When the temperature outside drops suddenly, there is no better way to warm your horse up than grooming. Currying stimulates your horse’s skin and gets things circulating. Your horse warms up, and you get a great arm workout! Win-Win!

Rinsing or bathing to cool your horses is effective IF you scrape the water off your horse. Even cold water on a hot horse will heat up when it makes contact with his hot skin and not cool him. Hosing (or sponging) and scraping, hosing and scraping, etc. is the method, not just hosing and leave. For a particularly hot horse, perhaps one that is overheating, cold hosing the jugular area and up beneath his back legs can help lower his body temperature. Again, it is essential to scrape the water off as you are hosing. And before you need to know, take your horse’s temperature so that you know what is normal for him. A horse’s normal body temperature can range from 99-101 F; 37.2-38.3 C; what is your horse’s normal body temperature?

If you clip your horse, clipping him when the weather is on a warming trend can help him adjust more easily. When you cannot do that, be sure to have natural fiber or high-tech fiber blanketing options available if the temperature drops. Natural fibers like wool and high-tech fiber blankets will wick the moisture away from your horse’s coat and allow air to circulate. Blankets made from materials like poly-fibers do not breath well and hold in heat like in a plastic box.

Are travels on your schedule? Travel north to south, south to north, or wherever your journey takes you – check the weather forecast and start the transition for your horse well before you depart. Is it colder where you are going? Or is it warmer? Go back through the various areas of horse management that you can use to help your horse travel and adjust well.


With these weather transitioning times of the year, you may be dealing with summer and winter skin issues at the same time. Have Banixx on hand! No need for different products for different areas of your horse. Banixx products are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, so a solution you can use all over your horse for wounds, fungus, rain rot, thrush, white line disease, sweet itch, abrasions, and more!

Knowing your horse’s ‘normal’ body temperature and habits, along with your learning how to get him to drink more water, are measures you can take to keep your horse more healthy and reduce the risks of colic. Lessening the effects of weather and temperature swings are key to helping your horse stay happy and healthy so you can enjoy your time with him. Happy riding & happy horses!

Brought to you by Banixx – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here:Banixx,Wound Care,Horse,Equine,Safe,Non-toxic

Bot Flies – Just Pesky, or Worse? Brought to you by Banixx Horse Care

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Bot larvae in a horse’s stomach. Photo credit: Southern Pines Equine Associates

Some of this might sound a bit like high school biology — it is not meant to be a science lesson. However, bot flies are rather interesting and negatively impact most horses.

There are nine species of horse bot flies (Gasterophilus is the scientific name). Three are the most common in the North America.

  • Gasterophilus intestinalis (DeGeer) – internal parasite of the gastrointestinal tract, and the most common
  • Gasterophilus nasalis (Linnaeus) – nose bot fly
  • Gasterophilus haemorrhoidalis (Linnaeus) – throat bot fly

Bot flies have a life cycle of four stages.The larvae stage is where the real damage is done. The larvae can attach to your horse’s mouth, cardiac area and stomach, causing multiple issues while they ‘host’ off your horse. To protect your horse, it is important to understand their life cycle as there are different ways to treat for or manage them in the different stages.

Adult (the actual fly) – The adult female lays her eggs on hosts (that would be your horse). And she can deposit 150 to 1,000 eggs on one horse. One generation is produced per year.

Eggs – The yellow ‘things’ that are attached to the hair on legs and body of your horse (shown in the picture below). Bot flies typically lay their eggs in early summer months; however, that can vary in regions due to climate.

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Bot eggs on a horse’s leg. Photo credit: Jane DeMeulemester.

Larvae – Developed from the egg after about seven to 10 days of being deposited by the female bot fly. These maggots are stimulated to ‘hatch’ by your horse licking or biting at them, then they are ingested by your horse or crawl into his mouth. In the mouth they burrow in the gums, tongue or lining of the mouth for an approximate 28 day stay. Then they molt and make their way to your horse’s stomach, or even to your horse’s cardiac regions. Inside your horse they ‘attach’ themselves again and continue to ‘host’ off your horse and continue their damage.

Pupae – The pupae are shed from the horse’s system into his manure. They incubate in the manure for one to two months.

What they do to your horse and you:

First, the bot fly is very annoying when it is flying around your horse, then they lay their eggs. Those yellow looking eggs on your horse are a bit unsightly, well that is just the start of it! Eggs can detach and get into your horse’s eye, or a person’s eye (ocular invasion). When handling a horse with bot eggs, do not touch your face or rub your eyes until you have washed your hands! Then, when the larvae are in your horse, they attach to your horse’s insides, just like a tick, and feed off him. They consume nutrients from the tissues inside your horse.

Signs that your horse may have bots:

  • Inflamed mouth
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Stomach irritation
  • Colic

How to control/manage bot flies:

             Grooming/Egg removal tips – Egg Stage

  • Use a Bot knife to gently separate the eggs from your horse’s coat
  • Pick off by hand (not really recommended – per the eye invasion possibility)
  • Use a grill block to disconnect them from your horse’s skin
  • Heat vinegar and wipe on the areas where the bot eggs are (the eggs will release from the hairs)
  • Apply a layer of Vaseline over the eggs. Later in the day wipe off the Vaseline with a paper towel and the eggs will come off with the Vaseline. Throw the paper towel in the trash.

*Always wash your hands after removing bot eggs and handling or grooming a horse that has bot eggs.

             Deworming – Larvae Stage — Ivermectin and moxidectin seem to be the most effective for the larvae stage. Research suggests that moxidectin is a bit more effective for killing the larvae than ivermectin. Deworm for bots in the spring and in the fall. Be sure to check with your veterinarian regarding your horse and the area in case there are some differences to adjust for.

             Pasture management – Pupae Stage – Manure removal removes the pupae of the bot fly but removal is not entirely necessary. Breaking up the manure piles by dragging or knocking the piles of manure apart can destroy the pupae’s environment; therefore, destroying the pupae.

With egg removal and pasture management you have some opportunities to break up the cycle of bot flies, but do not forget the deworming. Fecal counts check for the shedding of parasites, and the timing of a fecal count with a bot infestation may not provide the right information at the right time. If you see bot flies and bot eggs on your horse, your best defense is to attack them through grooming, deworming and pasture management.

