Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Animal cruelty laws: How does your state measure up?

Have you ever wondered about your state's laws regarding animal cruelty, and how it measures up to others? I just discovered this handy chart of animal cruelty laws, which lists each state and whether animal cruelty is a felony or a misdemeanor, maximum sentences, and whether the state laws require counseling, bans against owning animals, and something called "PPO" that I can't figure out.

I was pretty impressed with my state's ratings. Colorado is one of the few states with green check marks all the way across, not to mention the state with the highest maximum fine: $500,000! But I was not at all surprised to see a row of red Xs and a dismally low maximum fine for both Missouri and Kansas, where we rescued my horse,

Of course, what the chart doesn't address is whether horses are considered livestock in each state. A recurring problem with cruelty to horses is that, because they are often considered livestock, neglect and abuse of horses is not treated with the same sense of urgency as with cats and dogs.

For instance, remember the Colorado bison slaying case I blogged about a while back? The guy only got 10 days in jail. This may not be a horse abuse case, but it demonstrates how cavalier people can be about the treatment of animals that are considered livestock.

How does your state measure up? Do the animal cruelty cases you've seen locally reflect your state's standing on this chart?


Monday, March 30, 2009

Watch Blinders online

I've mentioned before about Blinders, the documentary that exposes the living and working conditions of NYC carriage horses. Good news that may lead to more publicity for the documentary, and therefore more public awareness of the issue: Blinders won a Genesis Award!

Here's some more good news: you can actually watch Blinders online. It's a great documentary and I highly recommend watching it!


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spooked horses in a driving competition

I just saw this video thanks to Fugly Horse of the Day. It's six and a half minutes of he!l — a horse spooks and bolts during a driving competition, triggering another one to start right about when they catch the first one. There are several instances of people and horses getting mowed down by an out-of-control horse, but apparently — by some miracle — no one was actually hurt.

Someone on the Fugly blog said that the horses all hold their tails in the air because they've had ginger applied to their anuses to make them burn, and that that may have been what got the first horse kicking in the first place. Poor horses! I'd kick too!

Also, as several people pointed out, trying to quiet or catch the horse isn't going to work, because it has blinders on and can only see forward. Considering horses are prey animals and can't see directly in front of them, either, I would say blinders are a pretty bad idea because of the risk of this happening.


Warming up

The barn owner was not able to halter Panama today (though I think it has to do with the fact that he tried right after bringing out the hay, so Panama was probably afraid he wouldn't get breakfast). So late this afternoon I hopped into the car and drove over the barn to take his blanket off myself.

After taking off the blanket, I groomed Panama for the first time in almost two weeks. We were in the sun, and he was very relaxed — and we all know what happens to a gelding when they are very relaxed! Ha ha! It's definitely warming up post-snowstorm, and I was even too warm with a T-shirt, sweatshirt, and light jacket on.

Anyway, I curried and brushed a ton of loose hair off of him (and there's still more that I couldn't get), brushed his mane and tail, picked his feet, and gave him lots of kisses and treats. He was very affectionate and sweet, not to mention well-behaved. Obviously he liked the attention very much.

I hope this snow melts quickly, as I am really looking forward to working Panama more often this spring — starting this coming week, if at all possible!


Friday, March 27, 2009

The snow's over and we're feeling good...

In true Colorado style, after it finally stopped snowing this morning, the sun came out and the snow on the roads and sidewalks melted. Where I live we got about a foot of snow (it slowed down a bit after two hours of whiteout yesterday), but it's supposed to be in the 40s and 50s this weekend, so I'm guessing it will be all gone soon.

The barn owner managed to take Panama's blanket off this morning, though I had a talk with him because he did it without haltering and tying Panama. (I don't want Panama to bolt and wreck his blanket again, like he did with me a few months back.) I went back just before dinnertime to put the blanket back on him.

When I got there, Panama was quite happily sunning himself, and was a little annoyed at first about being disturbed. However, when I brought out the blanket he seemed happier than usual to get it on — that is, he didn't do his usual trick of acting like it was going to eat him.

