Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fear/Part 2

OK, I'm back. Nice quiet ride on Pete. He's a nice kid.

Fear. We talk about it here, we talk about it on Fugly Horse of the Day, it buries some of us. I have had a couple people ask me how they can work on their nerves.

It kicks our butts, doesn't it? The biggest jolt I had was when I realized it had a lot to do with age. Up until a month ago I rode day in, day out, horses of different kinds and ages, year after year.

Guess what? Every year my gut level fear gets a little higher. I have always had a little rumble in my stomach before the first ride on a young one. Now that I've hit my fifties its a friggin' avalanche. Same for getting on problem horses. It gets tougher and tougher.

So what's going on?

Well for one thing, I'm smarter than I used to be, I bet a lot of you older riders are too. I have seen wrecks and crashes and disasters. I have lived through the same. I know what can happen now. Not just on a horse, but in a car, going for a run in the park, living on a flood plain, you name it. Life gets scarier as we age.

So then we add horses to it.

I think fear is a reality and we have to accept it in our aging bones.

So what do we do about it?

I am a little bit of a maniac on my horses. I feel safe doing stuff that a lot of people don't.

I am also accepting of my limitations, (or learning to) and am trying to embrace them.

I have given myself permission to NOT do a bunch of things that were a constant in my life just a few weeks ago.

I'm not starting colts anymore. My daughter is going to start our colt next fall. I'll take over when he's going along, and I feel comfortable.

I'm not riding crap anymore.

We have to be realistic. Poorly bred horses with bad conformation add a whole new level of risk to the situation. Ewe necks, thick throatlatches, weak stifles, weak loins, cow hocks, bad minds, slow reflexes, lack of physical ability, all of this and more can add danger to my ride.

I like nice horses that are bred and built the way they should be. Even though you can have problems on any horse, it's the Fugly's that adds that extra dose of danger.

I'd be fine with owning a Fugly that somebody else proved to be a nice horse, it's just not going to be me anymore.

I'll ask for help, even if I have to admit I'm afraid. I'm old enough that I can let my pride go now.

I'm just riding my horses from now on. I know them, I feel safe on them, so I'm staying there.

That's some of how I'm handling my own fear.

I do have a basic point or two I'd like to make.

First about fear of riding itself.

We just have to ride. If I'm so scared all I can do is sit on my horse for a minute, then that's what I'll do. Every day I will get my horse out, saddle up and sit on her. Eventually I will take a step.

Scared or not I will do a little as often as possible. Eventually I'll be able to do more.

Remember Peg? My scaredy cat/brave woman who has worked so hard to overcome her fear? She called the other day. She was at a Ranch Versatility Clinic. She took her horse, loped after a cow, and roped it. Son of a bitch. I am so proud. We started working together over seven years ago. She would walk, me at her side, clutching the horn and shaking. Now she's on a Ranch Versatility Team.

Guess what? Every day she does as much as she can. The next day she does the same.

You just have to get out there, even if all you can do is get them out and brush them. That's more than the day before.

Second, fear of showing.

Now there's a can of worms. Showing is a scary, scary thing. I used to throw up before my class. I used to be so scared I couldn't think at all, I couldn't remember my patterns, I couldn't focus on the cow, I was just a mess.

Eventually I realized a few things.

One: Nobody really pays much attention to you. The only people who watch are the ones rooting for you, so why worry about them?

Two: You are paying the judge to watch you ride. The Big K used to make me ride into the arena, look the judge in the eye, smile and then ride. In my mind I had to be shouting, "Look at my horse, it's the best horse you've ever seen!" He wanted me to send that message to the judge with my eyes.Riding Sonita made that a tough enough deal believe me, but it works.

Three: SLOW DOWN. Slow your thoughts, your movements, your breathing, your horse, your mind. Breath deep, slow, and steady.

Four: Show a lot. Small shows, local shows, whatever. Just get in the ring in front of a judge and go. It gets a little easier every time. I promise.

