Essential Tips for Horse Owners

Or: Is there something I don’t know yet?

This summer, I received the generous offer to review a book. This happens every now and then and – just like I would expect from someone reviewing my work – I am dedicated to an honest opinion.

The book sounded like ‘another one of those’ horse tip books: “Horse Owners’ Essential Tips: Grooming, Care, Tack, Facilities, Riding, Pasture”. There must be hundreds of those books on the market, I thought, and did not have great expectations. (A horse owner’s) Life, however, can be full of surprises and this was a positive one!

Let’s examine the book’s promise:

“More than 500 Practical Ideas”

What sounds like a drag to read through, is actually a very well presented wealth of really good, imaginative, practical and downright frugal ideas, covering anything from grooming over tack care and facilities to riding and pasture.

Granted, some of the tips may not be down your alley (not wanting to create a hand-made net?) but many will. One I really liked and that alone would make it worth the purchase: Easy to make stirrup covers that will prevent the stirrups from scratching up your saddle when you put it up. It’s not rocket science, but the point is, I never had the idea!

“Horse Owner’s Essential Tips will quickly find a place in the stable office”.

Yes, indeed. It’s easy to read format and delightful illustrations make it wonderful to have at hand for perusing when you only have a little time to kill (waiting for the vet, for instance). In those 10 minutes of browsing through the book, something will catch your eye that will make a difference to your (horse) life, all while enjoying a well-illustrated book, written in a light and easily digestible style.

It is now a part of our barn library to be enjoyed by all.

Some of my favorite horse tips from the book:

  • Oil to ‘cure’ chestnuts: Apply sunflower or olive oil to large, dry chestnuts daily until they fall off on their own. (I might add: Apply once or twice weekly afterward to keep them from growing back.) This is a low-cost, easy solution to a common unsightly problem.
  • Secure blanket clasp: Many horse owners blanket their horses in the winter, only to find that their expensive blanket will not stay on the horse. The problem: The clasp keeps opening. Meyrier suggests an easy solution: Use a rubber gasket such as found on certain beer or lemonade bottles to prevent the clasp from opening. A nifty illustration shows how it’s done.
  • Dried up tear stains on your horse’s face: Many horses don’t appreciate the feel of a wet sponge around their eyes, especially once you start rubbing. Philip Meyrier had an idea: Use moisturizing make-up remover pads: The dirt sticks to the wipes, it’s easy and the horse seems to like it better! (Of course, you could also use Aspire Natural Tear Stain Remover.)

In short:

  • An enjoyable read, great to keep in the barn or take along on a show or horse camping trip.
  • A chock full of innovative, imaginative and often frugal and funny tips and tricks to make your horse life easier.
  • A useful addition to any horsey library.
  • On my personal list of horse friend Xmas gifts!

So, if your are so inclined, I recommend you put Horse Owners’ Essential Tips: Grooming, Care, Tack, Facilities, Riding, Pasture in your shelf or on your Christmas list. It’s a keeper!

As always, Enjoy Your Horse!

SReinhold_sm

Stefanie Reinhold

http://www.ReinholdsHorseWellness.com
http://www.HorseWellness-Store.com

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Emergency grooming routine: From mud-cake to shine in 3 minutes!

Have you ever had a time-management challenge, got to the barn late for an appointment, show
or event and found your horse looking like a mud-cake?
Did you ever have to have your horse look his best in a very short time?

No problem. With the right tricks and grooming tools, you can groom your horse from (dry) mud to shine in 3 minutes (per side).

Note: This works best on horses that are groomed thoroughly on a regular basis. You should only ‘brush in a rush’ when absolutely necessary. Your horse won’t like it…

What you need – the tools:

  • 1 large sponge
  • clean water
  • a rubber curry
  • a natural fiber flick brush (ick, no plastic!)
  • a horse-hair finishing brush
  • a soft rag

    Image
    Low-tech grooming tools are enough

Step 1:
Breathe… you probably where in shock, seeing your horse looking like this…

Image
My Paladin had fun! And now I have 7 minutes to make him look presentable!

…when the trainer is due to arrive in 15 minutes…!!

Step 2:

Curry your horse all over with the soft rubber curry, knocking out the curry a few times to remove the dirt from the curry. Work from head to tail, include the legs. Don’t overdo it, just loosen all the dirt and move on. This is not the time to do a thorough job. You got 30 seconds!

Step 3:
Use your flick brush to remove most of the dirt by brushing in long strokes from head to tail and down the legs. Clean the brush on the curry 2 or 3 times while brushing. You got 1 minute!