Brought to you by Banixx – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here:

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But … Does He Walk? Brought to you by Banixx Horse Care


At the walk. Photo credit Shellie Sommerson.

This writing was inspired by an interaction with a friend years ago. And in the development, I realized how that interaction has come full circle in many respects. At that time, I was showing a friend the progress a young horse of mine was making. I quickly got to the trot, canter and jumping to show off our ‘progress.’ “What do you think?” I asked. His response, “But does he walk?”

That question has stuck with me through the years, and working with J. Michael Plumb and his emphasis on using the walk to achieve more with training and preparing horses this writing is meant to be a reminder of where we all start. Also, it is okay to return to the start, which is not necessarily starting over.

For most of us, the summer brings on the higher temperatures, and in many areas, increased humidity. What can you do to keep progressing in your horse’s training without over-exerting in the heat? There are 3 benefits of walking that come immediately to mind:

  1. Exercise
  2. Relaxation and bonding
  3. Training

Walking for exercise is not only good for your horse, but good for you too. Go find some hills, even little inclines/declines as they can help build muscle and balance. Pay careful attention to your horse’s shape while doing this to ensure he is not inverted; he should not be curled up either.

Walking for relaxation is a great time to bonding with your horse and get to know him (under tack and hand walking). This can help the rider relax too. Taking the time to walk your horse under tack can help you find out what he needs to be prepared to go to work. Are you struggling with getting the relaxation you need from your horse to prepare for your dressage test? Spend time learning how to get him relaxed and tuned into you, with a quiet mind – walking for relaxation. If he does not stay settled, do a little trotting or another exercise, then come back to the walk and grow the amount of time you can spend at the walk with him.

Working in the walk is easily overlooked in training, yet so much can be taught and accomplished at the walk. Just about everything can be taught at the walk. We have all probably heard about teaching ‘footwork,’ whether in human only sports or equine sports. Teaching footwork is easier at a slower pace; that is the walk in most situations.


  • Everything comes up slower
  • Less likely to be pulling (on the reins) and more likely to be pushing (with seat and legs)

Starting your session at the walk, on a long rein and stretching down – if possible, is a great way to let your horse start to warm up his back. If he cannot do that, no worries, just get what you can and then get him on the rail (fence). You can use the rail to help teach him where to be and what you want. If you do not have access to the rail you can do the same exercises around an object, like a jump.

If you are doing this around an object your primary rein contact will be in the outside rein, and your primary pushing/activating leg will be your inside leg. Still you want a fairly straight horse.

Using your seat and legs ride beside the rail pushing his hips a little to the inside and tip his nose a bit on the rail with your outside rein; however, keep your horse as straight as possible, not bent. Straightness is achieved by forward, so as difficult as it can be sometimes, push with your seat and legs to get your horse straight (the back-end needs to get straight first before the front end can get straight). The rail will slow your horse without you pulling on the reins, so you can keep pushing and not pull. Be conscious of his foot falls – are they quick? If so, use that rail to slow the speed of the feet. This is a time for slow feet. In early stages your horse might carry his head a bit high, that is okay if his hind feet are moving. Allow him to find his balance behind, then the shoulders and neck will ‘fall into place’ with the benefit of him using his back. After he finds his balance behind and can carry it you can allow him to drop his neck and head.

Once your horse finds his balance and starts to maintain contact from the back-end to the reins, your horse will hint at dropping his neck, allow him that reward for a bit.

The next step is to continue at the walk and just bump him with your calf or ankle while he keeps the contact you have with your reins. You want to feel him step up a bit with his hind legs; feel a surge from the back-end, not the front end. If he does not respond, then bump a bit harder. If still no response, then revisit your ‘go forward’ aides. If he steps up with his hind legs but gets wiggly in the bridle, go back to the rail to use the rail to help keep him straight (then you only have the other side to keep straight) and repeat the exercise. You want to feel him step up with his hind feet and get steady and straight contact in the bridle.

Always remember to Push for Straightness!

Once you can ride him fairly straight at the walk without him speeding off, start to take more of a feel – back to front – work toward as steady of a connection as you can get. You may need to take this part back to the rail if you are using more hand than leg, or if your horse speeds up  Hold that for only a few steps, then allow him to stretch back down on a softer rein (his reward). Repeating this exercise and building on the amount of time he can maintain the proper contact can take some time; however, it will pay dividends!

Spending more time at the walk helps in many ways

  • Low impact/less stress
  • Teach it at the walk, then the trot & canter
  • Perfect it at the walk, then the trot & canter
  • Work on rhythm as the walk is a 4-beat gait with regularity and quality

Brought to you by Banixx – the #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Find out more about Banixx  by clicking here:

Farrier Etiquette – The Most Bang for Your Buck: Brought to You by Banixx

Jim Clemente at work in Southern Pines, NC

Jim Clemente at work in Southern Pines, NC. Photo courtesy of Shellie Sommerson.

Do you dread picking up your horse’s feet? Do you wrestle with him to get studs in and out? Just think how your farrier feels when he/she shoes your horse!

Your farrier is a key member of the team that keeps your horse at his best. Here are some tips on how to make the process more pleasant for everyone involved!

As one farrier told me, “You will get more bang for your buck if your horse stands still for the farrier.”

Foals/Youngsters – Handle your youngsters early on and often! Run your hands down the legs, pick up the feet, get them used to being touched and handled. Bring the youngster into the area where the farrier is working on other horses and have the farrier ‘introduce’ him/herself to the youngster before working on him.

Older horses or injured horses – Consult with your veterinarian AND farrier together on how to best prepare your horse so he can be the most comfortable for the farrier session. And, let your farrier know about the issue(s). For a horse that cannot bend his knee/knees fully you can work with him to stand one front foot on a block while the other foot is being trimmed and worked on. It may take a little time to teach this ‘pedestal trick’ but it can make the farrier process easier for both your horse and your farrier.

Difficult and energetic horses – Turn out, lunge, or ride before the farrier session. Plan ahead! If your horse has been in the stall all night, get to the barn early enough to burn off that extra energy via exercise rather than expecting your farrier to provide stellar workmanship on a moving target!

Very difficult horses — Make a plan well in advance. Talk to both your veterinarian AND farrier for the best approach. NEVER sedate your horse for farrier work without your farrier’s knowledge. Keep everyone safe! Be honest, but do not belabor the point, if your horse has behavioral issues during farrier work – let your farrier know ahead so that he/she can be prepared. In between farrier visits, work with your trainer to resolve the issues.

