Category Archives: Fly Control

Natural Fly/Pest-Control Strategies for Your Horse[s]



Your Horse’s Natural Fly/Pest-Control Strategies

by:  Beverly Gun-Munro

Fly Wraps & Fly Sprays are great, but your horse[s] also have several methods of handling irritating insects, flies and pests.

When you see Horses “buddy up” in their pastures it is partially to mutually groom and swish flies away from each other. This is Nature’s way of caring for one another as a social animal with needs and wants.

During the summer months our horse[s] are on the front lines of an ongoing battle against flies bothering them, and nature has equipped him for just such a fight.

In addition to you stocking up on fly wraps for their legs [the most susceptible area for fly bites, stocking up on repellents, fly masks and other insect control products ~ focus on maximizing your horse’s “built-in” protections.

Take a look at your horse’s mane and tail ~ designed to protect your horse from insects. The long forelock, for example, whisks pests away from their eyes with a toss of the head. Let your horse’s bangs grow out this summer to make the most of this function.

Now the tail. It too has been designed to combat flies. Leave it free and flowing [forget about braiding it] and comb it often to provide the best ‘rear’ fly swatter. Horses have tails like we have hair. Some are short, thin and never grow long and luxurious like we envy others.

Minimize wraps that inhibit movement. T

oo many of us are in the ‘cosmetic’ look of our horse that is detrimental to their comfort and protection. The best treat you can give your horse is to let the hair on the muzzle grow. This is invaluable to their digestive system as well as pest deterrents in this area. Please ~ allow them their muzzle hair.

Moving down to the leg area:   Allow your horse[s] the protective hair on their fetlocks, around their eyes and ears grow longer.   I know, I know…..I can hear you saying ‘but they won’t look as pretty!”. 

Wherever possible ‘step away from the clippers’ ~ please!

One of the saddest sights I see at barns are horse owners washing off the mud and dust that their horses cover themselves with, as Nature’s way of protecting them.

Allowing your horse to be covered in dust/mud while you are away is a ‘gift’ for your horse. I promise you……by the time you return the next day their coats are dust/mud free, like they’ve had a ‘mud spa bath’ and they were much more pest free and comfortable in your absence. A good covering of dust or mud is a very effective barrier against insects.

As much as it may hurt to see your grooming efforts erased, your horses will “Thank You” for providing them with a safe and comfortable “dirty” area, where they can ‘stop, drop and roll’!!

Horses LOVE to’ buddy up’ to keep away flies in summer. If its at all possible, turn your horse[s] out with a friendly companion—one they feel comfortable standing head-to-tail with—so they can swish flies from each other’s faces.

98% of we horse lovers/owners use some kind of fly control during the fly season.   Fly Wraps, Got Flies? Masks, sheets and pesticides —as well as good barn management to keep pests under control.   Necessary evils in many cases I’m afraid.  Keep the poisonous insecticides at a minimal.  Would you coat your children with “Raid’?  In most cases this is exactly what you are doing to your horses.  Buyer Beware!

I wish you and all your horses a comfortable ‘fly free’ summer ! Bev Gun-Munro CEO/Founder Got Flies? Reg. TM. FlyWraps. Patented & Reg. TM.

How To Tell If Your Horse is Over-Heated!

Over-Heated Horses:  Signs & Suggestions!


 Kim Baker & updated by Bev Gun-Munro

With large chunk of North America currently sweltering through record high temperatures, your horses are challenged to avoid becoming overheated.

Warning Signs of Heat Stress in Your Horse:

1. Elevated breathing. More than 40-50 breaths per minute in an inactive horse, or after several minutes rest (2-5 minutes) your horse’s breathing doesn’t return to normal. Normal range is 4-16 breaths per minute.

2. Elevated heart rate. More than 80 beats per minute in an inactive horse, or after several minutes rest (2-5 minutes) your horse’s heart rate doesn’t return to normal, or it climbs after rest. Normal range is 40-50 beats per minute at rest.

3. Profuse sweating or no sweat at all.

4. Elevated temperature. More than 103-105 degrees. Normal range is 99-101.

5. Lethargy and/or depressed attitude. Doesn’t want to move, doesn’t want to eat, or becomes disinterested.

6. Dehydration. Flanks are caved in, pinch test of the skin on the neck doesn’t snap back quickly, and/or the mucous membranes are discolored (specifically a dark red, purple or “muddy” color). Normal is pink colored.


What To Do ……………

                                   when you recognize any or all of these signs:

1. Stop what you are doing and call your veterinarian, especially if the signs do not improve within 10 minutes.

Some horses enjoy drinking straight from a hose

2. Remove all tack.

3. Douse your horse with cold water.

4. Find shade.

5. Seek a breeze, either natural or with a fan.

6. Offer water to drink.

7.  If your Horses are wearing “Fly Wraps” ~ hose them with cold water While your Horse[s] are wearing them.  This will give longevity to the cooling process and keep the blood flowing down through and back up from the hooves.  An alternative is to wet polo wraps and wrap your horse’s lower legs with cool wet polo wraps.

8. Wait for your veterinarian to arrive.

Kim Baker, KB Natural Horsemanship. Author, Holistic Healing, Animal Communication, Horse Clinics, Lessons, Natural Horse Training and more…Building quality partnerships and lasting relationships from the ground up.

Horse Fun Facts





Interesting Horse Facts




1)    The average lifespan of a horse is 22-28 years depending on which study you read.

Some horses have been known to live well into their 40′s.