Afterward, he was feeling frisky, and started harassing the alpha gelding: He walked up to him and started nipping at his neck, face, under his chin, etc. I wish I'd gotten some pictures! The alpha nipped back a few times, but wouldn't play with him, and eventually Panama gave up. However his method reminded me of how his donkey friend used to harass him in order to get him to play.

Anyway, I'm hoping to get out there again tomorrow for a little bit. The pasture will soon be a swampy mess, so I'll try to go early!


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spring snowstorm update

Three and a half hours later, this has turned to this:

Colorado blizzard

Boy am I glad I blanketed Panama!

I called the barn owner a few minutes ago, and he had put all the horses in the barn with some hay to keep them happy. They don't have water in there, though, so he can't keep them in there long before he has to turn them loose again. Still, with the whiteout and all, I'm sure they are content to be inside!


Our Colorado spring snowstorm has arrived!

Well, the forecasters weren't kidding when they said we'd be getting a major snowstorm today! This is what it looked like on my street just 30 minutes after it started:

Colorado spring snowstorm

It's hard to tell, but these are HUGE flakes in order to show up like that in the picture, and falling very fast and thick. It's even worse now.

By this morning, the winter storm warning had been revised to a blizzard warning, and we were told to expect up to 16 inches in the city. The schools had all closed in anticipation of the storm, even though it hadn't yet started! There was about a half inch on the ground from overnight snowfall, and dark looming clouds covering the sky, but no flakes.

I dropped Michael off at work early, around 7:45, and then headed over to the barn to check on Panama. It was good I did, because one of the straps on his blanket had come undone. I was also glad I had blanketed him, because he was hiding out in the barn even with the blanket on!

I guess the barn owner hadn't taken me (or the forecasters) seriously about the snow, because neither of the other two horses he usually blankets had theirs on. One of them (the alpha) was in the barn with Panama, and felt a bit cold to the touch. The other was hanging out near the gate, waiting for breakfast, but then she never seems to care about the cold anyway.

The fourth horse, who doesn't have a blanket, was hanging out at the door to the barn like he wanted to go inside, but the alpha was blocking the doorway and wouldn't let him in. Poor guy!

Anyway, it was lucky we got started early this morning, because the snow started only about 10 minutes after I got home!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

All tucked in!

I went ahead and blanketed Panama this evening in preparation for this snowstorm that's supposed to hit tonight. It was still 40 degrees when I blanketed him, but I could see dark, heavy clouds moving in while I was at the barn, which made me feel good about my decision to blanket.

Anyway, I thought I'd share with you a picture of my horse in his blanket. I love this blanket on him — I suppose it's kind of girly, but I think he looks good in it!

My pinto pony wearing a light blue/medium blue checkered winter blanket

See the glove on the ground? It's mine. I had to throw it at him to get his face out of his hay! What a piggy!


Colorado spring snowstorm forecasted

Despite unseasonably warm temperatures in the Denver Metro area for the past two months, it seems we are not going to get away without a big spring snowstorm, after all.

Right now, the forecasters are calling for 8 to 15 inches along I-25, which runs through the city of Denver and the Denver Tech Center, and 1 to 2 feet along the Front Range (which is west of the city and includes many of the suburbs in the Denver Metro area). It's supposed to get down to 25 degrees tonight, with a high tomorrow of about 30 degrees, and a low tomorrow night of 16.

Even though I don't normally blanket my horse until it gets down below 15 degrees, I am considering blanketing him this evening, for several reasons:

1) He's lost a lot of his winter coat. He's been shedding out like crazy, and a lot of his winter coat is gone. It's been a while since it's been colder than 30 or 40 degrees at night, and I just don't think he's prepared to withstand a sudden drop to 25 degrees — let alone 16 — unblanketed.

2) If it snows a lot, I may not be able to get out there tomorrow. Here is one of the major drawbacks of not living with your horses! They are only calling for 4 to 8 inches during the day, but I'm worried about what happens if they are wrong, and I don't blanket tonight, and then can't get over there tomorrow.