Work area

  • A covered area (rain or shine) is optimal, with level and dry footing.
  • Good lighting is very important. Set up additional lamps if regular lighting is not sufficient.
  • Fans can help keep the air circulating; however, if the fan is too strong or at the wrong angle it can throw dust in your farrier’s eyes, etc.
  • Clear the work area of obstacles and debris. Reduce, or better, eliminate traffic of people, dogs, cats, other horses, and vehicles (golf carts, gators, etc.).
  • Avoid deliveries like feed and hay.
  • If farrier work is unavoidable during feeding time, giving your horse a handful of grain, while the others are being fed, may de-escalate the situation.
  • Set your phone down! The farrier session is NOT the time to multi-task! Help keep your farrier and your horse safe. If your farrier gets hurt, then usually he/she cannot work.
  • Do not feed treats while the farrier is working on your horse. Your horse will be distracted and may not keep his feet where they need to be.

Additional points:

Have your horse prepared, you have an appointment, so be sure that you and your horse are organized. Do not expect your farrier to catch the horse! He/she is a farrier, not barn help.

Run a light brush or towel over your horse, no need to groom for the show ring; however, your farrier will appreciate not getting slimed and grimed. But do NOT bathe your horse right before the farrier comes! Wet horse legs make your farrier wet.

Do not oil the feet, and when fly spray is needed use a non-greasy/non-oily spray. Yep, a perfect time for that cheaper fly spray or some of the home remedies. Greasy/oily legs make the farrier’s tools slippery, difficult to use and unsafe.

Such a simple idea, but often overlooked – have you asked your farrier for his/her preferences? This may seem superfluous, especially if you have been working with your farrier for quite a while, but when was the last time you asked what he/she prefers regarding work space, lighting, airflow, cross-tied or held, etc.? While you are at it, offer him/her something to drink — water or coffee/tea.

And, be sure to pay at the time of service; you know the appointment is coming and should plan accordingly. Your farrier is a small business owner and has already paid for the materials and tools used on your horse. Just pay at the time of service.

Lastly, do not tell your farrier how to do his/her job; you hired a professional, let him/her work.

Brought to you by Banixx – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here:

Troubles Loading in the Trailer? Some Tips – Brought to you by Banixx Horse Care


Please get in! Pretty please! Photo by Shellie Sommerson.

There is almost nothing worse than your horse not getting on the trailer when you need to be somewhere on a schedule and … your horse simply will not cooperate. Ugh!!! What steps can you take to keep this from happening in the future?

Most trailer loading issues really have nothing to do with the trailer. The problems start with ground manners or lack thereof and your inability to direct your horse’s feet. You need to be able to influence your horse’s feet to move in the direction you want. Don’t plan to work on trailer loading skills when you need to be somewhere within a certain time frame. Practice when you are not in a hurry.

So, how do you resolve trailer loading issues?

Tools: Rope or leather halter, lead rope (about 8 to 12 feet long) and gloves.

It is really important that your horse respect and respond to you but NOT be afraid or reactive! A respectful and responding horse will move methodically. A scared and reactive horse will move quickly and unexpectedly – not safe for either of you!

Your focus should not be on getting the horse in the trailer but your horse staying out of your personal space, you being able to control the direction of his feet and you being able to touch him (even when he may not be able to see you). In your mind, remove the goal of getting your horse on the trailer as this will inhibit progress.

Personal Space

Does your horse get in your space? Bring his head over toward you, crowd you with his shoulder and/or turn away?

The first step is to teach your horse to stay out of your personal space. Think of a circle, like a hoola-hoop that stays around you. Your horse should not enter that space unless invited into it. If he breaks that rule, deliver a little bump on the lead line. A bump, not a jerk.  Remember, your feet should NOT be moving backward/forward! But his feet should move! When he starts to give you the right response, stop asking – stop the queuing – when you stop queuing that tells him he is doing what you want. Practice this in both directions. Your goal is to have a horse that keeps the ‘distance’, follows the lead line around the circle without pulling or cutting in, and continues stepping forward until you ask him to stop. And this leads you into the next step – Managing the feet.

Managing the Feet

Your horse’s feet, NOT your feet! You need to be able to control your horse’s feet forwards and backward in a straight line. A great exercise is to line your horse up next to a fence line (I should not need to say this – but please stay away from wire fences). Teach your horse to step forward one step at a time and backward one step at a time off very slight pressure on the lead line. If your horse gives you a hint or thought of the direction you ask, then stop asking when he starts trying. It is VERY important to release the pressure as SOON as your horse even starts to give you the response. You control the number of steps in each direction. The goal is for your horse to stay straight, that is where the fence line comes in handy. Work on this from the off-side and the on-side. Once you are successful at this exercise, then move off the fence line and practice this in the open.  Practice this exercise facing your horse with your focus (energy, if you will) is on his hind feet (the motor). If you can draw your horse forward and step him backward, then you can walk him up to the trailer and do the same whether you are beside him or facing him. That brings us to the third skill – Touching.


Get your horse comfortable being touched on his sides, hips, backs of the legs – this will come in handy when you have to do anything behind the horse (butt-bar, etc.) where he may not be able to fully see you. This is a huge piece for safety! Your horse needs to know that he is safe with you, even if they cannot see you – ever so important with trailering. He needs to know that you are not a threat and trust that you are not putting him in a threatening environment. A relaxed horse is the goal.

On to the Trailer

When working at the trailer, put your trailer in an area where the footing is good. Parking in a vacant paddock is great (close the gate just in case your horse happens to get away from you); stay away from gravel and pavement if you can as bad footing can add an element of distress or discomfort.

As a reminder – your initial goal is NOT to get your horse in the trailer; that will come. Your goal is to be able to accomplish the above exercises. In your first session, plan to introduce your new method to your horse, practice the exercises and breath.  The number of sessions you and your horse need will depend upon how well you two are able to do the exercises, and how well you can keep your emotions out of the mix.

