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Shellie Sommerson

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About Shellie Sommerson

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area II
Highest Level Competed Training
Trainer J. Michael Plumb

Latest Articles Written

Your Horse Spooks — Should You Worry? Brought to You by Banixx

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Horses are flight instinct animals – OK, we all know that. But spooking does not always make sense — the horse may pass that same space daily, the object has always been there, but your horse spooks.

Types of spooks include new experiences, a quick flash, movement, or loud noise, eye/eyesight problems, and pain. Riding a spooking horse can be disruptive, exasperating and, at times, scary. It’s always a good idea to work with your veterinarian to rule out health issues (pain, eyesight). Sometimes, with a spook, your horse just needs a moment to ‘absorb’ the experience and can continue.

When you last dealt with a spook, how did you react? This is a good time for some self reflection. What were the circumstances? Did you look around to see what the horse spooked at … and abandon your horse as the wheels are falling off? Did you get after the horse … in an attempt to punish him?

Here are some tips for the next spook:

Calmly keep the feet moving, particularly the hind feet, but they need to move in a rhythmic beat, not a frantic scramble. Consider a leg yield. The feet are connected to the brain. When the feet move in rhythm, the brain quiets and is receptive to input. As best you can, do NOT pull on the reins. Other exercises are: turn on the forehand, side passing, shoulder-in, etc. anything that you can do to redirect his attention to YOU, and get the feet moving.

You may not be effective close to the scary object, so move away from it – but, with an exercise! Quietly work on the exercise and soften when your horse responds correctly. Try not to pull on the reins unnecessarily. You may not be able to work around the scary place today, or tomorrow, but, stick with the plan in a quiet fashion to build trust and confidence. Recognize that improvements come slowly, and, there is NO quick fix!

The speed of your success depends upon history, personalities, effectiveness of your exercises and patience. Be open to change if past exercises did not work. After it is all said and done, do you now have a better partnership with your horse? We hope so!

Happy Riding! Brought to you by Banixx.

Banixx is a fast-acting, affordable aid in the recovery of every kind of bacterial and fungal infection. Learn more at Banixx.com

Top Winter Hoof & Leg Care Brought to You by Banixx

Photo by Shellie Sommerson, courtesy of Banixx Horse and Pet Care.

Winter presents a unique set of challenges for equine wellness. This week we’re focusing on best practices for hoof and leg care in the chilly months.

  • For best hoof care, pick your horse’s hooves daily to increase needed airflow to the hooves allowing Mother Nature to do her work. Pick the feet before bringing your horse into the barn so that you can save on clean-up.
  • If your horse’s hoof has a foul smell, it is likely thrush. Pick well and spray Banixx Spray into the crevices and between the heels. If the thrush is chronic, use Banixx with a medicine boot to keep the hoof awash in Banixx Spray. Following the soak of 20 minutes, tape the hoof with VetWrap to prevent re-contamination.
  • To keep hooves healthy, have a consistent schedule with your farrier! The farrier trims back the dead sole and frog, to promote the growth of healthy tissue.
  • Hooves grow more slowly in the winter months, so you might think “Ah! I can save some money … and see the farrier less!” Not necessarily a good idea. Cracks and abnormalities grow out more slowly in the winter, so it is better to stay ‘ahead’ of these hoof problems with regular maintenance.
  • Frozen ground is hard and can easily bruise the sole. Pads maybe applied to protect the horse’s sole. Snowball pads (in snowy areas) may be an effective option for hoof health and rider safety.
  • If you find yourself riding on frozen ground, it’s probably best to come back to a walk. Frozen ground makes a ringing noise as the horse moves over it at a trot, canter or gallop.
  • The hair on your horse’s legs creates a protective barrier in winter; however, it also hides issues like crud/scratches/cuts. To clip or not to clip …? The cold air can be therapeutic on the legs, especially if the horse is in significant work or needs cooling therapies.
  • Keep legs as clean and dry as possible. Mud can be a problem! Plan ahead to provide an area for your horse to be able to get out of the mud.
  • To address leg issues, gently brush the dirt off and wet the legs with a sponge. Pour a quarter size dollop of Banixx Shampoo into the palm of your hand and gentle rub into the grungy/cruddy areas on the horse’s legs. Go for a ride, groom or clean tack. Then, after 20 minutes, rinse and towel dry. Repeat these steps daily or twice daily three or four days and the crud should be gone without burning or irritating the horse’s skin. For extra ‘power’ spray with Banixx Spray after completing the other steps.