2)    30% of all Horses are boarded.


3)    65% of a horse’s weight is carried on their front legs.


4)    70% of all horses are used for pleasure and recreation.


5)    Normal temperature for horses is 100 [plus or minus 1 degree].


6)    Normal Pulse Rate for a horse is 40 [plus or minus 6 beats per minute].


7)    Lame horses in the front drop their heads at the trot.


8)    Gait is the horses’ way of going:

The trot is a 2 beat gait.      The walk is a 4 beat gait.       The canter is a 3 beat gait.


9)    Some Saddlebreds are three gaited, some are five gaited.

None of these gaits are natural for this breed.    These gaits are artificially forced.


10)  The “Rack” is an exaggerated walk with a very pronounced up and down motion of the legs.


11)  “Ligaments” connect bone to bone.


12)   A horse approaching a jump cannot see it when they get within 4 feet of it.  [Can this really be true?]


13)   Due to placement of the eyes, horses cannot see anything in the center of their forehead.


14)   The horses’ field of vision is 320 degrees. And with a slight head turn in each direction, it’s 360 degrees


If you question any of the above, or have better information, feel free to contact me.  I’d love to hear from you.

Wishing you and all your horses a fun, fly-free summer, again!



Bev Gun-Munro


Fly Wraps, Got Flies?

6 Natural Ways to Improve Your Fly Control

6 Natural Ways to Improve Your Fly Control

Here are some ‘tried and true’ savvy suggestions that can help minimize fly problems:

#1.   Invest in some Wormwood Oil ~ it is known to be a natural fly repellent.

#2.   Adding a small amount of Cider Vinegar to your horse’s water has been known to deter flies.

#3.   When trail riding with friends? Line yourself up at the rear of the group where you’ll be less bothered ~ as bugs tend to concentrate on the lead horse.


#4.  Clogged fly spray bottles?  Easy fix:  Run hot water through the stem and they’ll work like new again.

#5.  40% or more of your fly spray is wasted through spraying. Wipe it on!  Also 95% evaporates within 20 minutes.  Make sure your horse’s face and legs are covered with 24/7 mesh wrap protection.

#6.  Don’t be afraid to shave bot fly eggs off your horse’s legs with a lady’s safety razor.  It will be very important to cover your horse’s legs with Fly Wraps to protect their skin/coat until the hair grows back!

“A female stable fly lives about 20 to 30 days and lays 200 to 400 eggs during her lifetime, and up to 800 eggs under optimal conditions”

7 Horse Feeding Mistakes

By Laurie Bonner

Mistake #1:   Paying Too Little Attention to Forage

Ideally, the average horse’s ration is primarily hay and pasture grass, with modest amounts of concentrates, such as grain, pelleted or sweet feed. But frequently, little emphasis is placed on the quality of forage offered, says Kathleen Crandell, PhD, an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research in Lexington.

Poor-quality hay contains less digestible fiber so horses have to eat much more to derive the same amount of nutritional value, yet because it is less palatable, horses tend to leave more of it uneaten.
In contrast, good-quality hay rarely goes to waste: Horses are likely to devour every last leaf and stem.
Hay made from different grass species varies somewhat in appearance, but in general the good stuff has several distinguishing characteristics:
• Leafiness: The leaves contain about 90 percent of a plant’s protein, so ideally, you want bales with fewer stems and large seed heads.
• Color: The hue of good hay can vary but is generally some shade of light to medium green for grass hays and darker green for alfalfa. Some yellowing is natural if the hay was sun-bleached, but too much yellow likely indicates that the grass was over mature when cut and contains less digestible fiber.
• Aroma: Good hay smells fresh and slightly sweet. Pungent, acrid or musty odors are signs of mold or other quality deficits.
• Texture: If you squeeze a handful, good hay feels soft and pliable while poorer hays have coarser stems that will stab your skin.
• Weight: Good-quality bales are lightweight and springy; if you drop one on its end it ought to bounce.
• Purity: Good hays contain few weeds and no foreign material.  If you want to know more about the nutritional value of a batch of hay, you can send a sample off to be analyzed. Contact your county or state extension agent for advice.

Mistake #2:    Overloading the Grain Bucket

Feeding a horse more concentrates than they needs can be harmful to their health.
For most horses, the less grain fed, the better.

That said, some horses need more calories than they can get from forage alone. For example, horses who undergo an hour or more of daily training in sports such as reining or jumping and those who compete in the most strenuous sports, such as racing or endurance, require extra rations in the form of grains or other concentrated feeds to maintain weight.

Mistake #3:    Feeding by Volume rather than Weight

If you hold a coffee can filled with corn in one hand and one containing oats in the other hand, you will notice a significant difference in weight–corn is heavier, and it’s also higher in calories than other feeds. Of course, we’re all used to scooping out a uniform portion of feed at mealtime, but when it comes to calculating nutrition, it is the weight that matters, not the volume–something to keep in mind whenever you change feeds.
Even pelleted and sweet feeds can vary in density and volume. “Two different manufacturers can make feeds that seem similar on the tag in fat, fiber and protein but the density could be very different,” Crandell says. “I have weighed a number of different feeds in a large coffee can and found that some were close to one pound different in weight but equal in volume.”
So, when you’re planning to change or adjust your feeds, be sure to read the bag for the nutritional content per pound, and then use a kitchen scale to determine how much a pound really is.


Mistake #4:   Giving the Wrong feed to the Wrong Horse

“The biggest consequence is that adult rations don’t have the mineral levels young horses need,” says Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, associate professor at Rutgers University. “The result can be abnormal growth and developmental orthopedic disease.”

