FROM GUARDIAN, TO GUARDIAN ANGEL

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RIP Neela Marie Oiler 2003-2016, thank you for almost 13 wonderful years of you ❤️

 

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Love, your pack, always and furever

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COUNTDOWN

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EQUINE AFFAIRE OHIO is just around the corner!  The days are mercifully getting longer, and the sun is shining a little more.  If you’ve been feeling a bad case of cabin fever, this is a great way to shake it off and overdose on all things horse.

 

Ohio is now one of three stops on their annual tour.  An extended weekend full of shopping, demonstrations, clinics, and over 50 breeds of horses from all over the world.

 

As of today, they have 19 fantastic clinicians scheduled to speak, more are often added as the show approaches.  Absorb their collective years of experience in all areas of horsemanship.  End your visit with tickets to see the highlight of the show, The Fantasia.  Spend the evening watching the most spectacular performances of horses and music.  Promise me, you won’t miss it, and you’re welcome in advance!

 

Take advantage of a great opportunity, and get more information on their website, www.equineaffaire.com.

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HORSES AND HOUNDS

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It’s fairly common in the horse community, to have dogs and cats in your menagerie as well. When we love one animal, we often tend to love many.  For some horse owners, having a variety of animals in your barn is as common as breathing in and out, but not everyone feels the same way.  The subject came up in a group conversation on LinkedIn, and I wanted to expand on it a little.

 

If you own your own barn, and have dogs (specifically), then who’s to tell you they can’t follow you to the barn and hang out all day? I would suspect they were probably raised around horses, so it’s become a comfortable and familiar way of life for them.  From an early age, they would learn to give horses (or maybe in their eyes, the really big dogs that talk funny) a wide berth, and to stay quietly out of the way when you aren’t asking for them to be at your side.  Sometimes, if not raised in a barn, they’ll learn the harder way, with the occasional kick or stomp aimed in their direction.  These dogs, farm dogs, usually aren’t the problem though.

 

The problem lies more often in boarding/public stable facilities. If the barn doesn’t have a clear dog policy posted and communicated among it’s boarders, they may feel it’s open to personal interpretation.  I’m a horse/dog person, and while I love them both, I don’t always enjoy them together.  Even the best trained dogs can get in the way, or create an unsafe environment around horses, and just because I enjoy the company of my dog, doesn’t mean that others will.  Additionally, your dog loves you, but will he or she love everyone at the barn?  There’s only one way to find out!

 

When I wanted my Beagle to experience the barn, I planned ahead. We’ve gone through some basic obedience training, and she had never displayed a social behavior that concerned me, so I felt safe trying a visit during my step-daughter’s riding lesson.  I knew dogs were permitted, and that there could be others around.  Even when we’re in our usual territory, unless in a fenced-in area, my little hound can’t be off a leash, so that certainly wasn’t an option.  I went in to the visit knowing full-well that she could go bonkers right out of the gate, and there was a likelihood that I’d have to collect her and sit in the car for an hour while we waited.  To placate and encourage good behavior, I packed treats and a toy.

 

Upon our arrival at the barn, I let the rest of the family go in to get ready for the lesson, while I let Sami look around the outside, and go potty. Once she’d gotten an eye-full, we carefully went into the main barn aisle, after I’d made sure there weren’t any people or horses who might be opposed to our presence.  There she got to look over horses in their stalls.  They took mild notice of her, a few sniffed or snorted in our direction, but we went otherwise ignored.  Sami’s eyes were huge.  She stayed very close to my legs, and made a few low growling sounds, which I hushed.  I gave her the chance to get closer to one horse I felt confidant would stand quietly and not be bothered by her.  She was timid, but not aggressive (I was relieved!).  We were able to sit quietly and observe the lesson without much reaction from anyone.  It was a successful trip!  I took her out another time, repeating the same process, and all went smoothly again.

 

The main points I want to focus on are preparation and mindfulness. Even if you’re one of those people who never gets in the car to go anywhere without your dog, please remember that the barn isn’t just another grocery store or corner coffee shop where you can leave them in the car or tied up outside.  If I’m being completely honest, the people who go everywhere with their dogs kind of make me crazy.  Unless your dog is a registered service animal, do they really want to be by your side 24/7, or are you just catering to yourself and ignoring how they feel?

 

Once you’ve established the barn’s rules on dogs, and gotten permission to bring them with you, plan for the worst, and hope for the best. Maybe on your first visit, don’t even expect to get anything else done other than acclimating your dog to the unfamiliar surroundings.  Keep them on a leash until you’re reasonably certain they’ll mind you quietly without disrupting anyone else.  If you do let them off the leash, make sure anyone else in the barn is aware and comfortable with it.  Have an exit strategy, and an emergency strategy.  Dogs are naturally herd animals, they may see a horse loose and have their genetic blueprints kick in, sending them hot after the horse’s heels, and even into the Vet’s office.  It’s cute for a minute, one chasing after the other, until one, or both get hurt.

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If your dog is a regular visitor at the barn with you, and usually off leash, make sure they’re still “checking in” with you frequently. Work out simple, but clear communication tools with your dog so they understand every time when you ask them to come to you, or stop what they’re doing.