3) It's late in the season and not likely to get cold like this much more. In other words, I'm more worried about him getting wet and cold during this storm, than I am about him losing the rest of the winter coat from wearing the blanket at a warmer temperature than usual.

What's your blanketing rule? For what reasons will you break it, if at all?


Sunday, March 22, 2009

What's your take?

I've been having a discussion with someone on another site as to whether a horse should ever be permitted to turn his back on you, and I'm curious where my readers stand on that issue.

I generally consider Panama to be a very respectful horse. When I kept him in a stall, he would always turn to face me when I walked in. Even in the pasture, when I walk up to him he faces me and waits for me to halter him.

However, I've also found that he is smart enough to know when I don't want something from him. I've never found it to be a problem if he turns around to, say, eat some hay or walk out into his run when I'm standing in the stall.

However, on this other site several people indicated that a horse turning away from you is always a no-no. I personally think there's a big difference between turning to do something and turning to kick, and I think there is also some responsibility on the person not to stand somewhere really dumb (like on the opposite side of the stall from the hay, where it's pretty much guaranteed you'll be behind the horse). But these people are telling me that a horse should never turn away from you.

That makes me think of the whole "Never turn your back on the emperor" rule, where people bowed and backed their way out of a room. I'm pretty sure my horse isn't going to do that when he wants to go out into his run to take a whiz, but these same people have indicated that I shouldn't even be hanging out with my horse in his stall with him loose.

What's your opinion?


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pony Tales Blog is now easier to find on the Web!

While reading up on how to build and run a successful blog, I was reminded of what a good idea it is to buy up similar domain names to your blog's domain. I know about this and have done it before, but I had forgotten.

So it occurred to me that it's easy for readers to forget whether the name of this blog is Pony Tales Blog or Pony Tails Blog. For the record, it's Tales — but to make sure I don't lose readers who forget, the domain PonyTailsBlog.com now sends you right back to my blog!

I may focus on pony tales (i.e., stories) here, but I like pony tails just as much!

A pretty French-braided pony tail


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My horse's worming schedule

I just wormed Panama yesterday, and lo and behold, there's a blog post about worming schedules on another horse blog I read! So here's my worming schedule. It's rather different than what most people do, but my vet explained it when he recommended it to me last spring, and it makes good sense to me.

Basically, I worm every two months throughout the warmer months — mid-March, mid-May, mid-July, and mid-September. All four of these are with the same wormer, which rotates every year, and May is a double dose. Last year I gave Panama Anthelcide, this year is Strongid, next year will be Panacur, and the year after will be Quest. Then I start over in 2012 with Anthelcide.

During the winter months, in mid-December, I worm with Ivermectin.

The primary reason for switching wormers is so that the worms do not become resistant to certain wormers when used over and over again. My vet says that this worming schedule will give my horse four years between each wormer, which is A LOT of generations of worms — plenty of time to lose any resistance to the wormers they might have acquired.

As for Ivermectin, my vet says that it doesn't kill very much — whether because it's been overused or because there are just better options now, I don't know. He says the one thing it is really GOOD at killing is bots, which lay their eggs on horses' legs in the fall. So in mid-December, once all the buggies have been killed by frost and there isn't a chance of more eggs being laid, Ivermectin is given to get rid of the bots.

That's my worming schedule. What's yours, and how did you come to it? Vet advice, cowboy/cowgirl wisdom, or some other way?


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shedding out!

The weather was gorgeous today, a sunny 70 degrees, and I managed to get out to the barn for my first meaningful visit since before our trip.

After two weeks of not being brushed, especially during this time of year, I was thinking Panama might be a shaggy mess — and I was right!

Here is his fuzzy, dirty, un-groomed side...

My horse, shedding out -- the fuzzy side!

And here he is post grooming. Still a bit fuzzy, but much less so:

My horse, shedding out -- the groomed side!

And on his legs, too! Check out how much less hair the groomed leg (left front) has:

My horse, shedding out -- groomed leg vs. fuzzy leg

Grooming a horse this time of year is frustrating for someone who seeks perfection. I go nuts when the loose hairs blow back on his coat as I'm brushing it. And the way the brush gets choked with hair... Arghhhh!