Also, once you’ve determined the amount of concentrates your horse needs for extra calories, be sure to choose a feed that provides the optimum nutrition in that serving size. “The most common mistake I see is feeding below rate,” says Crandell–that is, feeding a horse less than the recommended serving size. “When formulating feed, you can’t make it work for every horse,” she explains. “You can’t balance the vitamins and minerals for a horse getting one pound of feed without poisoning the horse getting 10 pounds.” Conversely, if the recommended serving size is five pounds, the horse who is getting only one pound is getting only a fifth of the added vitamins and minerals.

“If the minimum serving is too much, it’s not the right feed for your horse,” Crandell says.

Mistake #5:    Overloading the Nutrients

“One common mistake is adding supplements to the horse’s diet without first checking to see if the ration is already overloaded with any specific nutrients,” says Crandell. To avoid creating harmful imbalances, calculate the nutrients a horse is getting from his basic feed ration before adding a vitamin or mineral supplement.

Products formulated to support specific body processes, such as joint repair or hoof growth, are less likely to cause nutritional overloads, but be sure to read their labels so you know what you’re getting. Some supplements that contain glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronan or biotin are also enhanced with vitamins and minerals.

“I’ve seen vitamin A toxicity in horses who were given multiple supplements that all contained similar ingredients,” Ralston says. Selenium, an important mineral, is also toxic in high quantities and may be an ingredient in different supplements as well as commercial feeds. “If you’re already using a good vitamin supplement, you probably don’t need vitamins in your joint supplement, too,” says Crandell.

Horses who receive hay but have little access to pasture may benefit from supplements containing vitamins A and E, because levels of these nutrients begin to deteriorate once grass is cut.

Also, elderly horses, growing youngsters, broodmares and others with special nutritional needs are likely to benefit from vitamin supplements, as are horses in strenuous sports. Vitamin E, in particular, is often given to elite athletes to help them recover from exertion.


Mistake #6: Failing to Offer Salt

Horses have a natural appetite for salt and consume what they need if given the opportunity. Placing a salt block in your herd’s pasture is the easiest way of providing access to this vital nutrient, but to ensure that all horses get the salt they need, you may decide to put out multiple blocks or even place a small block in each horse’s stall.

“Some horses kept in stalls a lot will get bored and start overeating salt, and this will make them drink a lot more and then pee a lot more.” For these horses, she suggests offering just a daily portion–one or two ounces of loose salt, or more if it’s hot or the horse has been sweating heavily. “If the diet is balanced, plain white table salt is fine,” she adds. “It doesn’t have to be mineralized.”

If you offer loose salt, it’s best to keep it in a bucket rather than pouring it over feed. A horse’s need for salt may fluctuate daily. If you give too little, you can create imbalances; too much, and the feed may become unpalatable.

Mistake #7:    Offering Too Little Free-choice Fresh Water

“Old horsemen’s tales” : offering cold water to a hot, sweating horse will cause colic.

Researchers now know that offering a cool drink to a hot horse does no harm, and it will help him recover from exertion more quickly. In fact, ensuring that horses have access to a ready supply of fresh, clean water is one of the best ways to reduce the risks of impaction colic, especially in those kept primarily on dried forage.

Low-ranking herd members may be bullied away from troughs, and arthritic horses may be unwilling to climb down steep streambeds.

Providing more than one source of water can help remedy situations like these.


This article originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of EQUUS magazine. For more information, see “Straight Answers to Feeding Questions” (EQUUS October 2000), Special Report: Feeding Time (EQUUS November 2001) and “How Antioxidants Promote Good Health” (EQUUS August 2005).


Trailer Load Your Horse “The Right Way”!

7 Steps to Trailer Loading the Right Way
By Heidi Nyland

Safely load and unload your horse from the trailer with this 7 step technique from top trainer and clinician Julie Goodnight.
Before your next trailering excursion, learn the safety steps that will keep you and your horse safe as you load and unload. Respected trainer and clinician Julie Goodnight works with trail riders and “trailerers” at many of her clinics. She’s seen horse owners skip important safety steps and trust that their horses will be safe.
Even the calmest horse can spook, step back, or slip, causing a harmful chain reaction if the loading, tying and untying process isn’t done in order. If your horse is tied in the trailer, but knows the back door is open for escape, he might pull back and panic when he can’t get free. The panic session compounds when he hears the trailer’s loud echo and slips on a metal floor.
Follow Goodnight’s seven-step technique to avoid setting your horse up for a loading or unloading accident.
7-Step Method
Here’s the proper trailer-loading and -unloading order for optimum safety and results.
Step #1
Prepare the trailer. Leave your horse in his pen. Hook up your trailer to your vehicle. (As you do, check all lights and blinkers, brake connections, and tire pressure.) Drive your trailer to a flat, open area where your horse won’t step on debris. Securely close all trailer doors and windows; never drive with trailer windows open—your horse could hit his head on a roadside object, and flying debris could injure his eyes. Close manger windows and escape doors so your horse won’t try to get out through these too-small openings and become injured.

Step #2
Open the stock door. While your horse is still in his pen, open the back of your trailer to the stock compartment, and prepare your horse’s footing and feed.