Five: Realize you are not showing against your fellow competitors, but with them. Everybody is in the same boat. It really comes down to you and your horse. Showing off what you've been working so hard have fun. Really, I mean it, have fun damn it.So there's my thoughts on fear. I have one more thing to bring up.

Lasting Light said: Would you consider writing about horsey topics other than training? Here at the Southern tip of Africa my favourite horsey forum recently had heated debates about the virtues of letting horses live out 24/7 vs stabling them at night, blanketing vs not blanket, riding with a bit vs bitless etc. I love the way you think things through and apply your years of experience, so would rather like to hear your thoughts on these topics. And of course the thoughts of other readers too! How do you do things where you live?

Africa? How cool is that? I would love to get a reader input thing going on some of these topics. What do you guys think? I've got opinions on all of the subjects mentioned above, and I'd love to dive in. Let me know.


  1. This is great...and appropriate!

    Like I said two blogs back, I am boarding a 17 hand Dutch Warmblood...he's a been there, done that kinda horse. Took kids to championships. Part of my board is to ride him to keep his arthritis under control.

    Yup, I was afraid to get on him yesterday. Lucky my hubby was there making fun of me...(hell, you can't even get on your horse without a mounting block, how the hell are you going to get on him??) So I got on, and had a really nice ride...its soooo kewl to ride a push-button horse! Even tho' his stride is so big I am working back muscles (ach!!!) that haven't been worked in a long time...I am determined to be loose-hipped on him...poor guy has had all the beginners over the years and deserves just relaxing rides.

    Funny thing...I'm not so afraid of his antics being saddled...more wary than anything...and he's already a little better (yes, I am using worked with my mare and he's responding to it already)...I just keep trying to not look down and notice how far it is for me to fall when I ride!

    What's nice about having him here is that now I am putting less pressure on my mare to learn quickly, which can only benefit both of us. And at 15.3 she doesn't seem so far to fall now!

  2. Yes, I am almost 30 and was a little scared the other day to get on my crazy little mare that has now been "broke" for about 6 months (she's 7). It was windy and getting cooler out and was late and overcast. Her head was in the clouds, she was looking everywhere and she was jumping all over, including on me. Her standing still for me to mount has been an issue and we've gotten better at it, but as soon as I saw a chance, I jumped on. For some reason, I felt I would be safer ON her with her jumping around, than where she could be jumping around ON me. Although all we did was walk since I was a little hesitant to go faster as her walk at that point was almost as fast as her lope, I still did something like you said. And she somewhat calmed down. I'm not at a point where I've experienced a lot of bad things, other than being bucked off three time and rolled over on once so I'm not too scared to do a lot of things, but I also don't have the chance to get on a bunch of different horses like you and other people probably do, otherwise I might be. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing. I do go a little beyond my "box" and do things I'm hesitant about. If something gives me gut twisting fear, I won't do it unless I have someone with me to help (like the trainer) or confidence and companionship (like my husband). It's worked so far.

  3. I'm still young and stupid and not afraid of much on horseback. I know it'll change, and I never put myself in a situation that I'm not comfortable with. I realize I'm in a dangerous sport -- goodness, I broke my ankle two months ago! -- but I do my best to keep myself safe.

    To answer your reader's questions --

    I prefer 24/7 turnout if possible, just because my horses enjoy it. If they're getting plenty to eat, they have shelter, and they're happy, then I'm happy. That being said, we don't get extreme weather here, so I'm not worried about temperature or anything.

    I blanket in winters for a couple reasons. One, it helps keep muddy coats under control (seriously, just own a white-coated horse for awhile and you will understand). Two, I ride frequently and sometimes intensely all winter. I do not want my horses to be dripping sweat and take two hours to cool out after every ride. Therefore, if their coats get too long, they get clipped. If they get clipped and it's cold out, they need to be blanketed.