The best way to get rid of all those aggravations is a good scrubby bath. Since it's supposed to stay warm all week, I think we will have to have a spa day sometime soon...


The horses of Haworth

As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I just got back from a trip to Haworth, England, the home of my favorite classic authors, the Brontë sisters. (We also went to Edinbrough, London, and Paris, but for me Haworth was the highlight.) I wasn't thinking that I would have much about the trip to write about on my horse blog, but in fact I was pleasantly surprised to have several horsey encounters in Haworth.

The first was in the morning of our first full day in Haworth. We were walking up the very steep cobblestone main street in Haworth, and heard a steady clip-clop clip-clop behind us. Sam (one of Michael's best friends and our traveling companion on this trip) commented, and I turned around to see two ladies coming up the hill on horseback.

I didn't get any pictures because I felt too foolish about standing there taking pictures of the locals riding their horses up the hill, but I was naturally excited and awestruck to see it. As they passed me, one even nudged her horse into a trot to catch up with her friend. Both horses had blanket clips, which I actually find rather unattractive, but they were pretty horses nonetheless.

I remember thinking as I watched them ride up the hill that the steep stone road had to be a bit slippery for the horses -- and sure enough, Elizabeth Gaskell commented on that fact in her biography of Charlotte. We later saw that quote repeated several times throughout the exhibits, museum guide, and in other places.

"The flag-stones with which it is paved are placed end-ways, in order to give a better hold to the horses' feet; and, even with this help, they seem to be in constant danger of slipping backwards."

While waiting for the museum and gift shop to open, we walked through a little field behind the parsonage, which was enclosed with a low stone wall. On the far side of the field I noticed several horses eating hay in the field next door. I clucked a few times, and one of the horses, a short but stocky black and white draft horse, looked at me with some interest. After a few more clucks, he came over to check me out.

A short, stocky, shaggy black-and-white horse in Haworth, England

Although the black and white horse was clearly the most social, one of his companions, a dun who was much smaller in stature and sweeter in personality, joined him at the wall. They seemed appreciative of the attention (the dun especially liked having his soft nose kissed, and presented it frequently for that purpose), and we were fast friends.

The soft nose of a sweet gelding in Haworth, England

The next day Michael and I tried and failed to hike up to Top Withens. It was cold and the wind was driving tiny hail into our faces, and even my Brontë obsession could not stand up to that kind of abuse. So to console ourselves we stopped by to visit the horses again on the way back. This time the third horse, who was considerably shier, stopped over to check us out, and I had an opportunity to give him (her?) a kiss as well.

Three horses greeting me over a pasture wall in Haworth

Me kissing a bay horse's nose over a pasture wall in Haworth


Monday, March 16, 2009

Just back in town

I just got back late Saturday night from a 10-day trip to Europe. I see that I have some comments to respond to, not to mention lots of posts to catch up on from my favorite blogs. I also have several posts that I prepared while I was away (we didn't have Internet access). I will get to all of this in the coming week — I have lots to catch up on in other departments, too, so it will probably be a few days before I am really "back"!


Friday, March 13, 2009

My take on natural horsemanship: Part 3

In part 1 of my series on natural horsemanship, I discussed the positive experience of reading Monty Roberts's book, The Man Who Listens to Horses. In part 2, I described how I learned more about natural horsemanship, and the troubling lack of manners I saw in a mare Panama's age who had been trained using these methods.

First of all, let me be clear that what follows is my own personal approach to working with horses, primarily my horse. This is what works for me, and for us. Different people prefer different things. I personally feel that my approach is the best way, but I'm well aware that others may feel equally as strongly that theirs is.

My view on horse training is that the strongest methods combine the best principles from different philosophies. So this means that I've learned from natural horsemanship a greater sensitivity to horses' body language, but also that I have learned from more traditional methods to maintain authority and not put up with any B.S.

In other words, I don't have the same hatred of natural horsemanship that some people do, but I also prefer to take what I find useful and leave the rest.