Step 4:

Wet your large clean sponge with clean water and squeeze until the sponge is damp.
Take your finishing brush in your brushing hand, the sponge in the other hand.
Brush brush vigorously with long strokes from head to tail, stroking your finishing brush against the damp sponge every 2 strokes or so. You got 1 minute!

Step 5:
Use your soft clean rag to smoothen the coat and remove remaining dirt, stroke in the direction of hair growth with medium pressure from head to tail. You got 30 seconds!

GOOD JOB!

Image
Paladin looks clean after our 3-minute routine!! Think I’m ‘fibbing’? Look at the next pic…

Take a look at your horse and remain in awe of your grooming skills for approx. 30 seconds, then clean the sponge and do the other side. Once done, follow up with the rag on the first side again.

Now get that saddle on and ready for your lesson!

Image
Before and after, all on one horse.

Please remember: This is a great method when time is of the essence but will not thoroughly clean your horse. For every day application, get back to a mellow, thorough grooming technique that both you and your horse will enjoy.

For a more thorough day-to-day technique, read “How to groom your horse to shine in 4 easy steps“.

Enjoy your horse!

Stefanie Reinhold

The Good Ole’ ‘Carrot Stretch’: A Little Yoga for Your Horse

During my equine bodywork practice I work mostly with horses who are suffering from performance limitations due to restrictions in their musculature, which were developed due to biomechanical habits or compensation for other underlying issues.

carrot stretches with horses
Carrot Stretches make us happy!

While some owners or trainers are interested in learning the basic techniques of the Masterson Method™ after seeing real-time improvements in their horse’s range of motion during the bodywork, others would like to do something a little more ‘low tech’ to help their horse stay supple in between.

Active stretching with a bait – also called ‘Carrot Stretches’ – are a great way of enabling your horse to loosen up and gain or retain range of motions, even into old age!

Furthermore, it increases your popularity with your horse!

An Important Difference: Active vs. Passive Stretching with Horses

What are active stretches?

Active Stretches are exercises where the horse is encouraged – via bait, such as a carrot – to stretch as far as his abilities allow. He may increase the stretch or go beyond of what he thought he could do, but will never overstretch beyond the abilities of his soft tissue, such as muscles and ligaments. Therefore, active stretching – where the horse determines the amount of stretch – is a ‘no harm’, riskless and fun way to get your horse into that nimble state we so much desire.

What are passive stretches?

Passive Stretches are exercises where the horse’s handler determines the amount of stretch and the horse passively goes along. We have all seen publications where horses’ limbs are stretched out at a 90˚ angle to the front… The temptation to see our horse perform these types of exercises is great. We need to remember, however, that these passive  types of stretches can easily be overdone and cause damage to soft tissue such as muscle fibers or ligaments, if performed on cold muscles or on an overly compliant horse, who will not express his discomfort. These types of stretches are best performed persons who have received hands-on training and have obtained the necessary background knowledge (contraindications, anatomy, etc.) in order to do no harm.

How to Perform Basic Carrot Stretches

The principle is easy: You hold out the bait and the horse reaches for it. A carrot is the preferred bait, since it’s long and will save you a finger or two, if a misunderstanding arises regarding the exact measurement of the bait…  To be completely on the safe side, you may want to wear gloves and use a disposable cup cover to protect your hand, if needed. (You know, the type you get at the fast food place, simply stick carrot through straw hole…)

What is the purpose: The purpose of the bait stretches is to encourage your horse to move through his full range of motion in the direction that you are setting in the respective exercise. This means, that your horse experiences his full range of motion, how far he actually can move his neck around, for example, without exerting force or creating resistance, which is often the case when we use tack to encourage the horse to bend. Horses, just as humans, often never use their full range of motion for anything. Doing so re-educates the body and mind, lets muscles relax and releases long-standing tension. And, just as in humans (we are all made of the same stuff…), the more frequently you perform these stretches, the more nimble your horse will be.

Basic Carrot Stretch Exercises

1. To the shoulder/elbow

Benefits: Loosens up head/neck and neck/shoulder  junctions, increases flexibility in vertebrae of the neck by loosening up surrounding muscles

2. To the hip around you

carrot stretch with horse
To the hip around handler

Benefits: Loosens up neck/shoulder junction, increases flexibility in vertebrae of the neck by loosening up surrounding muscles, stretches the bracchiocephalicus muscle and thus aids in developing range of motion in the front limb, good stretch for rib cage and shoulder

3. To the girth line

carrot stretch with horse
To the girth line

Benefits: Opens/releases head neck junction, nice stretch for ligaments of the top line

4. To the front down

carrot stretch with horse
To the front down

Benefites: Stretches/releases tension in ligaments of the top line

5. To the outside of the front hoof

carrot stretch with horse
To the outside of the front hoof

Benefits: nice stretch for shoulder and neck

There are quite a few more you may incorporate into your daily routine.