 

Having all your furry kids in one place can be a lot of fun, it should be for everyone involved. By setting them up to succeed rather than fail, you’re insuring a better chance of everyone enjoying the visit, rather than dreading it.  As a horse owner that’s always had to board, there was nothing more annoying than being tackled by someone else’s unattended dog, as soon as I opened my car door, or being followed around by them, tripping over them, because they were being ignored by their owner.  Extra animals should be a pleasant experience, not one you have to constantly deal with in order to enjoy your own trip to the barn.

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DON’T DREAD THE SHED

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The two big factors are nutrition and planning. You usually know in advance when you’re going to need your horse’s coat to be in top form, so don’t wait until the month before (or less) and try to curry them raw to get them ready.  Keeping them on a healthy diet year-round is important too.  The right blend of nutrients and oils can make a huge difference.  Even long and fluffy, your horse’s coat should be glossy and soft.  Maybe they’re not as clean as you’re able to keep them in the warmer months, but the overall condition should speak to their overall health.  There are a number of supplements on the market designed to aid in shedding and maintaining a healthy coat, but your best bet is to talk with your Veterinarian to decide the best dietary options.

 

Assuming you horse is receiving the best nutrition and you’re working well-ahead of your anticipated show schedule, here are the basics of the Spring shed…

 

The tools. Your best and often simplest choice, will be a basic black rubber curry.  They’re inexpensive (I believe they even come in more colors now, for those who like a bright brush box), and they usually do the best job.  The rows of small, blunt, rubbery teeth are best equipped to grab loose hair, especially when used correctly, rubbing steadily in circles against their coat.  Always be careful of the delicate areas, any with minimal meat over bone, like face and lower legs.  Pay attention to your horse’s body language while you’re digging in.  Some may be sensitive to heavy-handed rubbing and may voice their opinion with a bite or stomp.

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If your horse’s coat is fluffy and ready to come free, sometimes a shedding blade or metal curry is a better option. Again, using caution with metal teeth against their skin, short strokes with the blade or curry and a wrist flip at the end can quickly rid their coat of unwanted hair that’s just barely hanging on.  From experience, do yourself a favor and DO NOT apply chap stick, lip gloss, or any other sticky product to your face prior to grooming, unless you want shake n bake lips!  For finishing a nearly-shed coat, the grooming blocks work well for detailing.  They’re roughly the size of a sanding block, and their fiberglass/charcoal like texture grabs the fine fluff easily.

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Since you’re an experienced groomer, you know that the amount of daylight plays a big role in encouraging your horse to shed. Blanketing over the cold months can assist as well in less elbow grease being needed come spring.  If possible, lighting your horse’s stall so they THINK they’re experiencing up to 16 hours of daylight a day can trigger the shedding response.  It’s actually similar to folks who have the SAD (seasonal affective disorder) diagnosis who use special lights to make themselves think it isn’t dark all the time, and therefor encourage a more positive outlook.  I don’t really recommend heat lamps, those can go too far by creating a bigger difference between life in the stall and life outside.  If they go from a warm, cozy stall to a chilly arena, it’s likely their reaction will be to blow out even more hair to stay warm.  In addition, they create a potential safety hazard if they aren’t installed and used properly (sometimes even when they are).

 

For some people getting your horse to shed may not be as high of a priority, until your horse gets hot and sweaty on a ride, and takes FOREVER to cool back down because they’re covered in downy fluff. Body clipping can be a viable option for you.  There are plenty of clipping “styles” that can be done just for the benefit of a faster cool down period, or maybe just to remind you of warmer days…

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If you’ve never body clipped before, don’t be intimidated, it’s not terribly difficult, it’s just very tedious. Give yourself the day to take your time, and as many breaks as you and your horse need, so neither become frustrated with the process.  I always clipped with a partner, so when my entire arm was buzzing but my horse was still standing quietly, we could tap in and out.  Start with the larger muscle areas, like shoulder or hips, and work outward, similar to mowing a large field.  If you really need to clip and aren’t sure how your horse might react, consider talking to your Veterinarian about a mild sedative for them, to at least buy you time for the delicate and tickly areas.  Hopefully by the time it starts to wear off, they’d be accustomed enough to allow for the bigger, less sensitive areas.  Also, do yourself a favor and buy a set of the painters coveralls.  Even a paper jumpsuit will save you hours of discovering horse hair on you that doesn’t belong where you’ve found it.  Consider goggles and hair covering as well.  Grooming isn’t glamorous.  The cleaner the horse, the dirtier the groom!

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Clipping isn’t the overnight solution to a wooly horse, but it does cut your time down. At least if they are still shedding, the hair is shorter, and you’re closer to their skin to rub it loose.  At the end of the day, nothing beats warmer weather and elbow grease.  I’ve also been told a good bath can trigger a shedding spree.  I don’t know too many horses though who appreciate it in the winter, even if they are indoors!

 

Despite having fuzzy horse hair glued to every surface, I can think of far worse ways to spend an afternoon than grooming and bonding with my horse. Use the time as an opportunity to reacquaint yourself with their topography.  Remember old marks and scars, search for any new.  Remind your horse of how nice the human touch can be.  They’ll probably even “groom” you back a little when you hit the good spots.  Try to not scold, but enjoy their reciprocal affection (unless they get really out of control and nearly knock you down, then do what you must!).  Spring is a time of renewal, enjoy it, don’t dread it, and your horse will too!