Step #3
Load your horse. Outfit your horse in a comfortable halter, and lead him from his pen to the back of the trailer. If he’s still learning ground manners, use a rope halter that places pressure on his poll. Load him into the trailer. (If you horse resists loading, see Goodnight’s easy-loading technique in the April 2011 issue of The Trail Rider.)
Shut the stock-compartment door. Shut the stock-compartment door immediately, before confining your horse by tying. If you have a slant-load trailer, it’s safe to secure the compartment’s partition before you shut the door. But when the compartment door is open, don’t tie your horse. If he tries to back out (a likely scenario) and finds that he’s tied, he may panic and injure himself (and you).

When the compartment door is closed and secured, tie your horse, then use the human escape door to exit the trailer. Or, tie your horse while you stand safely outside the trailer.

Step #4
Secure your horse. When the compartment door is closed and secured, tie your horse, then use the human escape door to exit the trailer. Or, tie your horse while you stand safely outside the trailer.
Step #5
Park, and untie. After you arrive at your destination, park at a level area, then begin the unloading. To do so, you’ll retrace your loading steps. First, untie your horse.

Step #6
Open the back door. Double check to make sure your horse is completely untied, then open the stock-compartment door.

Step #7
Unload your horse. Back your horse out of the trailer. Then tack up, and have a safe trail ride!

In Conclusion……….
Never tie your horse in the trailer until the stock-compartment door is closed and secured locked; always untie your horse before you open the door for unloading.

Tips To Keeping Your Horse Healthy ~ by Dr. Christi Garfinkel






                          Tips To Keeping Your Horse Healthy


Horses were built to move. If you plan on keeping your horse in a stable for a majority of the day, perhaps you should find another animal companion. Whether it be a free run across a pasture or under a saddle, daily exercise is extremely important to the overall physical and mental well-being of your horse. Not only do they need exercise, but they also need different kinds of physical movement, like trail riding and sprints, to work the different parts of the bodies. If you find that you do not have enough time in your schedule to spend exercising your animal, consider asking a friend or hiring someone to come and let your horse run around during the day.



Horses are exceptionally intelligent creatures, but a majority of them spend much of their time inside of their stables. Don’t let your horse get bored when they’re confined. Give them an exercise ball, a food trap toy or a plastic milk jug tied to a string so that they can play with it and stay sane while you are away. The more you provide mental stimulation for your horse, the less likely it will adopt bad behaviors and the more mentally stimulated it will be.



Locate a dependable and trustworthy farrier. A farrier is a craftsman that trims and shoes horses’ hooves. Since all horses should be re-shod every six to eight weeks, you will get to know your farrier very well. If you are unsure what to look for, the following signs will tell you whether your horse needs new shoes: loose nails that push up from the hoof wall, a shoe that has fallen off completely, a hoof that has outgrown its shoe or a thin, twisted or loose shoe. The shape and health of your horses’ hooves are important to the happiness and health of your horse



Dental care means cleaning for your dog and cat, but for horses, it means having their teeth filed. Because horses are herbivores, their teeth have a lot of crown that will continue to grow due to their grazing. The procedure of filing down your horse’s teeth is called floating. The rasps that are used are called floats. Horses are often sedated with tranquilizers so that Dr.Garfinkel is able to keep the horses mouth open. Floating is not meant to keep your horse’s teeth smooth, but to prevent damage to the soft tissue of the cheeks and tongue by filing down sharp edges.



Just like any other pet, horses need regular veterinary examinations. This includes yearly vaccinations against tetanus and other diseases, check-ups, and dental care.


Important Points In Preventing Dehydration


Normal horses drink 5-15 gallons of water per day, depending on the climate and their level of work. To ensure adequate water intake:

Check your horse’s water      source at least daily.

  1. Make sure the water is clean, and free from foreign materials and dead insects or animals.
  2. Provide unobstructed access to the water source. Ponds should not have an excessively muddy border.
  3. Check for proper function of automatic water sources.

Until next time, I wish for all your horses ~ a wonderful, sunfilled, breezy, open air lifestyle this summer.

Some of you may remember the legendary Roy Rogers famously singing:  “Happy Trails to You…. Until we Meet Again!”


Bev Gun-Munro


Massaging & Proper Saddle Fit


This article involves two subjects that receive a lot of attention and controversy but are very important in many aspects of equine health care.

The relationship between massage and saddle fit.

Both of these are usually administered to the horse after he has become sore or has developed a problem.
Being a massage therapist, I know first-hand how important alleviating pain can be and more recently I have developed the same passion in preventing it.

What do we need to look for in the horse to tell if his back is sore due to an improper saddle fit, or
whether there are secondary hock issues, and possibly a training issue? The last two could take columns of their own and in future articles I will share my findings on those subjects as well.

When a therapist is called to look at a horse, the first question should be, “Has the veterinarian seen the horse for any conditions related to this issue?” If the answer is yes, we need to get a full history. If the answer is no, we need the history
but also need to see the horse move in order to evaluate if the horse would be better off seeing the veterinarian first.

Back issues/pain in a horse can be very acute and easily recognized or, in the case of a horse that is stoic,
may be hidden in a number of ways. A telltale sign that the horse may be uncomfortable can often be noticed in their movement. Does he suddenly move out with their head in the air, not wanting to get in a frame?  Are they trying to get away from you or bracing when you move toward them with the saddle?  Do they act ‘girthy’?

*There are in fact conditions that will make the horse girthy but in many cases I have found that the pressure of the ill-fitting saddle when being tightened on the horse’s back is enough to make them act in such a manner.   Many times we tighten the girth too tight and pinch the Serratus Thoracis.   This muscle is located deep on the horse’s trunk behind the elbow region.