Whether your trailer is a front-load or a side-load, the guidelines remain – Personal Space, Feet and Touching. Begin with leading your horse up to the trailer near the opening to let your horse investigate. When he investigates, he needs to stay near the trailer and fairly ‘lined’ up. Reward him with a pause/rest and a scratch. If he steps sideways without being rude, that is okay, just queue him to come forward and straight (even if it is a forward thought or a shift in his body weight forward). Once he starts to think forward relax your queue Thinking forward when asked is the key and that is VERY important for you to be good with your timing – stop asking when he starts trying. Then let him rest or pause. If he backs up, go with him, then queue him to step forward again. Do not be in a hurry to go right back to the same location that you were before. What you want and need is that your horse thinks forward when you queue and you stop asking when he starts trying. If he stops, that is okay; if he backs up, then go with him and you may need to put his feet to work on a circle (think hoola-hoop exercise from earlier) and then re-present the trailer.

Once he is half-way in the trailer, don’t get greedy. Any time he will stand part way in the trailer, use that time to scratch and rub him! That Touching part! Also, frequent rests will reinforce that where you ask him to go, he can step there and stay there without leaving. Once he comes up and stands part-way in the trailer and waits, then ask him to back off one step at a time. This part comes in handy so that you can ask them to come out of the trailer quietly (horses totally new to trailering can sometimes get on and then are challenged to get off – that part of the training process alleviates that issue). When you want the horse to back out of the trailer, you can teach your horse to back up with a voice command and a queue such as lifting his tail. Continue with the forward and backward. Pick a point to stop for the day, then come back the next day and start from the beginning.

When your horse steps up into the trailer, don’t be in a hurry to get that butt bar up. Move the butt bar around so it makes some noise, etc. and when your horse keeps his feet still (and is in the trailer comfortably), then put the butt bar up. He may rush out when he hears the butt bar moving around; that is alright. Just go back to the same process and same steps as before. Your quietness and consistency will help him understand that he is safe.

Additional Points

When a horse steps methodically forward and backward at the trailer, and is not afraid, he will watch out for his own self and this can really reduce accidents/injuries. Whereas, a horse that is worried and scared might move quickly and step of the edge of the trailer or ramp and bump into the divider.

If your horse gives to slight pressure on the lead line/halter – this will save you when you forgot to unhook/untie.


The three basic keys to remember – your horse respecting your personal space, your ability to control your horse’s feet and your horse being comfortable with you touching him even when he may not be able to see you. These are key to developing a horse that loads quietly and safely. This takes time and effort; however, if you practice the exercise correctly these steps will provide positive results.

For a Horse Trailer Safety Checklist, please check out this blog.

Brought to you by Banixx – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here:

Don’t Let Yesterday Use Up Today! Brought to you by Banixx Horse Care


Rushing and riding by an agenda? Photo by Michele Kastner.

We have all heard the well-worn clichés “Change is inevitable,” “The only constant is change,” “Change is going to come,” etc. Well, here we are and what are we faced with? Change.

But wait! Before you rush off, I have a few more changes to suggest.

  1. Adopt the S-T-O-P! philosophy. It’s simply – Stop That Or Pay!

Rushing does not help you or your horse.

Do you rush to get your horse ready for a lesson or a ride? Your horse doesn’t understand when you’re darting around and scurrying. This causes the anxiety in your horse. As you are hurrying to get on your horse do you think about how he performed during the last ride? Perhaps it didn’t go as planned and you had some frustrating times?  Just S-T-O-P!  Do you find yourself pushing hard to get through your agenda during your ride? Slow down and enjoy yourself and your horse.  I mean SLOW DOWN YOUR FEET and your actions. Stop and take a deep breath (your horse will probably do that too). Live in the moment and try getting ready without the rush. Horses are flight instinct animals – the more we rush, the more they worry.

  1. Leave it at the BARN entrance

Before you entered the barn, did you leave your anxieties, agendas and worries behind? You can retrieve them later, after you leave the barn. This is a simple exercise – bring a bag of any sort, stop at the driveway entrance, and go through the motions of removing your anxieties and worries and placing them in the bag. Then physically hang-up the bag and continue your drive to the barn. (You can retrieve them when you leave the barn if you like.)

  1. Additional thoughts

Are you fully present during your time with your horse? I used to scoff at that phrase – “fully present”; however, I had some circumstances occur in my life (big income decrease) that caused me to reevaluate my life and make some tough choices and I chose my horses. After jumping off the “hamster wheel” I realized that prior to my change in circumstances, I had quite a few rides were a bit of a blur, and my goals were taking over my listening to what my horse was trying to tell me. You too can make changes and the current pandemic might be that catalyst. You have a choice to be fully present every day. So, next time you are with your horse — what choices are you going to make? Are you going to rush and go through the motions or are you going to slow down, just be, listen to your horse and enjoy your horse?

The last ride should not necessarily dictate your next ride. Ride the horse you have on the given day and at the given time. If your last ride did not go as planned, don’t fixate on it! Leave those anxieties in the bag at the entrance. Perhaps stepping back a few levels from where your last ride started to derail is a better approach. Revisit some earlier lessons/levels to ensure your horse understands what you are attempting to do, and be sure that you’re comfortable with what you’re asking from your horse.

Another big one, rather than think about what might happen, ride with the tools, knowledge and empathy you have. Be positive in your approach to each exercise and don’t project how your horse might do something or be a certain way, just ride every step as it comes.

  1. Breathing Responsiveness

When you attempt to teach your horse something or correct him, after you make your point, does your horse let out his breath? Or, does he hold it? If he lets out his breath, his correct response the next time you ask for something will be easier to get. If he holds his breath, I bet the next time you ask for that same response that you were attempting to teach or correct, it will still be a bit of a challenge. By paying attention to whether your horse is taking breaths, or holding his breath, it can trigger you to breath as well.

Tomorrow is a new day

If we can be more present when we are working with and around our horses, leave our bag of anxieties and fears at the entrance, then we might realize that our horses are really trying to help us help them. What kind of change are you going to make? Consider adopting the S-T-O-P philosophy and ride the horse you have today.

Brought to you by Banixx – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here:

Losing Dressage Points in the ‘Stretch’? Here Are Some Tips, Brought to You by Banixx

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Solid connection flowing into a proper stretch Photo by Shellie Sommerson.

You may have read several articles about the value of your horse being able to stretch down and out, into the bridle, but have you read any that tell you how teach your horse to do it?

That is what this week’s post is about.