    I don't think a bit is that big of a deal. I go with what the horse tells me. If I had a horse that absolutely could not tolerate any sort of bit, sure, I'd try bitless. My mom's mare goes in a french link snaffle for english stuff, a very low-port short-shanked curb for gaming and cows, or a halter if I'm feeling lazy. She's equally happy in all three.

    So there you have it.

    Mugs, you're fun. Tell us a story about the first time you did well at a show.

  4. Still occasionaly scared about getting on a horse... esp if there isnt a solid block I can use to get on and off on.

    Did a walk/trot class a month ago did ok till I had to get off!! Stupid me didnt think intill too late that if walking stairs bothers me getting off a 16hh horse will! Luckly the horse was an saint and the bf held the horse till I was clear.

    As far as turn out/blanketing.... I like them to be out all day and in at night depending on the weather. If its hot night turnout is better. And I prefer not to turn out in rain/snow. I blanket/use sheets year round but some of my clients dont. (Id also like to have the horses on lights after Feb. too!) Everything is kicked outside this time of year for there 'break'.

  5. Thanks for the input on the fear issue. I've heard so many bad horse wreck stories lately that I'm spooked. But my son and I had a fun trail ride today despite a few obstacles to success, and I agree--you just have to keep after it, doing what you are currently comfortable with doing. In my own case it isn't the horse that spooks me--its all the unknown variables on the trail. And though I don't show any more, I did for many years, and that wasn't really an area of fear for me. So I guess all of us have different "fear buttons". I do agree with you that getting older makes the problem get worse. I had very little fear in my twenties and would get on anything.

  6. Living up in Tundra Country, my horses had a choice with a sturdy protected shelter. I hardly ever used a blanket. (Exception being OTTBs that came in for rehab/ schooling. About a year though, and they didnt want a blanket either.) Now, living in the Southland, in from the ocean about 20-ish miles, I blanket when it gets under 40 and windy at night. Never would have thought that horses HERE would have issues, since we dont get the below zero temps like we did up North. However, that sea breeze at 30* makes it feel pretty darn miserable, reminding ME too much of snow and nasty winters. Horses still have a choice of a sturdy protected shelter, and always hay in front of them.

    It's pretty rare for one of our guys to be stalled. Have seen a few over the years that needed stall rest for a medical reason, but for the most part, our crew likes OUT.

    Works for me!

  7. Ah, fear.

    I've got a great little QH gelding. He's incredibly smart and atheletic. 2 years and (almost) 4 months ago he shattered his small pastern bone in turn out. He had just started turning cows as a header in team roping and looked like he was going to be a superstar with that.

    I have/had so many fear issues in the past 2 some years, I can't even begin to list them here.

    He came back from being out on a 600 acre pasture all summer with a bunch of broodmares at the end of August. He came back just about sound, and I've ridden him every day, except 3, since then.

    2 weeks ago, little shit bucked me off on trail, by myself. Thank God he's short. Not too far to fall.

    Well, I realized that I had to suck it up, swallow my fears about him getting hurt and me getting hurt and work his big ass.

    We've been doing 3 to 4 arena workouts a week, about an hour to an hour & a half each. LOTS of long trotting and hard stops, backing. Rollbacks, etc. And then loping. And loping. And more loping. And then we go on trail for at least 1/2 hour to cool down. Every other day of the week, we do an hour or two of trail.

    He's doing amazing, and my fear level is all but gone. He can do this! He can do hills (today we did). He can spin still, rollback and everything else he did before. Just has a hitch in his getalong.

    I don't have the answer but I do know that you are absolutely correct, keep on, every day. Do just a tiny bit more. It does work. And for me, it is more than worth it. I've got my little big horse back.

    Thanks for your great blog mugwump. I appreciate it very much.