When Should You Perform Carrot Stretches with Your Horse?

Personally, I like to perform carrot stretches as a routine right after grooming. I feel that this is an added ‘quality time’ that adds value to our rewarding and happy grooming routine. You can do these stretches on cold or warm muscles, no harm will be done, as the horse determines the amount of stretch.

Stall-bound horses in rehab can also benefit. Check with your vet to be sure your horse is ready for these types of exercises!

What if I don’t like to feed my horses ‘treats’?

It is understandable, that some of us may prefer not to feed our horse treats for training reasons. On the other hand, a ‘food reward’ has been proven to be a highly motivating factor in horse behavior. If you manage to set the rules straight (e. g. : You only get the carrot after the correct stretch, no treats outside of exercises!) your horse will be intelligent enough to understand it. Consistency is the key.

I’d be interested to hear about your experiences with carrot stretches. Please do drop me a line to stef@reinholdshorsewellness.com or comment below.

Enjoy your horse!

Stefanie Reinhold

www.reinholdshorsewellness.com

The case for elbow grease vs. Cowboy Magic: grooming for shine in 4 steps

Anyone who embarks on horse ownership knows how confusing the multitude of seemingly shine and gloss producing products, spray, shampoos and gels can be that are the staples of any well stocked tack shop or horse/farm supply store. From detanglers – leave in and leave out – over lotions, potions and even specialized supplements, there is no end on how much money you can spend and how many different products you can apply to your four-legged furry friend in order to produce show-ready shine. Or is there?

Let’s just rethink and take a brief trip through time. When I got started in horses in the 1970’s and groomed 5-10 horses every day plus show grooming on weekends, there were two elements that determined how shiny and well groomed your horse would look: your determination and elbow grease and a good quality brush. The End. (Not) Admittedly, there is also a certain level of technique and skill that – while easily learned – is key to getting it right.

How to groom your horse to shine – chemical free – in 4 easy steps:

Grooming a horse includes more than just the coat, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll leave out the topics of hoof care, ear cleaning, nostrils etc. and just focus on the coat. When I talk about shine, please keep in mind that shine very much depends on the color of the individual horse. A dark bay or black horse can look real glossy, a white or grey horse will shine in a more subtle kind of way. Shine is the hair’s ability to reflect light. This can become very obvious when the horse moves and is harder to show on a static image.  So, let’s get started:

Step 1 – Currying

A word of caution: Throw out your plastic or metal curry combs and replace with a good quality rubber massage curry and a cheaper regular rubber curry. Plastic curry combs can create micro abrasions on the hair, strip the hair of it’s natural oil coating (loosing that shine right there!), create micro scratches on your horse’s skin which leave him prone to skin infections and damage hair follicles. So, out with that cheap plastic curry at once! Metal curries are unsuitable to rub a horse’s sensitive skin and hair for the same reason. There is never a good reason to use either one of these monstrosities of grooming tools.

A massage curry increases the blood circulation of the skin, helps relax the tiny erector muscles that are connected to each hair follicle (aha! relaxes muscle = flat hair = shine…) and brings dirt and debris up from the skin in a gentle way.

hair erctor muscle
relaxing the hair erector muscles enables hair to lay flat, meaning a shiny coat

You can be sure not to do any damage, even when used around bony landmarks like points of hip or hocks.

Currying Action

How it’s done: Start behind the poll and curry your horse in a circular motion from head over chest, shoulder, back, belly, hind end to hocks. Don’t work the curry from knee or hock down. We’ll get to that later. Do this on both sides of the horse. Your goal: Massage the skin and bring up all the dirt and move it to the surface.

Step 2 – Flicking:

Flicking is a sort of sweeping hand motion in short strokes to further bring up more dust, debris and dander from the horse’s skin up to the surface of the coat. It also serves to distribute the oils on the skin over the hair (shine alert!). In order to perform this flicking action properly, you need a proper flicking brush. This is a medium stiff brush made of NATURAL materials that does not bind the oils to the brush, but rather distributes them evenly. A synthetic brush will bind the oils to the brush, which then in turn bind dirt to the brush which you then reapply to your horse. (Defeating the purpose of grooming.) Synthetic brushes should be called ‘Anti Shine Brushes’ for this reason. Cheap plant based brushes will not flick properly. After some time of using them you will find the bristles bent to one side, making it impossible to perform the flicking action. So invest in a good-quality dandy brush.

