Blogs > Horse Sense

Marissa Raymo will discuss everything about horses, including horse health care tips, training tips, equestrian friendly trails, horse buying info and much more.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Curious George: Biography of the Lonely Pony

     At 12 years old I began my first job as a birthday party pony walker. For a varying rate of $1.75 - $5.00 per hour, I walked ponies in circles as gaggles of screaming children pulled at their manes and kicked at their sides to make them, “Giddy-up pony!” And it was a dream. I spent my weekends surrounded by the things I loved most, just waiting for the day that I could make one my own.  

     He came into the farm on an auction buy. Thrown into the overpopulated pen with a couple of other nameless newbies and the dozens of regulars, he immediately stood out. Though he was larger than most, he was kicked, nipped, and chased by all of the other ponies.

     That first day I watched him from across the pen as he watched the other ponies eat and play, tears streaming down his sad little face (I later found out that the “crying” was from a chronic eye infection that has since required regular care and ointment). That was the moment I knew that I would someday make him mine.

     A couple of months later I learned that George and several of the other ponies had been shipped back to the horse auction for sale. By this point, the relentless mud and dust of the pony pen had inflamed his eye infection and caused a smelly black fungus (thrush) to develop in his hooves. I knew that a trip to the auction for George most likely meant the kill pen.

     So I cried and begged my parents to take me to the auction that night to save George, completely unaware that they had already purchased and had him shipped back to the farm to wait for me. And for ten years he was my partner in crime. Together we learned our way around every "No Trespassing" sign in the area, swam together in the local lakes, chased deer through open fields and jumped over every obstacle we came across. 

     But every time we'd ride by another horse he would insist on stopping to whinny and snort until they replied, and then we could continue.  I knew that George still longed to be a part of the herd.

     The day we finally brought his mare home, George's eyes lit up like Christmas morning. Despite the fact that she steals his food and nips at his behind, he wants nothing more than to stand by her side. And in the rare moment that Lyric thinks no one else is looking and nuzzles him back, I know that George is truly happy.

     There are a lot of interpretations of what it is to "rescue" a horse, but I believe that we rescued George that day at the auction. And sometimes I think he rescued me too.

Cowboy Logic of the Day
"It's rare to find a horse that everyone agrees is the best in the herd."


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Miraculously Clean!

I am a retail store manager's dream. I am the reason they strategically place the low cost, high margin, fit-in-one-hand products at the cash register counter. I am the impulse buyer. I often find myself standing at the front of a grocery line reaching out for some "thingamabob" or "whatchamacallit"as my husband instinctively slaps my hand away.

In this case it was a "If you like that item, be sure to check out this" moment. Just as I am about to click "Check Out Now," my computer suggests I take a look at "Miracle Groom." So I think to myself, "I like miracles," and click on.

Now what hooked me on this particular purchase was the fact that this simple spray-on product boasted that it could clean, condition, deodorize, detangle, and shine my horse's coat, all without soap or water. So for $9.95 and a modest shipping charge, I put Miracle Groom to the test. 

Though it isn't a replacement for an actual soap and water bath, Miracle Groom is great for regular grooming, between bath touch-ups, and cold weather cleaning. It leaves my horses' coats soft, shiny, and smelling fresh.  It also seems to act as a sort of dirt barrier, and the dust and dirt falls off easily on the next grooming.

And unlike some of the other coat shine products, you can spray it on before a ride without having to worry about your saddle sliding off. So overall, a great multi-purpose product. Not quite a miracle, but definitely on the right track!

Cowboy Logic of the Day
"Talk Low, talk slow, and don't say too much"



Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Where have all the auctions gone?

When I was a kid, the only thing more entertaining than a “Saved by the Bell” marathon was the Saturday night Michigan Horse Auction. Each week I would carefully pick out my outfit to look as “cowgirl” as possible and then nudge my parents out the door early to get a seat close to the auction floor.

Every week we’d start with the tack and barn items, sometimes picking up a feed bucket here or a bridle there, just waiting for the moment they would clear the “arena” to prepare for the horses. And each week I would beg and plead with my father to prove that this next horse is really “the one”.