  8. I think I've stated in some of my previous comments that I'm still a newbie. I've spent my whole life obsessed with horses and have ridden from time to time with no real issues up until a year and a half ago when I decided to get my own. I didn't do alot of research beforehand and relied on my friends who have always had horses to help me in my search. In late february of last year, I rode an older QH gelding that was described to me as safe and bombproof. We went on a trailride and half way down the rode he began to fight me to return to the barn. I almost had him listening and suddenly he turned into the street (almost getting hit by a car) and then bolted towards home. I somehow managed to get him to stop once I pointed him at a huge patch of blackberry bushes and hoped to God he stopped. It turned out that he hadn't been ridden in over 6 months and NOBODY bothered to tell me that. The next horse I rode was on a lease to buy and on the 2nd ride she exploded underneath me. Straight in the air and she kept on bucking across most of the arena. She went home after a trainer tried to ride her as well and exploded before she even landed in the saddle. The horse after had been spoiled for so long I could barely even saddle her. I tried for a month to learn how to be the boss but she was just too much horse for me. I took lessons for a while and then purchased my current horse who was green. My friend told me I only needed to ride her and she'd be fine. Oh yea, and she was pregnant. We had many fights and she almost always won. She never bucked or reared, she just happens to be as stubborn as I am and knew I had no idea how to push her through anything. Then while she was being a mommy I went for a trailride this April on another friend's horse. He was supposed to be a very well trained Mustang that they said would be fine for me. He bolted for the trailer at the end of the ride and jumped a ditch, leaving me on the pavement with my head. Needless to say, I have a little talk with fear every time I ride. But, since I sent my mare to the trainer, we have opened the lines of communication and I actually have now cantered her 2 whole laps around our arena. That is more than I have probably ever cantered a horse voluntarily in my life. Every day is a battle to overcome my paralyzing fear, but each day I can do just a tad bit more than the day before. Thanks for the wonderful post!

  9. I think Lasting Light's idea was a good one, I too would like to hear your take on these and other topics.

    I'll comment on the turnout vs stabling and blanketing.
    I live in Canada, central Saskatchewan. Summer can be darn hot and winter darn cold.
    My horses live T/O 24/7 when possible. About the only time they don't is when we go to our Provincial Finals (barrel racing) or if they are hurt/injured and required to be on STALL rest by the vet. Even then we prefer to t/o in smaller "hospital pens" outdoors.
    IMO it is better for them mentally as well as for the joints and breathing.
    Of course, I don't have to maintain a show coat. :)
    As I mentioned winter can be C-O-L-D. My horses wear blankets. They also have access 24/7 to shelter (man made and natural) whether it is winter or any other season.
    My reason for blanketing my mare is that she is 27, an TB and a hard keeper. In the winter she doesn't need to waste calories trying to keep warm.
    My other horse(s) wear blankets because they work all winter. We have indoor barrel racing in the winter and I ride them to keep them fit.
    I also have multiple blankets for each horse. That way they can be changed if the need repairs or cleaning. There are also different weight blankets depending on just how cold it is.

    Mugs: a reader from Africa is SO cool! I've noticed I have been getting hits from all over North America and Europe (Malta, Italy) and even India and Australia! :o

  10. I'd just like to say to all those of you who were/are never afraid in your teens and twenties: lucky you! I'm 20 and have some fear issues at the moment. I've been riding for at least 10 years and have broken both arms, sprained wrists, and hit my head pretty badly.I'm a careful rider and fall off rarely but when I do I tend to hurt myself pretty badly.

    Due to that and other reasons, fear has started to affect my riding. Luckily for me my fear appeared when I was riding the horses I was leasing in the city but not at the place I work in the country, and the two situations are quite different. Thanks to the comparison I've been able to sort out ways of dealing with it:

    1) The happier the horse the better. I don't have a horse, I ride leases and in lessons and on jobs. I can't be the be all and end all of its problems, and its welfare can't the key to fixing its ridden problems because I can't do anything about that.

    2) Lots of different riding experience is essential for me.I’ve learnt to ride in arenas, on trails, and where there are no trails, as well as in many different places with different people, horses, methods and disciplines. I’ve been extremely lucky to have had that variety of experience because I’ve been able to pick out the things I find work best for me and the horse. I think it also teaches you to cope with new and unexpected situations a lot better.