How it’s done: Start behind the poll and brush the horse’s coat in the direction of it’s growth in a flicking motion in short strokes. This is a movement that resembles the type of sweeping you’d do with a corn broom. Remember, you are trying to bring up dirt and debris and distribute oils. See how the bristles of the brush in the picture flick elastically? That’s what you are looking for. Brush the whole horse this way on both sides. If desired, follow up with a second brushing with longer strokes, but still flicking. Your goal: bring up more dust, debris and dander from the horse’s skin up to the surface of the coat and distribute the oils on the skin over the hair coat.

Important: This is where your regular rubber curry comes in! After every two or three strokes clean the flicking brush on the rubber curry. Every couple of times knock your rubber curry against the wall or ground and see the dirt fall out! You will not want this dirt to remain in your brush, otherwise you’ll just reapply it to your horse. When finished flicking, thoroughly sweep the brush against the rubber curry several times to clean the brush before putting it away. Make this a habit and you will keep your brush nice and your horse happy!

Step 3 – Brushing:

After you thoroughly curried and ‘flicked’, you are now ready to brush off the dirt and debris you lifted to the surface with a good softer brush. A real horse brush is a natural bristle brush with a high bristle density. These brushes are usually made of horse hair. Cheap horse hair brushes are not only much too soft, too loose and not durable enough. Horse hair used to be a precious raw material and I think it should stay that way and not be treated as a ‘throw away’ material.  Cheap brushes that need to be replaced often, also contribute to a ‘throw away’ attitude towards the animals that provide this precious material: horses. When I buy a horse hair brush I am aware that it comes from a horse and I want it to last for a very long time, not wanting to fuel a demand for horse hair.

How it’s done: Move in the same direction as with the flicking brush, always with the direction of growth. Here you don’t need to flick, but work in even, long strokes to remove all surfaced dirt from the coat. Clean the brush against the rubber curry every couple of strokes! This is very important, you don’t want to reapply the dirt to a different area of your horse’s body. Give the horse a second brushing with this finishing brush, if needed.

Brushing the dirt out

Step 4 – Bring on the Shine (and not the Magic…)

By now you should have a reasonably clean and good looking horse with some shine to it. You will now want to take it up a notch. My favorite tool to remove fine dust particles and smooth the hair is a soft, large goat hair brush, followed by a cloth diaper or a lambskin mitten such as the ones used for washing cars.

How it’s done: Again, work in the direction of hair growth. Your goal is to move all fine dust off the surface of the horse’s coat and smoothen the hair flat. Brush the entire horse, several times if needed, with the goat hair brush. Then follow up by wiping with a good amount of pressure in the direction of hair growth, either with a cloth diaper or a lambskin mitten.

Last Step: Stand Back and Enjoy!

A note regarding face and legs: I use all steps on the face, except currying.  I don’t know one horse that would mind being brushed in the face with a medium stiff brush, if you do it carefully, especially around eyes and muzzle and move with the direction of hair growth. On the legs, I don’t use a curry, but rather a stiff leg brush (NOT a synthetic material, which can be harsh and scratchy!).

brushing the leg with a leg brush

About shampooing and applying chemicals:

Your horse has a natural skin protectant, natural oils that keep his skin soft and moisturized, protected from micro organisms and the hair shiny. Don’t remove these oils by shampooing your horse just to reapply them artificially with moisturizers and shine sprays. Less is more. Nature provided all your horse needs. If you need your horse to shine and look his best for a show, for instance, make it a habit to groom him regularly and you will find it easy to create that extra shine before the show. Only shampoo mane and tail and hose off the horse’s body with clear water, if needed. One exception: It can be a good idea to shampoo your horse once in the spring to thoroughly wash out excess dirt. Be sure to use a natural horse shampoo that will be gentle to your horse’s skin.

Note: It takes a few days of good grooming after each shampooing for your horse’s coat to shine again! Reason: The horse’s skin and coats was stripped of most of the natural oils. If preparing for a show or event, shampoo your horse 3-4 days before the event.

About grooming tools:

After reading this article, you may suspect that I had suffered a fair amount of frustration with the grooming tools available in most tack stores. In my search for better brushes, I first came across some Swedish brushes, which were of much better quality than anything you could find here in the US at the time (2010). During a trip to Germany the following year, however, I went into a tack shop in Aachen, where I stumbled upon Leistner™ brushes. The quality is so exquisite that I decided to sell these brushes here in the US. Artisan brush makers since 1882, this company specializes in equine brushes and the products surpass any expectations.

When comparing prices online you will notice that my prices are lower than the prices these brushes retail for in Europe. I’d simply like to make these brushes available to US horse lovers and hope you’ll love them as much as I do.

Enjoy your horse and happy grooming!

Stefanie Reinhold