KNOW YOUR TARGET

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If you haven’t done so already, and given the particularly mild winter we had in Ohio, I’m betting you have, it’s time to get your horses up to date on their vaccines.  Once upon a time, when I was still in school and competing in Horse Bowl, the correct answer to, “what vaccinations should your horse get every year?” was; Tetanus, Influenza, Rinopneumonitis (Equine Herpes) and Encephalomyelitis (also mosquito-borne, causing a virus that inflames the brain and/or spinal cord), or to make it easier to remember, TIRE.  But, as they often do, times have changed.  The best course of action if you’re unsure is to consult your Veterinarian.  But, if you prefer to try to save a little money and are comfortable administering the vaccines yourself, you still need to know what to buy.

 

 

In the US, given the increasing number of viral plague carrying mosquitoes, the West Nile Virus vaccine has quickly become a basic staple of the spring vaccine routine.  If you live in a particularly “buggy” area, an additional booster may be required in the fall as well.

 

Rabies isn’t one we usually think of for horses, but for dogs.  Although it’s fairly uncommon for horses, it can be fatal.  Potomac Horse Fever and Strangles are often requested, based on age and exposure.

 

Your core vaccines may also have special combinations designed for effectiveness, based on where your horse lives and what they’re commonly exposed to.  The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) produced a chart to offer some guidelines.  vaccination-chart

 

In general, though annual or bi-annual Vet farm calls can be costly, especially if you have multiple horses, it’s still valuable health insurance.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, do the research for treatment on any number of equine viruses and you’ll see what I mean.

 

 

 

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KEEPING IT FRESH

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As an All-Around Novice Amateur competitor on the Ohio Quarter Horse circuit, pattern classes were our bread and butter.  The challenge however, was keeping a bright pattern horse, from trying to complete the class without you.  My boy, was smart to a fault, and felt he knew the patterns better than I did, and didn’t need my guidance to perform them.  The smart ones can be exhausting, but I’ll take them over a not-so-smart one any day!

 

 

The trick that I figured out, was to not let on that we were doing pattern work at all.  We did run through the entire pattern a few times to begin with (at shows), but as soon as we had a couple soild runs under our cinch, we stopped.  From there on, I would let him believe we were just casually riding around… and we would happen to do different series of transitions… in no particular order.  By the time you pull all the pieces back together, maybe a run through just before you enter then pen, it will feel crisp and fluid, without the race to the end and the “did you see me?  I did it before you even asked!” response.

 

 

Ideally, you need your horse to be sharp and focused, but not to the point of edgy or anticipating.  By breaking the pattern down into smaller pieces, and mixing in casual riding between, it keeps them guessing what you’ll ask for next.  This works just as well at home and during practice.

 

 

Another challenge we encountered was a pattern calling for an element that we’d not done previously.  Or, in some cases, I’d taught Buddy specifically to not do something the way they’d asked for.  If your horse is comfortable with you in charge, and willing to listen, it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.

 

 

We were at a show in Findlay, prepping for an Equitation class, when we first saw a forehand turn.  Every riding turn we’d made up until that day had been on the haunches, and every time up until then Buddy had tried to turn on his forehand, I’d corrected him.  The mold was set.  I think Dad was a bit more worried than I was, but we had some time, so I rode Buddy off to a quiet area and tried to un-teach years of correction.

 

 

I began with asking him to sort of walk into and out of the turn.  Just a few steps at a time, with only encouragement, to try to unwire the “no, bad” he had in his mind.  When he would take those steps without fear, I tried to build on them, adding more, trying to clean the movement up.  He was cautiously willing.  When we reached a point where I felt we’d gotten the basics of it, but weren’t progressing, I called in the help of a trainer friend who knew Buddy.

 

She asked to watch what we’d accomplished so far, I showed her, and she started to laugh.  “You need to see his face!  He’s thinking SO HARD right now!”  That was Buddy, he’d have never been a good poker player, he was far too expressive.  She had me hop down and climbed on him herself to see what she could do.  I watched his face, and again, the brow deeply furrowed in concentration.  Oh how I miss his face.  She managed to help us assemble a workable version of the turn to get through the class, and we survived it without a hitch.

 

 

The point here being, don’t go straight to panic mode when you see something different on the pattern sheet.  It might take you a few minutes, but throwing something new into your standard mix of gait changes, stops and turns can actually be a good thing for you and your horse.

 

We get bored, horses get bored, and our natural inclination is to rush and get through whatever we’re bored by.  Mixing things up will keep both your minds engaged and better focused, resulting in better patterns and more ribbons!

 

SHOW MOM A LITTLE LOVE

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It’s easy to forget that moms come in all shapes and leg counts.  We shower our two-legged mothers every year with extra love and special treatment, but what do we do for our four-legged mamas?  They need love just as much!

 

Broodmares still appreciate a spa day!  Just because their allotted “job” in life is as a production facility, doesn’t mean they don’t need to be maintained and keep in good health and spirits.  If anything, their care is more important during these months.  Don’t skip on things like farrier visits or grooming just because they’re “just hanging out in the field, getting fat.”

 

 

Who doesn’t love a vacation?  We all need, and deserve a break from work, and broodmares are no exception.  In the planning of their breeding schedule, make sure you incorporate time outs for her to catch her breath and just be a horse for a little while.  You’ll have a happier, healthier mama as a result.

 

 

If your mare is used to being ridden or exercised in some way pre-pregnancy, then the activity should continue (as vet permitted) as long as possible, in a way that accomodates her pregnancy.  All horses need mental stimulation of some kind, they like having a purpose, and some can even multi-task.  Give her the opportunity to keep her legs stretched and mind busy.

 

A girl still needs her girl time.  Isolation can be depressing, especially to a mare in foal without much else going on.  If she didn’t already have pasture-mates prior to breeding, find her a or some suitable companions to help keep her company.  Remember that being in foal can alter her personality too, so the same horses she got along with before, may not be her best friends now.  Monitor the relationships to make sure she’s still getting along with them, and make changes as needed to keep her social life busy.

 

 

Remember this; just because she CAN, doesn’t mean she should.  At a certain point in the life of every broodmare, you have to wish them a happy retirement.  Resist the temptation to just get one more out of them.  If they’ve given you years of healthy babies, say thank you with letting them move on to relaxing in their twilight years.  Find new uses for them to keep their minds active, but with a little more leisure time.  They’ve earned it!