Horses have shown shoulder ‘lameness’ from this. The horse can’t properly extend the foreleg and this will result in a stilted or choppy gait. Ideally, the girth should be a couple finger widths behind the elbow and started out in the ride just snug. As you warm up and he starts getting into his rhythm and breathing pattern, take a minute to check the girth and tighten it at this time. I would say that in 80% or more cases when a client says his horse is girthy, I find the saddle not fitting the way it should.

After seeing the horse move, it is time to do a brief palpation of the horses back.   DON’T go by the first reaction you get to these tests. The horse will almost always flinch on the first pass. Just as we do, the horse has reaction points, which are easy to
locate.   I prefer to start by running my fingers down the horse’s spine with moderate pressure.

It is normal for them to dip just a bit.   If on the second or subsequent passes, the horse ducks away or becomes agitated, it could be indicative of a back problem.   Some touchy, thin-skinned horses will react this way and show no other signs of
discomfort. This is why it is imperative to know your horse and the way he reacts to touch.

Next, look at the saddle on the horse. If you lift the skirt you will see the stirrup bars where you hook your leathers on. Check under this exact area by first running your hand over it lightly and then giving a slow but deliberate squeeze to the same spot on both sides simultaneously. If the horse raises his head sharply and inverts his back, the saddle may be pinching his Trapezius. This muscle raises the shoulder and moves it forward and back. The other muscle that is superficial that would be pinched is the Latissimus Dorsi. This muscle flexes the shoulder and draws the foreleg back. As we go deeper still, the Spinalis and Longissimus Dorsi can be affected. They extend the back and neck.

If the saddle is too wide, it may also be evident that it is resting on the horses wither. This can be indicated visually by looking and the way the saddle fits (without padding). If you are riding and you are posting, take a finger and put it under the pommel on the downward. If your finger gets pinched tight, imagine what the horse is feeling. You may also see a patch of white hair on the wither that wasn’t there before. This could be from the saddle creating pressure to the area, from not lifting the pads up into the pommel or from a blanket that rubs. All these must be looked at.

Now, let’s look at the center of the saddle. Feel between the horse’s back and the panels. Is there a big gap causing bridging of the saddle? Is it very snug to the horses back? Or is there just the slightest hint of a bridge so that the horse’s back can meet the spring of the saddle tree the way it is intended to?

Step back for a moment and look at how the saddle is resting on the horse. Is the lowest part of the seat parallel to the ground? Does the rear of the panels seem compressed or too high? These are the visual signs to check for.

Remember, the way many saddles are designed, the cantle or back of the saddle is higher than the front or pommel. The area in which your seat bones come into contact with the saddle should be level with the ground and there should be no rocking motion when you apply alternating pressure to the pommel and cantle.

At this point I’d like to mention and thank a gentleman from Connecticut named Gary Severson a.k.a. Saddle Doctor. Working with Gary over the years has taught us both thebenefits of each other’s work. We have had a fortunate chain of events that have allowed us to work together and with other equine professionals in clinicsettings, which have proven the benefits of all adjunctive therapies, and how well they work with conventional medicine. It is Gary’s work that has inspired me to apprentice with him and learn to adjust the saddles I come into contact with, on a daily basis, that make the horse uncomfortable.

Treating the areas For the most part massage can make the sore back much more comfortable. Before we look at a couple of
simple applications to the back (that are to be performed on both sides of the horse) I would like to reiterate the importance of properly fitted tack. A common trap that the owner can fall into is to have the horse treated time and time again without ever getting to the cause of the problem. This is both costly and frustrating. We as owners and therapists should want to try to break
the cycle of events that lead to repetitive soreness.
Effleurage… is a full flat-handed stroke that is delivered in a long gliding motion along the muscles. It is used for warming the area up and to let the horse get used to your touch.

First, we would want to effleurage the horse’s neck, shoulder, wither area and back all the way to the gluteals.

Skin Rolling… is a technique that focuses on the fascia or connective tissue. We want to administer this application slowly and within the horse’s tolerance.

Skin rolling

Once the horse has accepted the initial touch of effleurage, you can gradually start to lift the skin off the shoulder. This is applied in a manner that does not pinch the horse. Between your thumb and first two fingers of each hand, lift
the skin and the tissue under the skin. The horse may act a little startled at first but be patient – every horse I have treated with this technique eventually gives in and enjoys it. After you have the skin and connective tissue in your fingers, gradually start to roll it as if you are rolling a thick pencil between your thumbs and fingers. This can be applied to the length and width of the shoulder.

Now that you are getting comfortable with this technique: working on the left side of the horse, place your
right hand, fingers up and flat, on the horse’s back near the wither. Next, take your right thumb pad and put it on the horse’s skin.

Place your left hand flat on the side of the horse’s wither, to the left of your right thumb. Position your left hand so that it forms a ‘C’.

The C stroke

Apply pressure to the horse with your right thumb, move your left hand slowly toward your right hand. You should start to see the skin under your thumb start to follow the direction you are going. Without breaking contact with the horse, you should be able to press and release and find a comfortable rhythm in this application. You should be able to apply this along the back and wither area until you get to the area of the Spinalis Dorsi and Longissimus. The tissue will usually get too dense from here back to continue on.
These last two applications are a nice lead-in to the deeper work to follow. Make contact with the area of the horse that corresponds to the stirrup bars. Hold your left forefinger there. Now, take your right forefinger and locate the Tuber Coxae
(this is the bony prominence of the hip that is incorrectly commonly referred to as the point of the hip).