As a starting point here are the directives from lower level dressage tests about the Free Walk and ‘Stretchy Trot Circle.’

Stretchy trot circle: Forward and downward stretch over the back into a light contact, maintaining balance and quality of trot; bend; shape and size of circle; willing, calm transitions

Free walk: Regularity and quality of walks; reach and ground cover of free walking allowing complete freedom to stretch the neck forward and downward; straightness; willing, clear transitions

The directives in dressage tests are very helpful to review. They provide the goal of that particular part of the test. So, with those directives in mind, let’s get started!

Well, let me interrupt … In all of these exercises it is vital that your legs and seat activate first, and your hands do very little! The hands, i.e. reins, do not create the positive outcomes. Hands should be giving and allowing. If any ‘closing of the door’ is needed, it should be a resisting effort with your fingers, not a pulling effort with your hands, wrists or elbows.

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Stretching at the walk. Photo by Christy Gavin.

In the above image, the horse is relaxed through his topline, nose a bit out (could be out further), see the neck muscle bulging … the topline muscles are working and not the underside and the mane could flop from side to side (the nuchal ligament), good reach with right hind leg and swing of the hips which means softness through the body.

Ok — let’s get back to it!

Step 1: Start with walking forward with a steady tempo. Begin a counter-bend, thinking of pushing your horse’s nose out. I find that visualizing this actually happening helps me feel where my legs and seat need to be. (Your hands need to be ‘willing and giving’; not restricting or rotating back.) Then straighten your horse again (coming out of the counter-bend). If he offers to keep his head and neck out in front, then allow that, if not slowly and gently close the contact back up and engage with forward aids to resume a nice marching walk. Repeat this exercise until your horse is comfortable, confident and reaching forward with his neck in the counter-bend. At this point most of the contact should be in the outside rein. Practice this in both directions. The side that you and your horse are most successful should be repeated until it is a comfortable exercise, then start more practice on the difficult side. Doing this allows your horse to get the right answer more often.

Step 2: At the walk you have light contact with the outside rein and start to take light contact with the inside rein. Start a counter-bend and if your horse offers to get a little heavy in your hands, softly let the reins slip just a little while you add a little push with your seat and legs. Staying in a counter-bend can help you push out his head and neck. Still pushing, and still in the walk, ride your horse straight.

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Frame 1. Photo Credit: Shellie Sommerson

In Frame 1 – This rider is sitting quietly, pushing her horse forward into the light contact. Notice the tension in the reins, her hands could be more giving, but she is allowing him to go forward. His body shows the allowing forward by the diagonal pairs at the trot, the mane looks as if it could start flopping left and right (that nuchal ligament). She could let him have more rein and he would keep ‘seeking’ the contact down and out.

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Frame 2. Photo Credit: Shellie Sommerson

In Frame 2 – Energy and the horse is reaching forward and down.

If your horse raises his neck back up, just ride forward. Same if he curls, ride him forward WITHOUT attempting to do anything with your hands.

Through these exercises and calm practice, your horse will learn to follow the bit down and out with confidence.

These exercises can be done on straight lines or on circles. Having a boundary, like a rail, can be helpful to help you keep your hands less involved.

Additionally, these exercises can and should be practiced at the trot and canter. It usually takes longer for a horse to successful with these exercises at the canter. In all cases be cautious that you are conveying the right message to your horse. They should find comfort and relief in the stretch – even at a competition!

Extra bits:

During your riding sessions, if your horse offers to stretch, then interrupt what you are doing to allow him to stretch. It may only be a step or two but take that opportunity.

Road Bumps:

  • Rooting is not stretching – counteract that with a leg yield (not a hand yield).
  • If your horse curls his neck and hides from the contact, you cannot achieve the stretch. Either he does not understand, in that case start from the beginning and go slowly to ensure he understands the right answer, and/or your hands are involved, and you are lying to your horse. You may not be aware that you are using your hands. (I cannot change something that I am not aware of. Once I become aware, I can take steps to change.) Have a friend video your ride for you, as you may be doing things that you are not aware of.


  •  Through (push) — hind feet moving, back swinging, balance


  • To go forward in contact — need to be able to stretch properly
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Frame 3. Photo by Christy Gavin.

In Frame 3 – See the hind leg really stepping up and under the horse, and the neck stretching out to the contact (forward and out). Hips really in a swing and softness through the horse’s body.

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Frame 4. Photo by Christy Gavin.

In Frame 4 – Contact, in both reins, down and out! The rider should have her hands closer together and even more at the withers. The horse continues with a soft, swinging back and hips.


  • Once your horse learns to reach for the bit and stretch over his/her back then all sorts of magic can happen… You can push and go forward. You can ease up with your seat and legs and your horse slows his/her step.
  • Once your horse learns this then you can start and end your riding sessions with a good stretch.


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Active hind legs, swing through the back and reaching forward and down. Nice example of contact and connection. Photo by Shellie Sommerson.

Brought to you by Banixx – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here:

Got the Itchies?! What to Do?! Brought to You by Banixx

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Got itchy skin? Photo courtesy of Banixx.

Bugs, heat, humidity, shedding, gunk, all sorts of situations can cause your horse to be itchy. What can you do? Of course, we see someone else’s horse that never seems to be bothered, yet your horse is rubbing out every inch of mane and gouging his skin to hamburger via scratching!

We’re in shedding season and that can make your horse itchy. A good grooming session will reveal any small abrasions, bug bites and troublesome spots and it’s your first defense. Put that rubber curry or glove to work! Additionally, good airflow is important for your horse’s health; muggy conditions with no airflow can be uncomfortable for anyone, and especially your horse, add to his ‘itchies.’ Parasites can cause your horse to itch, so fecal checks and deworming are important protocols to maintain.

Regular grooming and air quality still not fully relieving your horse’s discomfort? A good bath with a quality product like Banixx Medicated Shampoo may be in order. Wet your horse and massage in the shampoo, then let it sit for about 10 minutes before rinsing. The chlorohexidine in Banixx Medicated Shampoo helps kill bacteria and fungus while the marine collagen soothes, moisturizes and heals the skin. And it’s a soap-free shampoo that does NOT contain parabens, sulfates, alcohol or steroids. No harsh detergents, so it will not dry out your horse’s (or pet’s) skin or coat.