And now I'd love to hear from my readers. What do you think of natural horsemanship? Do you follow it religiously, incorporate parts of it into your personal philosophy, or prefer not to mess with it at all?


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My take on natural horsemanship: Part 2

In my last post, I talked about my positive reaction to reading Monty Roberts's book on natural horsemanship, The Man Who Listens to Horses. In this post, I want to share the experiences that have shown me the other side of that coin.

The manager of the second barn I was at was interested in natural horsemanship. She rode her horse using a regular halter, instead of a bridle and a bit, and I think she'd taught her horse some of the Parelli games as well. She was sensitive to the impact of body language, such as that facing a nervous horse head-on can come across as threatening to them. She was also the first person to introduce me to the bitless bareback riding videos on YouTube.

Even though she seemed reasonable and I respected the manager's approach, I was quite happy with the way my trainer had trained Panama. She was never abusive or mean, and she taught me to be sensitive to his body language. Obviously her methods worked, because Panama was well behaved and learning fast.

However, I also knew my trainer was not a fan of Parelli. She told me once that natural horsemanship, when used as the only training method, takes much longer to get the same results. Eventually I saw this for myself, when a mare trained in natural horsemanship came to board at that barn.

This horse was just a couple of months older than Panama, but almost right off the bat I noticed differences. She was really confident and well adjusted, but she took that too far, to the point of being rude and disrespectful when what she wanted didn't mesh with what you wanted. At this point, Panama had been started months before, and was cantering, walking diagonally, learning to frame up, and venturing out on the trails. The mare, who had been in training for much longer than Panama, was hardly even being trotted.

I can understand taking it slower for a horse that doesn't catch on as quickly as Panama. What I don't understand is letting the horse call the shots. I remember the mare's owner trying to mount her one day to go for a ride. The mare didn't want to have any of it, and simply wouldn't let her owner mount. She'd sidestep or walk away every time.

And then there was the time the vet came. The mare behaved terribly and refused to stand still, pushing her owner around in the process. She didn't have any ground manners whatsoever, because she was never disciplined.

These were not isolated incidents, either. This horse simply wouldn't mind her owner. And her owner, being a middle-aged woman and a beginner with horses, also was not learning the skills to give her authority with her own horse.

Now, I'm sure natural horsemanship works great as the sole training method for some people and their horses. But even I could tell that it wasn't working for either this woman or her mare. The woman needed to learn more confidence and authority with her horse than natural horsemanship could give her; and her mare, who was very headstrong, needed that from her too.

So now you've heard both my positive and my less-than-positive experiences with natural horsemanship. In my third and final post in this series, I'll discuss how all this fits in with my own personal approach to training and working with my horse.


Monday, March 9, 2009

My take on natural horsemanship: Part 1

One of my favorite horse blogs has had several comment debates on natural horsemanship since I started following it. Since I really haven't discussed this on my blog before, I want to explain my thoughts on natural horsemanship, and my approach to horse training.

This is the first of a series of posts on the subject.

My first introduction to the concept of natural horsemanship was reading Monty Roberts's book, The Man Who Listens to Horses, which I enjoyed very much. My approach to disciplining Panama in the pasture, driving him away and watching for him to work his mouth as a sign of submission, grew out of a combination of that book, some other reading I did, and my own experiences. (Shortly thereafter, when I was looking for training information online, I found information on a slightly different method of driving a horse using body language and pressure.)

Of course, anything different tends to attract vehement opposition, so when I reviewed The Man Who Listens to Horses on my book review blog in 2007 I got a little taste of how hateful people can be. All I can say is, the man really knows horses, and why would he have to make up life experiences in order to get his point across?

Anyway, that was obviously a very positive experience with natural horsemanship. In my next post I'll relate some of my less positive experiences.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Silly things my horse does

I was thinking about all the silly things my horse does that I love. Here are a few:

1) Stays in the barn when it's cold, rainy, or snowy. (He's the indoor type, evidently.)

2) Steps around the puddle when he gets done peeing. (He doesn't like to get messy, either.)

3) Bobs his head when he wants a treat. It doesn't get much cuter than that!