    3)I only do things I know I can handle. If I know I can do something but don’t feel that I can, I have someone I can trust tell me that I can, and be there for me, whether it’s right next to me or on the end of the phone, to help.

    4) After those things are sorted, I can ignore the fear and just get on with what needs to be done.

    5) When problems occur and I deal with them that happen, I use them to jolly myself along, give myself a pat on the back, and tell myself what a capable a rider I am. Once I’ve gotten over something, even if I was afraid at the time, if I do this I feel I could do it again and again and have the same positive resolution. It make those potentially scary moments fun. :)

    Dealing with fear is not easy but it's important. It makes you a better and safer rider, and it's just not worth letting fear spoil those horsey moments, whether they be good or bad. :)

  11. Fear - there are days all I can do is brush, there are days I might think I'm going to ride, but never get past standing on the mounting block. There are days I have no intention of riding, and end up having a lovely hack. I totally agree - do as much as you can, as often as you can, but that doesn't mean you have to do the same amount as you did yesterday. If all I can do is put a saddle on, and do ground work, well thats better than sitting at home staring at the TV!

    Bit vs bitless - I recently switched one of my horses to bitless after a year of being frustrated. The change was amazing, and with him I won't be going back to a bitted bridle before next spring. My young horse is starting with a bit. I think each horse has to be considered as an individual, what works for one may not for another.

    Living outside 24/7 - My horses only come in when the weather is truly filthy. Snow storms, freezing rain, rain close to freezing, high wind chill count. Light rain, or even heavy rain if its warm doesn't, they are still outside. They are healthy, happy, and more often than not opt to not use the run-in shed they have.

    Blanketing - its approaching freezing at night here right now, and I've yet to blanket. If it was mucky rain and this cold, I'd put a light rain sheet on. Once it gets to well below freezing, they'll be blanketed outside at night, but as long as its sunny we pull blankets through the day. Again, some horses can't cope, the TB on the farm needs blanketing sooner and is already snuggled in one for the night. The farm down the road doesn't blanket at all, ever, and the horses are always out - they are exceptionally healthy and happy, but they are also a breed that coats up and is fine.

  12. I'd love to hear from you on other topics. Whatever gets you posting more! I'd be curious to hear about the journalism, too.

  13. Most days, I feel like Peg. I'm scared and a chicken shit, but I do what I'm comfortable with. Other days, I feel the need to balls up and just do it. Get someone to put me on the longe line for my safety and just canter. Unfortunately, when I have those moments no one is around or available to give me a hand.

    With Casey, it's a bit different. He relies on me to stay calm. If I'm calm, he's calm. If I get nervous, he becomes unsure. While he's 16.1hh, his size doesn't bother me. I've had shorter horses that intimidated me more.

    I haven't rode Casey yet. He's been with me just over a week. However, he's out of shape and hasn't been rode regularly for about 2 years from what I can tell. We're working on building trust and confidence in each other. Soon we'll start getting him in shape. In the mean time, my shy, nervous horse is learning that all good things come from me. And that cookies are pretty good too!

    Casey is stalled at the moment. Our barn has some stupid "quarantine" rule of 2 weeks every time a new horse comes in. I'm putting up with it because he appears to be "ouchie" and it's another week or so until the farrier comes out to give him shoes and an adjustment. Also, it's a small price to pay to board at a decent barn in my area that isn't a total craphole.

    Once he's off this "quarantine", Casey will be turned out every day come rain or shine. He'll be in at night because that's the rules of the barn where we board. (I don't blame them. I don't particularly want to chase a black horse down at night.) He'll be blanketed when it finally decides to be fall here, but that's just my preference.

  14. Lasting Light said: Here at the Southern tip of Africa my favorite horsey forum recently had heated debates about the virtues of letting horses live out 24/7 vs stabling them at night, blanketing vs not blanket, riding with a bit vs bitless etc. And of course the thoughts of other readers too! How do you do things where you live?

    These are just my opinions and what work for me and my horse.