But you know what I really miss about the auctions? I miss the stick thin cowboys with small jeans and big hats. I miss the crazy-haired youngsters dying to dig their hands into the mane of an auction pony. I miss the soggy polish sausage and half-flat diet cokes. And most of all, I miss that lively ol’ auctioneer that would let me slip a bid in every once in a while if my Dad wasn’t raising his card fast enough.
“Who’ll gimme a hundred dollars? One hundred dolla bid, now two, now two. Will ya gimme two? Two hundre’dolla bid, now three, now three. Three? Three an’ a half? Three fifty, fifty, three fifty, fifty, SOLD!”
With the increased popularity of Craigslist and other web-based horse and tack sale options, it seems that traditional horse auctions have become few and far between. But if you still crave that hat-tippin’, boot kickin’, chaw spittin’ good time, here are a couple of the Michigan Horse Auctions still going:

If you know of any other upcoming horse auctions, please send me a comment or email with the details and I’ll add it to the list.

Cowboy Logic of the Day
“No matter where you go or what you do, keep your saddle
and chaps and always know where you can get a good ride.”

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

No Worries, Mate! Review of the Illustrious Aussie Saddle

Before I was introduced to the Aussie saddle, I was sure that Simon Baker was Australia’s greatest export. But the moment I first fell into that hammock-like seat, I knew it was love.

Since I first learned to ride English and later converted to Western for the trail, the Aussie saddle turned out to be the best of both worlds for me. Combining my favorite features of English and Western saddles, it makes for the ultimate trail/endurance ride.

I originally bought the Aussie for my hard-to-fit Lyric (stay tuned for my blog on the importance of a well-fitted saddle), as she refused the Western saddle and was too unpredictable to be alone in the woods with my dainty English saddle. Aside from the general comfort for myself and my horse, I have found the Aussie to give me the most security as well.

Aussies have the forward seat of an English saddle, but like a Western saddle, it is designed to spread the rider's weight more evenly over the horses back. Weight wise, they are generally heavier than an English saddle, but lighter than most Western saddles.

In addition to the deep seat, the Aussie saddles include padded poleys (kneepads) to keep your tush in the saddle no matter what obstacle comes your way.  And to date, (knock on wood) it is the only saddle that I have not been thrown from.  Not that she hasn’t tried. 

The stirrup leathers are attached to stirrup bars, and are designed to release in the event the rider is thrown and has a foot caught in the stirrup. You can see the stirrup bar in the above picture peeking out from beneath the leather flap. When riding, the flap is actually secured beneath the overgirth (part of the double girthing system).

Now you'll probably never find an Aussie saddle in the show jumping ring or a barrel racing event, but for the avid trail rider, it is the best of both worlds. Don't believe me? Try it for yourself!

Cowboy Logic of the Day
"There never was a horse that couldn't be rode; 
there never was a rider that couldn't be throwed."


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Important Message from George the Pony

You'll need audio for this one.

See? Even horse farts are funny...Have a great Friday everybody!
Cowboy Logic of the Day
"Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day."


Monday, April 12, 2010

DIY Vaccinations - Part 2

I have finally done it! After more than a decade of owning horses (and with the help of my favorite farriers Tim & Koren from TK Hoof Care of Highland 248-431-3775), I have finally learned how to administer intramuscular vaccinations. My wallet feels heavier already!

Check out the video below to see how I did. And remember, there are a lot of things to take into account when vaccinating your horses, such as:

  • Which vaccines are right for your horse
  • Where the best injection sites are and how to avoid blood vessels
  • What to do in case of an adverse reaction

  So be sure to consult a professional before attempting to vaccinate your animals. 

For a step-by-step, Click Here!

Cowboy Logic of the Day
"Coolness and a steady nerve will always beat simple quickness. Take yer time and you'll only need to pull the trigger once."


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Knowing When to Say When

I recently saw an ad offering two young horses (gasp) “Free to a Good Home”. The catch here was that the 3-year-old twins had defective legs, caused by becoming “tangled in the womb”.

The poster actually had the nerve to offer them up as pasture pets. Which to me is like saying, “Well I’m sure not going to pay to feed my pasture ornaments for the next 20-some years, but you can!”

Often when a breeder finds out that their mare is carrying twins (ask your vet about ultrasounds!), they are faced with the decision of terminating one of the fetuses in order to 1.) ensure the safety of their mare and 2.) increase the likelihood of ending up with one healthy foal rather than two undersized and possibly defective babies.

In many cases of twin pregnancies in horses, nature will take its course and one or both embryos will be resorbed or aborted during the first 60 days.  Even then the mare is at risk for toxemia from carrying a dead fetus. Worst case scenario, the breeder could end up with 2 stillborn foals and a dead mare.