In that space between these two landmarks, imagine a line from point to point, or it might help you to trace your finger against the way the hair grows. This should leave a line for you to follow. This line should also correspond to the borders of the
Longissimus and Iliocostalis (the two long muscles of the back).
Slowly, take your fingertips and run them across the side of the horse over his ribs. You should feel each rib and, more importantly, the spaces between. Try to visualize where the saddle sits from front to back and concentrate on this area. Starting where the ribs end near the abdomen (obliques) trace up between each set of ribs and stop when you get to that line you drew. These are where you will locate the (approximately 8) points to treat.

Direct Pressure… is applied SLOWLY and with moderate to deep pressure. It can be applied with the fingers, thumbs or elbow. In this case, we will hold the points from 30-60 seconds or until we feel the muscle release. It is very common to see and feel
the horse’s back spasm to this pressure. If this occurs, back off with the pressure and slowly go back to just the point where the spasm occurred. This is the depth that we will want to hold for the 30-60 seconds.

Start at the front and work your way back. As you get toward the end of where the saddle would rest, you might feel a hard ‘knot’. This is not uncommon. (In cadavers, I have seen tissue that almost looks like a callus from where trauma has been induced to the horses back).

If your horse gets uncomfortable at any point with your touch, don’t worry. Your inexperience will soon turn to something that they will grow to enjoy and look for.

I have to say that many of the clients I have worked with and taught this little sequence to have noticed much improvement.

Take your time and listen to your horse.

About the author:
Mike Scott, LMT, NSMT, NCTMB of Bolton, Massachusetts, is the author of The Basic Principles of Equine Massage/Muscle Therapy. Mike is also the director of the Equine Massage/Muscle Therapy Certification Program.



Why People Start Horses Too Hard & Too Young

Why People Start Horses Too Hard, Too Young

Laura Phelps-Bell

I’ve been a professional trainer/instructor in the horse industry in many different disciplines, including competitive dressage to
the upper levels, hunter/jumpers, western pleasure and western riding, trail trials and trail/pleasure riding, for 30 years. Following are a few of my own opinions regarding starting horses too young, too hard and the negative
repercussions that these horses possibly suffer at a young age, or when they are in their teens.

In my opinion, many people that are involved with horses, and this goes for hobbyists as well as professionals in the industry, are in it for themselves, not for the love, or the consideration, of the horses. When deciding when to start a young horse in
mounted training, people need to be brutally honest with themselves and examine and determine what their motivation for starting a two or three-year-old horse in heavy under-saddle, mounted training is.
For some owners, the motivation is to be competitive in the reining, cutting, western pleasure or pre-green hunter futurities. Maybe it’s because they want to send their Warmblood stallion to the 100 Day Testing as a three-year-old and the horse
must be able to free jump, jump under saddle, perform a dressage test and gallop a distance in a certain amount of time. And then of course, there is horse racing where the horses are racing heavily as two and three-year-olds.
More and more, the big money futurities for performance horses are for three-year-olds, so in order to be competitive, these horses MUST be started as two-year-olds, and sometimes even when they are long-yearlings (18-24 months
old). Because of this, many of these horses end up with bowed tendons, Navicular Syndrome, bone spavins, bone chips, stifle injuries, blown-out hocks, hairline fractures, arthritis, severe back problems, sprained necks and a
myriad of other problems and conditions associated with stress and strain to young, developing bodies. Many horses will end up with debilitating problems at only four or five-years-old and already receiving anti-inflammatory medications
and/or painkillers on a daily basis in their feed, or in the form of injections. Some older horses, in their teens, will develop problems that can be traced directly back to being started too young and too hard. It will take
10 or so years for the stresses they experienced when younger to appear as problematic (this I learned from Dr. Robert Miller in the late-’70′s).

Another motivation is the false assumption that if you don’t “get to” these horses when they are very young, they will become difficult to start under saddle because they are getting bigger and stronger and also developing more “attitude”
psychologically. Many people refer to how difficult horses seem to be as four-year-olds, but I haven’t experienced this at all in the hundreds of horses that I’ve started. This may be true if the horse has NOT BEEN HANDLED AT ALL,
or had barely any handling to speak of, from the time of birth until under saddle training begins. If the horse is brought in from pasture at four or five and someone tries to get them started immediately under saddle, with no
ground-level training in place and no trust or understanding between horse and human in place, the horse will be understandably confused, scared and lacking trust and may “act-out”, creating the illusion of being difficult because they were started late. In most of these cases, this is not the problem at all. The problem is in not receiving any, or hardly any, early ground-level training and developing mutually respectful and trusting relationships with
humans from a young age. It’s a fact that the younger the horse is, the easier they are to manipulate and intimidate from a psychological standpoint and also being not yet fully developed physically, they can also be
“pushed-around” a little easier. However, an educated horseman does not train from a position of intimidation or strength; they instead train from a position of establishing a bond of mutual respect, trust and understanding with whatever horse they are interacting with. A wise horseman knows what each and every horse “needs” and applies the appropriate training for that
individual horse. Once the correct foundation has been laid, you can start a horse at eight, ten or over 12 years old and still be completely successful with mounted training. A “true” horseman also develops a spiritual relationship with their horse and really knows and cares about how they arefeeling.

Through the use of a systematic approach, technique and establishing mutual respect and trust and
also establishing your “position” with the horse in your “herd-of-two”, all things are possible. The age is not the huge
factor in under saddle training, the previous history of training/handling, or not, and the type of relationships that the horse has had with humans previously are the critical factors to consider.