4) Tries to nip at my clothes when he's walking behind me, and then acts innocent when I turn around and look. I know this is naughty, and believe me, he gets in trouble when he does it. But secretly, it amuses me very much — not to mention it shows how smart he is, to know he'd better act like he wasn't doing anything when I turn around!

5) Gets jealous when I don't pay enough attention to him. Again, bad habits, and he gets in trouble when he does something really naughty, such as biting me, to get my attention. But really, I can't help but be a little flattered that he cares this much whether I'm paying attention to him or not!

I'm sure there's more, but that's all I can think of right now. What silly but endearing habits does your horse have?


Friday, March 6, 2009

Another cute Budweiser horse commercial

After the Super Bowl this year, I posted with the cute Budweiser horse commercials that played during the game.

I just found this commercial, from a couple of years ago, and thought it worth sharing even though technically it's "old news." Since Panama's best friend used to be a donkey, I have a certain fondness for them.



Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tips for photographing your horse for sale

If only I had a dime for every bad picture I've seen in horse-for-sale ads...

I got this link from another blog, but it has some good practical advice, so I thought I'd share it:

Photographing Your Horse For Sale

These are pretty basic tips, and will by no means turn you into a professional horse photographer, so you might not be as interested if you are only looking to take pictures of your horse for your own personal amusement. However, you'd be surprised how many photographs in for-sale ads violate these simple standards. Why, oh why, would you ruin your chances of making a sale by not doing these things?


Monday, March 2, 2009

Saturday's bareback ride

I mentioned in Saturday's post that I managed to get in a short bareback ride. We didn't do all that much, but I guess it's the small battles that are important, right?

First of all, I almost didn't ride because it was windy. Not super crazy windy, but it was definitely windy. I still feel somewhat precarious on his bare back, so I'm hesitant to ride without a saddle when there's a chance he might jump or bolt — and I really didn't have the time to tack up.

But although he was quite ornery, Panama wasn't being jumpy at all, so I decided to ride after all. He did fine, too — he even stood still when I mounted by climbing the fence and practically vaulting onto his back (since he won't stand close enough to the fence from me to simply climb on).

Again, we practiced a lot of walking and framing up. The barn owner was mucking, and dumping the bucket into the dumpster makes some noise, which made Panama a little tense and extra-alert; however, I had him walk back and forth across the pasture while that was going on, so that he could keep the dumpster in his sights, and he seemed okay with it that way.

We also practiced a few more turns on the forehand, just like we had last time I rode him bareback. He's doing those beautifully, with just a couple of mistakes.

The halts are rather less than spectacular. Apparently the last thing Panama wants to do is stop moving once he's already in motion. I'm working on making sure I'm sitting back and down enough when I ask him to whoa, so that my body language and commands aren't sending mixed signals.

And of course, I also worked more on sitting back and relaxing a little on the walk, and not gripping so hard with my thighs. Apparently I'm getting better at this, because my legs were not nearly as sore when I finished riding, even though I'm sure we rode for about the same length of time!


Sunday, March 1, 2009

This is what's called a guilt trip

Hey, Mom, where ya goin'?

My horse giving me the guilt trip

And that's how my horse sees me off after every visit... By making me feel guilty for not staying longer!


Ornery horse

Panama was being a pill today. He was pushing my buttons, and judging by his spunkiness, delighting in it mightily.

It was a little chilly when I got to the barn, so I sat down on a big rock with my back up against the barn, to sun myself just like the horses do. Panama saw me sitting down, and came right on over to check me out.

My curious horse

My curious horse

My curious horse

Standing over me, he proceeded to pester me by repeatedly trying to mouth me... every inch of me. It didn't matter how many times I pushed his face away, either. The nice version is that he knew I had treats in my pocket... The not-so-nice version is that he actually was trying to bite me, and not just get to the treats.

My MOUTHY horse

My MOUTHY horse

A fuzzy winter horse ear

All I wanted was a little sun to help me warm up, and I end up with this dummy standing over me!

Horse legs!

Ornery horse notwithstanding, I did manage to get another short bareback ride in.