    My horse lives outside 24/7 except to come in and eat her complete feed pellets in her stall. She has a heart murmur that doesn't seem to be an issue as long as she has enough space to stretch out and move.

    I do not blanket my horse in winter. She grows a very fuzzy winter coat and rarely ever shivers during winter. Also she's the bottom of the pecking order and I worry about a blanket getting caught on something or another horse using it as a handle.

    I ride my horse in a mechanical hackamore because she seems to be convinced a bit belongs under her tongue. We have tried everything including tying the bit to the roof of her mouth. Nothing worked. She respects the hackamore and so that's what works for us.

    My horse is 27, hyper mare who doesn't ever believe us when we tell her how old she is. She lives in Northern IL. USA.

  15. Good post on fear - I think your way of summing it up is great. Just do a bit a day. I had a fall and broke my arm last fall. Took a few months of doing just what you said to get over the fear of being bucked off. I wouldn't say I'm fearless now, by any stretch, but I'm not having panic attacks anymore! (Also sold the crazy-ass horse that tossed me - that must help!)

    I am a big believer in as much turnout as possible - it doesn't have to be 24/7 necessarily. I live in Canada and our winters get very cold and snowy. Most horses get a thick enough coat that they are fine outside. They all have shelters and free choice hay.

    If I was riding indoors and doing a lot of work where the horse was very sweaty, I would probably do a trace clip and blanket to help with cooling out. I don't need to maintain a show coat, so I'm not a huge fan of blanketing.

    Bits vs bitless - should be some good debate on that! I think alot of people switch to or try bitless without being able to control their horse with a bit in the first place. A normal snaffle bit used correctly with soft hands isn't a big deal in my opinion. If you horse is well trained and responsive, trying a bitless might be a great way to see if all of your training is working...

    Wow - long comment...

  16. I am young and stupid and the amount of times I have been to the emerg room I still have no fear. I can't ever remember falling off a horse and not wanting to get back on. I've always known why I have fallen off so it took away the unknown.
    On Friday I had a very near death experience with a nutjob of a horse. Everyone says to me after "you should give it up you might get hurt"
    In the horse business it's not about if you are going to get hurt, it's when and how bad. I think a lot of us realize that and other's don't.

    My horses are 24/7. Horse came before the barn did after all. Barns are a human comfort. I don't mind the extra work grooming so my horses are happy.

  17. bits vs bitless (I have to add this real quick gotta run off to train nutjob horse)

    One of my major subjects I chose last semester in University was bitting vs bitless. I learned so much about bits and horses and have given a few clinics on bitting. If anyone has any questions on bits I would be more than willing to answer them.

    Just like saddles are not one size fits all neither are bits to a horses mouth type. Higher hard palates, thicker tongues etc can contribute to how "kind" a bit is in a horses mouth.

  18. Wow, again. Almost every post, you clear up something that has been rattling around in my fuzzy brain. Like several of you I've got the 50 year old/mom/fear thing going on. I quit riding young/not very broke horses about 10 years ago when one PITCHED me onto my head, I've got a cracked vertebra to thank for that one. When I had healed up enough to get on, I picked our smallest, brokest horse that was handy, but I was SHAKING when I got on. It took some serious self-dicipline to even walk him around the ring. Thought I was gonna throw up. I'm back to riding regularily by now, but NOT unless the horse is broke, broke, broke.

    Which brings me to Mugs point about the fuglies, and my oh, wow moment. I only have one horse...the barn owner has several FUGLY horses that others ride, I've seen them ride, I know these horses ride, not well, but they do ride. I would like to be able to trail ride with my daughter, but I don't think there is enough Tequila in Mexico to get me on that Fugly horse. I will (and do) walk first. Thanks for giving me a clue why, Mugs.