In this particular case, one or both of these poor young horses are likely to end up in the hands of a slaughterhouse or glue factory before they make it to their teens. A situation like this makes me wonder, “How did it get this far?” Was the owner not aware that his/her mare was carrying twins? Did they neglect to have an ultrasound once she was bred? Or did the owner see dollar signs once they found out that their single stud fee was producing double results?

Now we may never know the reasons behind this particular situation and I’m not above the idea that it may have somehow been a complete accident. It’s hard for me to judge since I once found out that my little barn kitten Chester was actually a Chessie by way of an unplanned pregnancy. 

But the moral of this story is that sometimes the best decision for your horse isn’t the easiest one to make.

So tell me, what would you do?


Thursday, April 8, 2010

DIY Vaccinations

I have been toying with the idea of administering my own vaccinations for quite awhile now, but haven’t quite mustered up the guts to do it. However, now having two horses and two dogs, it seems that my annual vet bills are getting more than a bit out of hand.

Last year’s vaccination rounds for George (the pony) alone cost over $400 through my vet, where I can purchase all of the recommended vaccines from an online equine supply store (with the exception of rabies, which should always be administered by a vet) for less than $80.

So this Monday, I will attempt to vaccinate my own horses for the first time (with the help and supervision of a seasoned professional, of course). And in the event that I don’t pass out or vaccinate myself by mistake, I might just take on the dogs next!

So stay tuned to find out if and how I do!

The inevitable disclaimer…
The vaccinations recommended for your horse will vary based on a few factors – age, location, amount of travel, contact with other horses, and intent to breed. The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends West Nile Virus, Eastern and Western Encephalitis, Tetanus and Rabies as core vaccinations that every horse should receive annually, regardless of ages, location, etc. Other vaccinations should also be considered based on your horse’s individual risk.

There is a lot to consider before you decide to vaccinate your own animals, like which vaccines can be administered together, what side effects are normal, and what to do in case of an adverse reaction - so please, please, please consult with your veterinarian before attempting to vaccinate your own pets. 

Cowboy logic of the day
"Don't worry about biting off more than you can chew. Your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger than you think."


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Craigslist Farm & Garden

So I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Craigslist. Most of the time I love it, but there are just some days that I could do without. Let’s say, for example, when the chronic flagoholics are having my post removed unnecessarily for the third consecutive time or when someone posts an item for sale, but isn’t actually prepared to sell it for another 6 weeks and then you drive 150 miles only to find that the actual pile of rust for sale is not the beautifully pictured item you were sold on a month and a half ago (you know who you are). Those are the moments I could go without.

But like I said, most of my Craigslist experiences are positive, which explains my unhealthy addiction.  Most days I check my Craigslist notifications shortly after I wake up, at least a dozen times throughout the day, and (of course) once before bed. It is like a sort of drug that causes you to spend money on things you would never, ever think to buy otherwise.

If not for my husband’s interference, I might have impulse purchased an incubator (I don’t even have any animals that lay eggs), a draft horse too tall to even fit into our trailer to come home, and a baby camel (c’mon, really?). But, if you can successfully weed through all of the scams and garbage, there really are a lot of good deals on Craigslist.

In fact, I’m building my new horse barn & pasture almost entirely from Craigslist postings.  The actual barn is being supplied & installed by a lumberyard that I found on a Craigslist posting. The stall mats, pasture fence (including all gates), and at least one of the horses that will inhabit the barn were all found on Craigslist.

For the bargain savvy equestrian, you can buy or sell just about anything horse related. There are varieties of economy to luxury new and used tack, barn supplies (even entire barns for sale), local boarding and lesson specials, and horses of all sizes and colors from free to far-from-it!
So if you have a pretty good BS meter and enough self restraint to keep from impulse buying a camel (and aren’t offended by the occasional f-bomb), I say check it out!

Cowboy logic of the day
“The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket.”

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Monday, April 5, 2010

A Clip Slip...