Banixx is a fast-acting, affordable aid in the recovery of every kind of bacterial and fungal infection. Learn more at Banixx.com

Why Does My Horse Yawn? Brought to You by Banixx

Photo by Shellie Sommerson.

When your horse yawns, what does he really mean? Horses yawn for a variety of reasons. Studies reveal these as possible reasons:

  • State of drowsiness – perhaps relaxed/relaxation in your horse; but not the same as in humans (drops in blood oxygen levels)
  • Environmental stress or anticipation – herd dominance, social queues, anticipation
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort such as ulcers
  • Tempo-mandibular tension and/or pain – stretching, pain reaction
  • Liver distress – usually associated with other signs of liver disease (jaundice tissue, loss of condition, diarrhea, discolored urine, and abdominal pain)
  • Apparently, males yawn more often than females. So, that is something that mares don’t get the ‘bad rap’ on!
  • Is your horse yawning because he is calming or, is he yawning to relieve stress? (Calming queues, like  licking and chewing, stretching down, etc.). If stress induced, what can you do to relieve his stressors? If gastrointestinal, liver or pain is suspected, contact your veterinarian.
  • Or, like mine… FEED ME!!!!

Next time your horse yawns, look around — what is going on in the environment when he yawns? Does your horse seem calm or stressed?

Share your observations with us – Gender? What is going on? Does it seem to be stress or calming or perhaps communication of some sort?

Banixx is a fast-acting, affordable aid in the recovery of every kind of bacterial and fungal infection. Learn more at Banixx.com

Winter Horse Health Tips from Banixx

Photo courtesy of Banixx.

Some ideas to consider as winter approaches … stay warm and safe!!

  • Check your horse daily, In addition to currying, run your hands over your horse’s skin to find any problem areas hidden by winter hair such as body condition, ‘leftover’ ticks, cuts, scabs, rain rot and scratches. Especially check the horse’s armpits, groin and stomach.
  • A weight tape is an easy way to keep track of the horse’s body condition (record the numbers every couple of weeks).
  • Horses’ ears tell a great story! Gently cup her ears to feel if they are cold or warm. If the ears are cold, then the horse is probably cold. This is a great bonding/quiet opportunity with your horse.
  • Hoof Care: Wet conditions can increase thrush issues. Pick the horses feet and apply Banixx Horse & Pet Care spray. In extreme thrush cases soak the afflicted hoof in Banixx. See our page on thrush treatment.
  • Horse need fresh, clean water. Keep an eye on your horse’s water consumption particularly when barometric levels change; this negatively affects some horses more than others.
  • Check wiring to heaters in outdoor tanks, and encase electrical cords with plastic pipe or old water hoses and secure them out of reach of inquisitive equine mouths.
  • Have a back-up plan if water is frozen and unavailable; an ice chest can be helpful to transport water.
  • A great way to add additional moisture to the horse’s diet is a “mush” of sloppy beet pulp (great fibre) or add water to his favorite feed to increase hydration.
  • Remove the cobwebs hanging around to reduce dust and fire hazards and to improve air quality.
  • Ensure good ventilation in the barn. Poor ventilation can lead to a build-up of ammonia. If the barn smells bad to you, it probably is! This can be ‘hard’ on a horse’s delicate respiratory systems.
  • Keep an old hairdryer in the barn to warm your horse’s bit. It can serve as double-duty if your horse’s back is moist from riding and you have to re-apply a blanket.
  • De-worm before it gets bitter cold so that your horse does not suffer the double stress of intense cold and dewormer in his gut. Keep in mind that deworming can be harder on the older horse.
  • Think about having your horse’s teeth checked to ensure they can eat hay well.