  19. I am still amazed how some of these blog topics come up, just when I'm dealing with them.

    Yeah, for some reason, I've been having fear issue when it comes to riding lately. Although, not sure if it's really fear or confidence. I keep asking myself; Where's the woman who worked at a horse ranch for 2 years and with very little experience worked at a horse camp? I mean, I was only 4 years younger!(putting me at 44!) I rode out on trail rides, helped train a variety of horse, taught youngsters beginning horse care and riding....I don't know where that woman is hiding. I'm working on it. It's like some kind of light went off this past summer. I haven't been involved in any kind of wreck or witnessed anything recently. So, at any rate, Mugwump, this was an appropriate post for many, I'm sure.

    Part of this feeling I've been having is why I joined into the horse blogs. Everyone needs some encouragement and not everyone has close horsey-friends. I am alone in this respect so I deal with it myself. Hubby is supportive and tries to fill the void, but...well, some of you may understand.

    Allows us all to feel we're not alone with some of our concerns. We don't feel so bad when we read about experienced horse women having their own fears. Thanks!

  20. ljs82 - great point about not being alone with concerns, fears and experiences. Since I've started reading blogs I've uncovered so much stuff that I can identify with and that interests me. It's a good feeling!

    Re: the questions, in the north of England where our horses live, winters are wet and windy and as there's no field shelter, the hairies and the TB are rugged, mainly to keep them dry and from being miserable. They come in at night too, as the fields get chewed up and boggy. However from march to november, they live out 24/7, rugged at night if cold.

    As for fear, I stopped competing when I was 16 because I used to get into such a state before entering the ring that it just was not fun anymore. I would shake, couldn't eat beforehand, could barely grip the reins or put weight into my heels. My horse paid little attention to my irrational anxiety, but I totally stopped enjoying competitions and the pressure I put on myself. Even success in a class couldn't really make up for it.

  21. Now I feel as if I'm representing my entire contintent, LOL.

    Thanks for all your responses to my questions. Judging by your answers my horse is unnecessarily mollycoddled. I think he can happily live out 24/7, he is a hardy x-breed. Currently he is stabled at night because a) I didn't know any different when I got him and b) security is a concern at our stables. The stables will be moving soon to a place that should be safer, hence my current research on stabling and blanketing. We do have a nasty viral disease called African Horse Sickness here, spread by midges in the autumn. It kills a couple of hundred horses in South Africa every year, primarily in the eastern and northern parts of the country. It's not endemic where I live (just north of Cape Town), but we have had outbreaks. Some people think stabling is safer during AHS season, but it is hotly debated.

    I do dressage on a low level, and most of the boarders at our stables compete. My desire to have my horse living out was greeted with horror by some. But we have a temperate climate, winter rainfall with heavy storms sometimes but the temperature doesn't drop below freezing. In summer it gets quite hot.

    Mugwump, keep the stories coming please. :)

  22. I just read a quote and immediately thought of this thread:

    "Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway."

    Sorry, I don't have the credits for who said this one. So true though.

  23. Ah, "Cowboy Ethics" by James Owens.

  24. Two things help me with fear:
    1) Visualize, a lot. Draw a mental picture of the horse cooperating, the other riders giving you space, whatever you need. Keep it very simple. Rehearse the picture over and over.
    2) Don't beat up on yourself for being afraid; would you do that to your horse?

  25. I hear you Mugs. It's funny, we all have our things. I've realized I'm fine with starting colts in the indoor arena but you know what? I'm probably NEVER going to be okay with trail riding. I HATE trail riding. It scares the HELL out of me unless it's just the world's most dead broke and sure footed horse. And nobody pays me to trail ride, so why would I do something in my leisure time that I dislike so intensely? I'll start them and you or somebody else can teach the damn things to ride in the open...LOL!

    REALLY good observations about how bad conformation makes a horse more dangerous to ride. So true! One reason that I blast "downhill" horses so much is that they all freakin' trip. They can't help themselves because their weight is on their front end and that is what happens.