One other VERY BIG motivation for starting horses very young under saddle is the human’s impatience and haste in wanting to “just get on and ride”. As a species, humans do tend to be impatient and some people do want everything to
happen NOW. Is this fair to the horse that is started in heavy, “serious” training at two-three years old? Absolutely not! Most
parents of four or five-year-old children would not have their children participating at that young age in full-contact tackle football, or intensive gymnastic training. There would be major concern that their child could perhaps
be irreparably damaged physically (and mentally) from the stresses and rigors of these activities on young bodies and minds. The problem here is that human children “look” like children, whereas many young horses
“look” mature on the outside, but in reality, they still only mature structurally at the same rate as a less mature looking horse for the most part. Appearances can be very deceiving in the case of horses!

I feel the same way about horses as I would about putting a human child through rigorous activities
because I truly love them (even the ones who try to act unlovable) and horses sense when a human really cares about them and will respond to that caring and love. A horse that is devoted to their human will try-their-heart-out to accomplish that which they are asked to do. It’s for this reason that humans must never forget the huge honor that is given to them by a horse that loves them.

I don’t ever want to be the cause of a horse being rendered with physical and/or psychological problems when they are young, or when they get into their teens, because I started them too hard, too young. I always ask myself “what
would I do if this horse were my human child?” By asking this question, I always get the best answer; go slow, be patient and wait until the horse is developed adequately both mentally and physically for that which I will be
asking them to do. My advice for people who are contemplating buying a young horse, but they are also wanting to do “serious” riding sooner-rather-than-later, is to buy a horse that’s a little older (and hopefully not started too young themselves) and spare a young horse the possible physical and mental negativity of being ridden too hard, too young.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with starting a horse lightly under saddle at two-three-years-old. However, when I say “start under saddle” at that age, what I mean is to already have the leading, tying and basic handling
aspects in place and then accustom them to the tack and equipment, moving with the equipment in place during leading, light lunging, and perhaps ponying and ground driving if you’re so inclined when they are two. Very light exercise,
that’s all. At three, get a rider up (someone lighter) and do a little light walking and maybe a few steps of trotting/jogging here-and-there, but no cantering/loping and absolutely no riding that will stress their joints such as jumping, rolling a horse back over their hocks, etc. If a person can force themselves to wait, then I prefer to not start a horse in mounted under-saddle
training until four. Horses should not be in “serious” training in my opinion until at least four at the earliest, if not five or six-years-old. By “serious”, I mean the horse is beginning to be trained for their “career” in life, such as dressage, jumping, reining, cutting, endurance riding, pleasure trail riding, etc. Of course, all of the above are just my opinions for what they’re worth!

After reading what I have to say on the subject of starting young horses under saddle from a trainer’s perspective, I would hope that it will cause some people to at least think long and hard before they put their horse into training, doing things that are not
appropriate for their level of physical and/or mental development. After all,if we don’t protect our horses, who will?





Partnering With Your Horse ~ “Less Is More!”

Partnering With Your Horse ~ Less is More!
Mark Rashid Clinic – Rivendell Farm – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
“You’ve gotta be Alpha horse in his eyes.”


“Show him who’s boss.”
“Get after him, make him do it.”
“He has to respect you, no matter what.”