After your horse dries from his bath, spray Banixx Horse & Pet Care Spray directly on the troublesome spots. Then follow up with an application of the Banixx Wound Care Cream for a horse that is hyper-itchy. This step is helpful as a daily maintenance as well.

Some areas to pay special attention to while grooming and washing:

  • Ears – If your horse has bug bites or sores in his ears wipe them out with Banixx Horse & Pet Care Spray, then apply a thin layer of Banixx Wound Care Cream.
  • Under the dock of your horse’s tail – These areas get dirty and can get itchy from dirt and dander build-up. Ticks also seem to like this area.
  • Clean your gelding’s sheath – some start scratching at their flank area when they are dirty.
  • Clean your mare’s udders – important and often overlooked; that area can get dirty and itchy too.
  • Little bugs like to bite your horse’s sensitive belly line, so cleaning and protecting that centerline should not be overlooked.

Various fly sprays and bug deterrent products are out there to keep the bugs at bay; however, they need to be ‘swapped up’/rotated as something might work for a bit then it stops working. Perhaps the bugs change or become immune? For horses with sensitive skin, be careful not to burn your horse with fly/bug repellents!

On a final note, if the issues can be resolved with good horse husbandry, then you are doing your horse a favor (and yourself) – quality grooming time and less ‘stuff’ (medication/herbs/etc.) flowing through his system.  Medications and herbal solutions can have side-affects that outweigh their good, and/or may be banned for competition horses. The use of medications and herbal remedies should be carefully discussed with your veterinarian and used sparingly.

Brought to you by Banixx – the #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here:

‘In It for the Riding’ With J. Michael Plumb, Brought to You by Banixx Horse Care

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J. Michael Plumb watching one of his students ride. Photo by Shellie Sommerson.

We ride for different reasons, and those reasons can change over time. So, I asked J. Michael Plumb (JMP) what he likes to work on when not preparing for a competition … and … now that he no longer competes, he brought it up — being ‘in it for the riding.’ But what does that mean?

What do you need to work on? This is not, “Oh, I curl my wrists.” Or “I look down when I ask for the canter.” This is digging deep and doing some real soul-searching. Sometimes it’s not so pretty and quite uncomfortable, too.

‘In it for the riding’ to become a better rider. ‘In it for the riding’ for your horse. Really improving your horsemanship communication skills.

Here are some exercises that can help us all become better equestrians:

  • Riding without stirrups, with a relaxed lower leg, is a great way to work on position and use of aids. Leave your stirrups on your saddle (if your horse will not tolerate them or cross them over in front of the saddle) — this is not “No Stirrup November.” Benefits of this include sitting in balance and practicing using your seat and legs. If you can only do this safely at the walk, then so be it; if you can do this at the trot, then great; moreover if you can canter this way safely, then, super.
  • Holding the reins in one hand and putting your other hand behind your back is a good ‘test’ of testing whether you are riding with seat and legs — or are you riding using only your hands? Try doing the same exercise and using your free hand to hold the pommel of the saddle to pull your seat down into the saddle. This is a great exercise to find your seat in the saddle.
  • Practice downward transitions without your reins. Can you go from a trot to a walk with just your seat, legs and core (without your hands)? How about a halt transition, keeping your horse straight, and not pulling on the reins?

As JMP went on to say, “Without competitions, or even schooling shows, we can really focus on what the *horse* needs.” What does your horse need? Mine has a great walk, but not so-great canter which sometimes makes it hard to find my spot to a jump … Guess what we are working on?! (Jumping is not the correct answer.)

Take your horse and these exercises out of the ring. Can you go out on the trails and practice the same? Getting our horses out of the ring is so good for their minds! Always keep safety as a priority.

Additionally, is your horse more relaxed at the end of your session? If not, look back at what you can do differently tomorrow to help your horse understand what you are asking. Try smarter, not harder.

Dare yourself to be better with your equitation, with your horsemanship. And, dare yourself to be better…

So many riders’ plans have been upended in these uncharted waters in which we find ourselves. Take this opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons and use this precious time to work on your horse and yourself. You might surprise yourself and your horse!

If you missed the last installment with JMP, you can read it here: Back to BASICs with J. Michael Plumb.

Brought to you by Banixx – the #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here…

Shedding (or Perhaps Not Shedding), Brought to you by Banixx Horse Care

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Slowly shedding pony. Photo by Shellie Sommerson.

Your horse is not shedding out like you expect him to?

Normal shedding is triggered by a hormone produced in the horse’s pituitary gland when your horse is exposed to longer daylight hours. But sometimes, the pituitary gland does not ‘work’ correctly, and there are other factors that affect your horse’s ability to shed.

What helps your horse shed:

  • Longer days/sunlight — for 60 days, constant, from day to day, 16 hours of daylight (natural and artificial light) are enough hours of light to trigger the necessary hormone to cause your horse to shed his winter coat.
  • Exercise – increases circulation and healthier skin to aid the shedding process.
  • Sebum – an oily secretion of the sebaceous glands. Your horse gets this from forage, but dry forage has reduced amounts; this ‘secretion’ does do other things but plays a part in shedding.
  • Vitamin and Minerals — Vitamin A, vitamin B, protein and amino acids (hair is 95% protein), zinc and copper.
  • Regular grooming!!! Good ole elbow grease!

Problems that cause a horse to not shed or not shed well:

  • Low thyroid function
  • Pituitary Pars intermedia Dysfunction (PPID) – Equine Cushing’s Disease which is a disease of the endocrine system affecting the pituitary gland.
  • Parasites
  • Poor health in general
  • Weather and short days – cold days and nights

Solutions to speed shedding

Your veterinarian can help rule out PPID (Cushing’s) and thyroid function issues with a simple blood test. If Cushing’s is the problem, daily medication can easily be administered.

Check your deworming schedule and consider getting a fecal egg count on your horse (via your vet).  Some horses are just more prone to worms and may need to be dewormed more often.

For stall-kept horses, leave the barn lights on for an hour or two after it gets dark.

Improve your horse’s nutrition; do your own research on safely increasing vitamins and minerals, read product labels and speak with your veterinarian. Increasing grazing time if your horse does not have metabolic issues is another option as well.

Finally, the easiest one, get out there with your horse and get him moving; this is good for his overall health, and a healthy coat follows!  Moreover, this gives YOU a benefit; horses provide relief from stress, and who doesn’t need that right now? Our horses also add to our exercise regime, thus improving our health and well-being too!