  26. 51 yrs old, 1st horse and i bought a yearling LOO. done lots of groundwork and now working on translating to the saddle and she is 4 1/2. time issues slow the pace. 2 weeks ago she was perfect, yesterday she was a brat and i was afraid she'd ditch me - even tho she's never done that. use bitless bridle always, yesterday she was trying to rub it off her head. maybe a dental issue since it rubs against her cheek, altho her teeth were done in March. she hates being cinched up with the saddle , i know i need a new one so i use a bareback pad most often. most of my fear is that i am going to mess her up, but now that she is good on ground work and voice cues, i am afraid that my ability to translate that for her into directions from up on her back is not sufficient. taking her to a trainer for eval in the next couple of weeks. i have found that i need to SLOW DOWN with EVERYTHING i want to do with her: grooming, hoofcare, tack up, etc. or she gets defensive. i am a driven woman so it is good for me too to learn to slow down.

  27. I kept my pony and my filly turned out 24/7, only brought them in if we were going to a show or something, and never turned them out with blankets. I saw too many disasters happen from horses being blanketed during turn out for me to feel comfortable with it. My mare was rarely turned out outside, her only turnout was strictly supervised in the arenas or the round pen, although she did have a stall with dry lot access but it was not large enough do much besides stand in the sun dozing. I did blanket her at night, I usually spent the most time working her and she usually was worked hardest because she didn't get turn out. Combine that with a thin winter coat and I would have a marecicle in the morning if I didn't give her a nice warm blanket. My dad gave me an older electric blanket that I took to putting on under her regular blanket. I'd tie her in the corner of her stall while I picked it after our ride, plug her in and she'd just sigh as it heated up and would go right to sleep. One of the ladies who had an old arthritic stallion started using one in the evenings too and he moved a lot more comfortably in the mornings.
    Regarding fear, I dunno. I never really had any, still don't. Then again I never was the 'fearless' type, I didn't ride horses that I didn't feel were safe to ride, and I always worked with them on the ground until I felt comfortable with their responses. I did ride green horses for the people at the stable, and I did exercise horses for clients, and I came off of most of them at some point too, but fear wasn't really a factor for me.

  28. just to clarify, the horses were supervised while wearing the electric blankets, they weren't left on the horses.

  29. Just on the turnout thing, I live in Western Australia and we have a very similar climate to Cape Town, I know because I've lived in SA too. :) Anyway, my horses are currently turned out 24/7 however once the stables (with large WIWO yards attached) are built they will be brought in at night. For me it's more of a pasture management thing, we only have 5 acres so the less time they spend on the grass the less likely they are to turn the paddocks to dust. I have four largish paddocks and they will be go out together, paddocks will be rotated on a weekly basis.

    As for rugs/blankets, I do rug mine in Winter, although it doesn't get cold by the standards of some of you (we'd be lucky to have it go down to below 1 degree C at night) my horses seem to feel the cold and are happier rugged. I rug my older mare for longer than I do the younger two though, none of them are clipped so I try not to rug much when they are dropping their coats (weather permitting), they just get too itchy otherwise.

    Summers can be hot here, last Summer was revolting with quite a few days over 40 degrees C and we also have a problem with flies. Fly veils are a must and all of mine have fly rugs too, however if it's going to be really stinking hot then I'll take the rugs off and just spray them with repellant.

    Re bitless vs bits, I expect that my three will be able to go equally well in both (I worry about the home they may go to if something happens to me, kind of limits things if they won't go in a bit) however I personally would prefer to ride bitless. At the moment I'm in the process of re-starting two and starting one from scratch and they will only be ridden bitless until we have a really good understanding of the training scale up to contact, after that we will re-do the whole lot in a bit. Unfortunately our EFA (Equestrian Federation) won't allow bitless bridles to be used in dressage competition, I'm working on it though. :)

    Oh and I also ride in a treeless saddle and all of my horses are barefoot.

    Great blog btw, I check in here daily!

  30. Bitless dressage at graded shows will be allowed in South Africa from next year. I believe this might be a world first. They will have bitted and bitless classes separate initially to see how it goes. You will be able to enter in both classes as well to compare the way your horse performs. Should be interesting.