I’m a “learn by doing” kind of person. And patience is certainly not one of my strong points. I’ve always preferred the natural shedded look in the summer to a body clip, and since my horses prefer to sleep outside at night, it has always been the most practical way to go.
So I surprised even myself when a routine bridle path trim turned into an all-out clipper war. Of all of Lyric’s many quirks, she is surprisingly good with the clippers. She will stand statue-still and even lower her head to help me reach her bridle path.  So in her rare moment of serenity, I decided to take the opportunity to give her whiskers a little trim, and then I noticed her jawline wasn’t shedding at the speed of her body, so I gave that a little clip too…which was a little too close, so I then had to feather the fur around it to match. And before long, I’m standing in a pile of hair clumps and Lyric is too embarrassed to leave the stable.
There are many different types of horse clips , mostly for aesthetics or to prevent overheating on a heavily worked horse.  If you are unsure of whether clipping is right for your horse, consider this:
  • Mother Nature will provide your horse with the protection it needs against rain or snow. If you clip your horse for work or show, you may need to keep several different blankets on hand to make up for what they’re missing.
  • A horse’s coat not only protects from cold temperatures, but also provides a barrier to keep flies and other biting insects from their skin. Some horses (my Lyric included) are especially sensitive to insect bites, and can develop painful welts and sores from a single bite.
  • The whiskers, another commonly trimmed area, are actually an extension of their sense of touch, and can be particularly important to help them “see” people and objects in the front blind spot.
  • The fuzz around the nostrils and ears helps to keep flies and dust out in the summer months.
  • Fetlock “feathers” have a dual purpose. First, they funnel water away from the hooves, helping to prevent soft hooves and thrush (a stinky hoof fungus that eats away at the sole of the foot). Secondly, they offer protection to the sensitive fetlock area.  

That being said, I am not against clipping at all. I just find it important to consider the reasons that nature provides these features to your horse in order to properly supplement them once you clip.
And if you would like to learn how NOT to clip your horse, call me. Or you can check out this helpful YouTube video from Horse & Hound for real tips and techniques:

Cowboy logic of the day - “If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.”


Saturday, April 3, 2010

For Free, or Not For Free - That is the question!

Whether you keep your horses at home, board, lease or take lessons on a school horse, the love of horses is by no means cheap. And in a poor economy, pet ownership tends to be one of the early luxuries to go. Pet rescues become overwhelmed with animals, breeders drop their prices to practically compete with rescues, and free animal listings seem to pop up everywhere. But a free horse?  

In the past, a free horse to me meant a twenty-something nag with a club foot and a blind eye...until I met Lyric. ‘Twas a chance encounter on Craigslist Detroit that brought me to her; a sad but hopeful listing from a college student who had lost her job and could no longer afford to pay her board. “Free Tennessee Walker/Arabian mare, come and get her.”  I called within 20 minutes of the posting, met her that night, and had her home by the weekend.

What I’ve since found is that a free horse does not come without cost. Lyric’s specially fitted tack (including the pieces that she destroyed out of spite), riding lessons, and the “Great Trailer Debate of 2010” (more to come on that later), all probably exceed the cost of a well broke, well bred and well mannered replacement…Plus, I’m fairly certain that she’s tried to kill me on a few occasions, so we can add my future medical bills to the mix.
So is a free horse a bad investment? Not necessarily. But is any free horse right for just anyone? Certainly not!

If you are considering taking in a free horse, here are a few things to consider:
  • What is the primary purpose of the horse? Will it be for riding or a pasture mate for another animal?  If it will be a riding horse, it's a good idea to get a full vet check before making the commitment. Though I like to give most people the benefit of the doubt, tight funds are not the only reason that people will offer up a "free horse".  If it is for a pasture buddy, request all vet and vaccination records (and it's still not a bad idea to have a full vet check performed). 
  • What are the conditions of the "adoption"? Someone who truly cares about their horse will require an adoption agreement before placing the animal to ensure that it does not end up in a slaughter house. Adoption agreements (see example below) will often include any restrictions (breeding or commercial use), "first right of refusal" to the previous owner, and a commitment to care (regular vaccinations, vet care and daily turnout). If the person does not care to make up an adoption contract, that is all the more reason to get a full vet check before bringing the animal home. 
Cowboy Logic of the Day 
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”


Friday, April 2, 2010


Welcome to Horse Sense! Whether you ride Western, English, in the show ring or on the trail...or if just like the feel of a warm fuzzy muzzle in your palm, this is the place for you!
The basis here is all things equine and your suggestions are always welcome! If you have a question or would like to open up discussion on a topic, just send me a comment/e-mail.

Along the road you’ll also get to meet my two sassy equine companions, Lyric (an Arabian/Tennessee Walker mix mare with an attitude) and George (my pouty palomino pony) and their stablemate Koda (a Morgan mix gelding that will do just about anything for a treat).

I will resist the urge to close with an obvious horse cliché (because that would be like "beating a dead horse"). So in the immortal words of Roy Rogers, “Until we meet again, may the good Lord take a liking to you.”
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