You’ll hear these statements a lot in and around the horse world.  but you won’t hear them from Mark Rashid. This soft-spoken Colorado horseman spreads a philosophy that favors partnership instead of dominance, guidance instead of restraint, support and help instead of correction, faith instead of fear.
Mark’s clinic in Chapel Hill included seven one-hour private sessions, offering a good sampling of the Rashid philosophy applied to various mounts and issues. Common themes ran through all the sessions, so that’s how I’ll share my impressions.
#1 – Horses don’t disobey; they obey what we’ve unknowingly teach them.
Behaviors we might perceive as disrespect are generally not so, Mark says. “If he’s always been told it’s okay to do that, it’s not a matter of loss of respect.”
For example, working with a horse on the ground, Mark asked us to watch what the horse did after he committed to the halt with one foreleg. Did the second foreleg stop behind the first foreleg? Square up? An inch ahead? Three inches ahead?
In ways as small as this, the horse asks us, “Is it okay if I creep up on you?” If we’re busy thinking of bigger actions, chatting with friends, or admiring the scenery, we might be saying to the horse, “Sure, that’s okay. I don’t mind if you creep up three inches.” The next time, he creeps up three inches twice. Then three inches thrice.
“Pretty soon, you have the horse running into your elbow or passing you by, only it’s because you’ve allowed him to”, Mark said. It appears the horse is being disobedient, but, in fact, he is only obeying what we accidentally taught him.
Now, this isn’t news to anyone, is it? We all know the aphorism: “Every time you’re with your horse, you’re training him, for better or for worse.” But it can be enlightening to really, truly watch closely and wee how subtle this accidental training can be!
#2 - It’s more about awareness than about action.
Theme #2 is a natural corollary to the previous theme. With greater awareness of the beginnings of behavior, you don’t have to engage in such big actions to direct the behavior where you want it. Therefore, Mark urged us to tune in closely to nuances that
perhaps we’d overlooked; feeling for that moment when the horse is setting up for a response, rather than the moment it takes place, or the moment after.
You’re looking to release at the first indication of compliance, not after the request is fully obliged.
This principle was where I had gone awry with my gentle homebred, not as “in front of the leg”
as I wanted. Intuitively, I knew to ask with the lightest aid, and release when the life came up. Intellectually, I’d have said that’s exactly what I had been doing. But when challenged to really put awareness to the task, I agreed I was releasing a second or two too late, and sometimes applying the leg out of sync with what I was getting from my horse.
The “less is more” philosophy, coupled with microscopic attention to timing, worked like a charm. Within 20 minutes, Chance was coasting in a ground-covering free walk, no reminder necessary. Such a tiny change in how I rode him, producing such a big change in how he rode.
If someone related this example to me before the clinic, I’d have thought, “Big deal, just good timing and proper aids.” That afternoon, I received a new picture of what “good timing” and “proper use” can mean.
#3 – Do less to get more.
“I want the horse to pay attention to me, not to my tools”, Mark said. “That’s why all the tools you’ll see me use to train a horse are right there in that bag.”, he said, pointing to a duffel bag barely big enough for a trip to the gym. All we ever saw emerge from the bag was a plain web halter and a rope lunge line.
How do we get results without tools to make ourselves bigger, extend our reach, overcome our human frailties? By being aware of behaviors when they are very small, supporting and guiding the horse at that stage, and not allowing behaviors to escalate to
where tools and gimmicks would seem to be the only way out.
How do we get away with doing less? By releasing more, and with better timing. For instance, Mark pointed out that one rider, when using a soft leading rein, kept contact on the rein even as the horse was turning. “If you keep pulling the rein when
he’s starting to turn, he’ll start to brace.” Release when you get the response, or else you are breaking the trust.
He asked another rider how many times she tapped her horse to move past the gate. “Three times”, she said. “SEVEN times”, Mark responded. “He was telling you way back there that he understood you, but you couldn’t feel it because your legs
were too busy.” Breaking the trust.
Mark’s suggestion to hold the squeeze until the horse got livelier, and then release immediately, was foreign to me. I’d been taught that squeezing makes a horse dull to leg, and a lively tap was more effective. Not so, according to Mark. “With a tap,
tap, you’re rewarding him every time you take your leg off, rewarding him for doing the wrong thing. He learns from the release.”
#4 – If you’re going to err, err on the side of helping the horse.
What to do about shying?
The conventional dictum many of us were raised on was the need to have the
horse face up to the object of his fear. Mark has a different take on it.
“Ten years ago, I’d ride through it”, Mark said to the owner of a spooky mare. “Now I’d more likely get off and walk her through it. Think about it: She’s screaming at you, ‘I’m really troubled’, and then do you want to drop her off the deep end
Sometimes the best thing is to let it go. If you don’t make a big deal out of it, the horse is likely to figure it is no big deal. Granted, it’s not always necessary to dismount and lead the horse through the demons, but as Mark put it, “If you’re going to
err, err on the side of helping him out.”
#5 – Look at the whole horse.
With each horse broughtbefore him, Mark looked beyond the obvious and explicit behavior, asking questions that provided a holistic context; questions about feed, management, related behaviors, medical history, and prior experience.
The questions were all part of troubleshooting, often yielding clues to behavioral problems. Of course, if we look at the big picture, there’s always the fear of getting the answers we don’t want, like “You’re to blame for this issue”, or “Find
another job for which this horse is more physically suited.”
“Don’t’ look for the solution, look for the cause”, Mark said. “When you find the cause, you’ll have your solution.”
#6 – It’s not about doing battle; it’s about finding a way to get along.
“People make corrections like they really enjoy doing it”, Mark lamented. “You’re not supposed to like correcting him.”
Mark emphasized finding ways to help the horse to success, rather than setting him up to fail only to be corrected for it. “He just wants to get along, and we can help him find a place where we can get along.”
“You don’t want to be fighting with him”, Mark said to a rider whose horse was pushing through the bit during the walk-to-halt transition. What Mark considers to be a human fighting with the horse is what many/most folks would call the horse bracing
against the human. Sense a different connotation here?
“The softer you’re getting, the less brace you’re getting from the horse”, he told one rider. “The arguments are going away because now we haven’t argued with him.”
It did seem that the less the riders did, the more their horses were open to being asked for more. The
horse doesn’t shirk working with the human, just looks for a place where he can get along.
#7 – There’s a difference between riding ON the horse and riding WITH the horse.
Assemble all the previous themes: timing, release, awareness, attitude, mutual respect, helping the horse, and you’re starting to ride with the horse rather than on him, by Mark’s definition.
It’s an intangible concept, but there are visible manifestations that convey the idea. For instance, it’s anticipating the downward transition and riding the first step of the new gait as it develops, rather than getting the downward transition and then adopting the body posture/rhythm of the new gait.
It’s having a clear vision of the response you’re seeking, and being absolutely consistent guiding the horse to that vision and appreciating him for reaching it. It’s seeking maximum softness in every interaction, on and off his back. It’s identifying the most subtle messaging between horse and human, and responding at a point when you can be very quiet, not waiting until the little messages become arguments.
It’s communicating with seat, wherever and whenever possible, following up with the hands only when necessary.
It’s looking for a mental connection with the horse, seeing where his mind is and responding to that rather than fixating on the physical. The ideal is a mutually respectful connection in which the horse is engaged in a two-way communication with the
Folks who want to quietly get along with their horses and offer their horses the best deal they can; folks who credit their horses as having value to bring to the “conversation”; those folks will find affirmation, new ideas, and a new level of awareness from the soft-spoken cowboy from Estes Park, Colorado.