Brought to you by Banixx – the #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here:

Back to BASICs with J. Michael Plumb, Brought to You by Banixx Horse Care

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J. Michael Plumb. Photo courtesy of Banixx.

With usual competition schedules we can easily get in the mode of ‘training for the next event/show’ rather than training our horse. With the current COVID-19 concerns riders are sharing their exercises – jumping and flat alike. But what comes before those exercises? I asked J. Michael Plumb (JMP) what he likes to work on when not preparing for a competition (a little background — he is ASPCA Maclay Champion 1957, the only U.S. athlete to compete in eight Olympic games, the first equestrian to be inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame,  U.S. Combined Training Association’s “Leading Rider of the Year” 10 different times, and many more accomplishments).

His answer was rather blunt – “What we always work on around here: the B-A-S-I-Cs!”.

What are the basics? We have the dressage pyramid – Rhythm, Relaxation, Connection, Impulsion, Straightness, Collection. A great starting point! Can you walk, trot canter with rhythm? If not, start where you can, is it the walk? or the trot? that is easiest for you and your horse? Start with your horse’s most comfortable/best gait.

How is your connection — leg/seat to rein? Is he bouncing off the contact? Over-flexing? Encourage your horse to take contact with just the outside rein and work with a counter-bend to help strengthen the correct connection. Then go straight, and slowly slide into a shoulder-in, then work your way back to the counter bend. Play with those exercises until your horse takes a feel of that outside rein while you can push him with your seat and legs. Once you have the connection established with the outside rein, you can begin to work on a connection with the inside rein as well. Don’t hesitate to go back to just the outside rein at any time – that is the starting point.

When riding straight – is your horse really straight, and, with a solid connection? Back to the above exercises, those will help you achieve straightness.

Geometry, geometry, geometry! Circles are not eggs. Straight is not a squiggle. Practice geometry every time you ride, and it will become second nature.

And, very importantly, work on the relationship between you and your horse (horse and rider).

If you are wondering where you need to start with your horse, look at the comments on your last few dressage tests? Any repeated comments? Scores that seem to repeat (that you want to improve)? For each movement read the “Directive Area” on the dressage test … How are you scoring? And what are the comments? That information should tell you what to work on.

Jumping – a ground rail, raised rail, pile of rails, whatever … can you walk, trot and canter the element straight (really straight), on a bend (as in a circle)? Sharpen the pencil here! Work on yourself to ensure you give your horse the correct aides. Are you using your leg to straighten or bend, or your hands? Getting it right with a ground rail or small obstacle prepares us for correctness over larger obstacles.

For your horse’s mental health, and yours, be sure to get out of the ring and hack your horse if you have the location to do so safely!

And, was your ride a ‘deposit in the bank’ or a ‘withdrawal’? Did your horse settle more and more through the ride and become more settled, and quiet in his mind?

Of special note: JMP rides five to eight horses and works with multiple riders EVERY DAY. He will be 80 on March 28, 2020 – so stop making excuses for not riding your horse! As the expression goes … “Just Do It!”

Brought to you by Banixx – the #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here.

Weathering a Hay Shortage – Brought to You by Banixx Horse Care

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Dwindling hay supply! Photo by Shellie Sommerson.

Heavy rains have been known to cause hay shortages, and Midwest farmers were still feeling that squeeze at the outset of 2020. If a hay shortage affects your area, it can be stressful knowing your horse may not have access to as much forage as he needs. Let’s take a look at the factors to consider during a hay shortage:

How much hay does my horse need?

The average mature healthy horse needs 1.5 to 2% of their body weight in forage per day (a 1000 lb. horse needs 15 to 20 lbs of roughage per day). Horses need to chew and ‘work’ their digestive systems for their health. On their own, a horse grazes about 16 hours a day.

But when hay supplies become limited and grazing is not an option, what can you do?

Your alternative hay feeding options:

The first option may be to feed a different hay than you normally use. Perhaps add some alfalfa, timothy, coastal, orchard, or grass mixes. Another option is to change up the type of bale you feed — large square versus small square or round bale, for instance.

Other roughage options are perineal peanut grass hay (13-20% protein), pea hay, oat hay, compressed hay, hay cubes, complete feed, silage, haylage, alfalfa pellets, timothy pellets, beet pulp or straw.

In all cases, do your own research before you make changes/additions to your horse’s feed as the protein content and other nutritional values can vary greatly between different types of roughage.

Purchasing and Storage Ideas:

  • You might need to get creative and buy out of area if local sources are tapped out. Get a group of friends together and buy large quantities, like a full semi-trailer, is a great option!
  • If storage is limited shipping containers can be rented or purchased; they provide rodent proof and weatherproof storage.
  • Or store at a nearby location, such as a friend’s or neighbor’s building. Alternatively, make-shift storage might be an option, using tarps, pallets, trailers, etc. Make sure that the hay is off the ground and has good air flow.

Reduce Waste:

  • To reduce waste while feeding, explore the use of slow feeders, hay nets, and such.
  • Keep your hay storage area clean to reduce waste! Clean under the pallets and around the hay frequently to reduce the chance of hay spoilage from old and molding hay – this is particularly relevant in climates with high humidity!
  • Work on your picky eaters – try more of the ‘clean plate club’. Feed them smaller amounts of hay/roughage with each feeding but provide more feedings – this may help reduce the waste while they still get the amount of roughage they need.


  • Best to weigh the roughage! Guessing is not accurate.
  • Check nutritional content as not all roughage is created equal! Protein content can vary greatly.
  • Always check feeds for spoilage. A little mold/spoilage can contaminate, or damage can spread quickly.
  • Be cognizant of allergies and issues like horses with metabolic issues, etc. when choosing a different hay option.
  • Of note, veterinarians often suggest vaccinating horses against botulism if they are fed round bales. Check with your veterinarian for his/her suggestions and do your own research!

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Cribbing: A New Take, Brought to You by Banixx Horse Care

Cribbing. Photo courtesy of Banixx.

Cribbing, also known as crib biting, aerophagia and wind sucking, is a behavioral situation in which the horse is most likely relieving stress. Historically we thought was that horses cribbed to receive a high or euphoria but, new studies (which vary) suggest that a horse cribs for stress relief.