Brought to you by Banixx – the #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners!

Tidbits from Banixx: Clipping Tips #2 – Ways to Avoid a Calamity in Clipping

‘Tis the season for clipping! Shellie Sommerson shares tips for a successful clip job — if you missed part 1, “So, You Want to Clip Your Horse? Tips from a Pro,” check it out here.

Photo by Shellie Sommerson.

Before you clip, take into consideration the temperament of the horse, his and your clipping experience and plan accordingly, so that the operation is positive, confident and stress-free for both of you.

  • Introduce yourself by standing on a mounting block without the clippers, then … add the clippers. Don’t stand on a bucket!
  • If the clippers have a ‘bracelet,’ use it! Otherwise you could end up dropping the clippers, they then break as your horse steps on them, gets startled, breaks away and the entire day is now a major flop! 
  • Checking the clipper blades every five or 10 minutes is important so that you don’t burn your horse or frighten him with the heat of the blades.
  • When clipping the face or underside of the face, if the halter has a detachable throat-latch clip, don’t allow it to dangle — your horse could lose an eye if he tosses his head.
  • If your horse is not comfortable in the crossties, have a helper hold the horse with no attempt at forceful restraint. If the horse pulls back, go with the horse as quietly as possible, then, calmly and patiently, encourage a few forward steps. Be patient, take as much time as is needed for a good outcome. Clipping in the stall can be a solution as your horse may be more relaxed in his stall, and the stall corner may provide some security for your horse. Don’t try to trap/force your horse to stay in a space as this can evoke the flight instinct. Consider  having a buddy horse on hand for confidence.
  • Check power cords for damage before you start and recognize that they can be scary to the horse as they slither like a snake across the ground! Lay the cords out, far enough so that they will not get stepped on to avoid an electrical shock.
  • If you accidentally nick or cut a fold of skin with the clipper blades immediately apply Banixx Horse & Pet Care spray followed by Banixx Wound Care Cream.
  • Some exercise prior to the clipping session may be useful since your horse will be more likely stand quietly.

Tidbits from Banixx is sponsored by Banixx, a fast-acting, affordable aid in the recovery of every kind of bacterial and fungal infection. Learn more at Banixx.com.

Tidbits from Banixx: So, You Want to Clip Your Horse? Tips from a Pro!

Photo courtesy of Banixx.

As you prepare to clip your horse, be sure to plan ahead and allow plenty of time for the task. Here are some tips that may help to make it a smooth process.

1. Organize equipment, supplies etc Are the blades clean, sharp and oiled? Do you have backup blades? Blade wash? Clipper oil? Something safe to stand on?

2. In advance, wash the horse thoroughly with a residue-free shampoo—such as Banixx Medicated Shampoo. A dirty horse will not clip well and it may cause pain.

3. Once dry, select a quiet area with low activity and arrange for sedation, beforehand, if needed.

4. Don’t get into a fight with your horse, and allow for plenty of time.

5. Turn on the clippers (away from the horse) and familiarize your horse with the noise. Depending on his experience, run the clippers gently but firmly on less sensitive areas of his body (it may be his shoulder) so that he knows what to expect.

6. Monitor your horse for mood changes and areas of sensitivity. Check blades every 10-15 minutes for heat and take a break to cool them off; this also allows your horse a chance to relax.

7. At these breaks, apply blade-wash as a coolant and cleaner for the blades-don’t be stingy! And re-apply blade/clipper oil to keep the clippers working well.

8. When complete, wash the horse to get rid of clipper oil and hair. Washing with Banixx Medicated Shampoo will not dry out the horse’s skin nor irritate. If any areas are irritated apply Banixx Wound Care Cream.

***If this is your first time, consider having a buddy for extra help and safety.

Tidbits from Banixx is sponsored by Banixx, a fast-acting, affordable aid in the recovery of every kind of bacterial and fungal infection. Learn more at Banixx.com.