Cribbing happens when a horse puts its front incisors over an edge (such as a board) and pulls back, arching his neck, and sometimes ‘taking in’ air.

A long time ago, cribbing was considered an unsoundness. In 1889, a colt that cribbed was returned from Scotland to Belgium (no small journey) because it was deemed unsound as a ‘crib-biter’. Interestingly, wild horse/horses observed in the wild do not crib. Yep, we ‘caused’ it!

So, what are some causes of cribbing?

  • Horse management/maintenance: Long stretches of time with no forage and little to no interactions (boredom and stress).
  • Possibly genetic predisposition: Some horses may inherit their cribbing behavior; these horses start cribbing at a young age. Thoroughbreds, more than warmbloods and Quarter Horses, and possibly following certain bloodlines (per a Japanese study of 1,500 Thoroughbreds with a 1 percent rate of cribbing, but 7 or 8 percent within certain bloodlines), may be more prone to this habit.
  • Diet: High grain diet/low forage. Especially when this is started at a young age, this seems to increase the frequency of a young horse starting to crib.
  • Pain: Likely related to confinement after an injury.

Is it contagious?

  • Apparently not, since many companions of cribbers do not take up the habit. Companionship can help reduce cribbing and is a suggested management step.

How to manage the cribbing?

Cribbing has been called a behavioral disorder, and a harmful addiction; however, thoughts on this are changing. Rather than attempting to stop or curb the behavior, letting the horse crib is growing. The following are steps recommended to limit cribbing.

  • Keeping forage available all the time, which is, after all, what nature intended
  • Having companionship for the horse – can be a goat, chicken etc.
  • Reducing surfaces that the horse can ‘latch’ onto are becoming more accepted practices.
  • Cribbing collars are an option and have been widely used. There are several types, but they do not eliminate the urge, they just make the action of cribbing painful or uncomfortable. Some consider this option tormenting, due to the thought that a horse cribs for stress relief, as opposed to an addiction that they might become ‘weaned from’.

Is cribbing harmful to the horse?

  • Cribbing may result in increased colic, gastric ulcers, weight loss, wearing down of the upper incisors (checking these teeth is a quick way to check to see if a horse cribs), under development of some neck muscles and over development of others, weight loss/eating challenges, damage to fences, barn, etc., and flatulence.
  • The above problems all fall in the category of damage; however, the degree must be weighed against the value of the horse. For example, is this horse a fantastic babysitter for your other horses or for his/her rider? Is this horse a great performance horse? Is this horse a great producer? Is this horse your unicorn? Does this horse show great promise? Look hard enough and you will find a blemish in everything. Okay, so with cribbing we do not have to look hard, but is it really a reason to turn away? In the past, multiple horses that led in their sport were cribbers… many major competitions, including the Olympics, would very likely have been different if those horses were passed over due to their cribbing.

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Easy Gorgeous Tail Care! Brought to You by Banixx

Getting a tail into A+ condition, and maintaining it, takes some effort; however, the results are truly worth it! Picture you and your horse coming down the center line with a FABULOUS, full, swinging tail. It just punctuates your turnout!

If you are starting fresh with a very unkempt tail (hairs matted to the tailbone) you will likely have to sacrifice some hair to get that tail on the ‘right track.’ Once you have the tail under control, life gets much simpler!

  • Hand pick debris from the tail.
  • Wash with Banixx Medicated Shampoo, which is loaded with marine collagen as a moisturizer and conditioner. Be sure to wash the dock (boney part) of the tail too! Banixx Medicated Shampoo is particularly helpful to resolve unhealthy skin and the dock of the tail. (I find that using a bucket with soap and water to dunk the tail in allows me to get the tail saturated and down to the skin). Use caution and keep safety as your priority if you do this–you don’t want to surprise your horse.
  • Rinse well.
  • While the tail is still wet, saturate with a conditioner (equine specific or human hair conditioner), use your fingers to work through some of the tangles, then finish up with a thick toothed comb, carefully working  from the bottom of the tail to the top, to avoid losing precious hair. This step may need to be repeated if you have a nasty, problem tail.
  • Once the tail is dry, work on any remaining tangles with your fingers, and massage in a leave-in conditioner.

OK, now you have that fabulous tail — how do you maintain it? Nope, not the Tail Fairy – sorry! But here are some tips ….


  • Hand pick out bedding, grass, pine straw, weeds, etc.
  • With a soft brush and or small towel clean the underside of the dock of your horse’s tail, and with your hands check the dock of the tail. This accomplishes a few things — One, this is the quickest way to find ticks and other insect bites/issues. Two, the dirt and dander that accumulates under the dock of the tail causes the horse to itch … and scratch/rub out his tail.

Weekly or every two weeks

  • Wash the tail and be sure to get the dock of the tail clean. The frequency of this will depend on how dirty your horse gets.
  • With your hands, work a leave-in conditioner throughout the tail, starting at the dock of the tail and working down to remove tangles

Prior to a competition

  • Wash, condition and work out any tangles with your fingers. Allow the tail to dry. Don’t allow your horse to roll while the tail is still wet, it will attract and hold grime much more easily.
  • Spray with a leave-in conditioner that does not build up/feel ‘thick’ on the tail hairs.
  • Trim, cut and/or pull for a final preparation.

Wrapping or bagging a tail – An avenue to grow or preserve a tail is to wrap or bag it. If you choose this option (or want to test it), allow your horse to get used to this before attempting to ride him with his tail wrapped or bagged – or you might get a big surprise when he smacks himself with the wrap. Any bands/ties to contain the tail should cloth coated and not have metal (like the people hair bands).

Take the tail down (out of the bag) every few days otherwise the tail will suffer damages from being tied up for too long.

Lotions and potions – Stay away from oily lotions and potions in sunny conditions as they will burn the hair and attract dirt.

Bleached/discolored hair – Let those hairs grow out, or strategically clip them off (in moderation) or dye them. If you want to attempt to dye the tail to address bleached hair, proceed with caution. Use gloves, separate out the hair you want to dye (test a small area first) and apply the hair dye with a toothbrush. Be sure to read and follow the package instructions.

And with this easy tail maintenance regime, go for it! Just trot down that center line and WOW the other competitors right along with the Judge!

Brought to you by Banixx – the #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here.

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