The Dirty Truth About Draw Reins.

The ever controversial side reins.  I have read numerous articles on them, everything from the “I ride every horse I have in them” to the “They are downright abusive” camp.  Personally, anything is abusive in the wrong hands, but I don’t use them because I don’t remember or don’t want to remember to put them on.  I have used them before, as most of us have, I even own a pair, somewhere in the deep dark recesses of my tack room.

This article isn’t about whether they are good, bad or ugly, if you are looking for a debate, there are many out there that have beaten that “dead horse”.  “Oh god, you and your puns, we should beat you along with the dead horse.”  Well moving on, this article is about what draw reins actually do.  Lets put a little mechanics behind this device.  So first of all, back in the day, think way back, you learned about simple machines.  There are levers, pulleys, inclines, wedges, heck if we are getting to the fancy ones, lets include screws and wheel with axles.  Gotta love simple machines, anytime you walk up a ramp, BAM! Simple Machine!  Ever opened the pull tab on a soda or beer can?  BAM! Simple Machine!  Lowered your horse trailer onto your hitch with a hand crank?  You know the drill by now, say it with me… BAM! Simple Machine.

“Greeeeaaaat, so we have simple machines, and how does this relate to draw reins?  Are you next going to tell me that I have to walk my horse up a ramp while he is wearing wedge shoes in my trailer that has a wheel and axle?”  Wow, those are some great simple machines but no, as it turns out, draw reins work like a pulley (whether they have pulleys like pictured or not).  BAM! Simple Machine!  “Oh sweet mother of Mary, seriously, more of that?”  Yep more of that my friend!

Lets talk pulleys, some of you may have them to lift hay bales up to your hay loft.  “Oh yeah that little wheel thingy with the rope over it.”  Yes it is much easier to use that than to try and tie a rope and drag it up.  Why is that?  Because, when you use a simple machine, it makes your work easier, its a lot easier to go up a ramp with a dolly holding 10 bags of feed than it is to go up stairs with that dolly, or worse carry each of those 10 bags of feed yourself.  So, if you read my series on bits,  then you know that the force delivered depends on the head carriage of the horse.  A low headed horse will have more upward lift than a horse whose head has gone “full giraffe”.  So how do draw reins fit into this?  Well similar to how any shanked bit works, it adds leverage.  How much?  It works out that you apply 2 to 2.5 times the leverage pulling your horse’s nose into his chest!  So if you pull with 5 lbs then you are putting almost 13lbs of force on the bit.  Similar to the elevator, the higher the head the more downward force, although this downward force is rather small.

Oddly enough we used a similar technique offshore quite regularly, we would tie a bunch of ropes to a thing that weighs 10 tons and is swinging  (think rocking boat) from a crane 10′-15′ above your head.  If you ran the rope through a loop (similar to a giant D-ring bit ring) on the deck, 2-3 dudes could actually keep the load from swinging and moving.  Or another way of thinking of it, my 135lbs was able to hold with 270lbs of force.  So if you got Big Shawn and Big Foots out there to hold just 2 lines they could hold with about 1400lbs!  And yes, as their names imply, they are big dudes.

“Well what’s the difference between attaching between the legs or to the girth on the side?”  Good question, It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference as they are really not that far apart on the horse.  “Well its only 6 inches on Fluffy pony, but on Ginormica its like 18 inches, so I don’t believe you.”  Well this is about angles, so short ponies have short necks, enormous horses have long necks so it all works out fairly similar.  The higher it is attached though, the less uplift force and more “pulling the nose in force” occurs.

*Usual disclaimer: the numbers are an approximation used to give a gist and are not exact.


Steel Toe Boots and Horses, Yes or No, Friend or Foe?

I have always been told NO STEEL TOE BOOTS around horses.  This was a big no no when I was in Pony Club, and I don’t know many people that do wear them.  I have once or twice seen them recommended at a place but that’s not a lot in 25 years.  “Everyone knows when a horse stomps on your toes it will crush the metal and cut your toes off, and that will not look good in my flip flops.”  Well maybe it would save you money on a pedicure because you would only have half as many toes to paint?

I have spent some considerable time in steel toes in my time working offshore, I have yet to see or hear of a toe cutting off incident.  That is with 11 years in the industry!  I do know one thing about steel toes is that they are heavy, 3.4 lbs for my pair of steel toes compared to 1.8lbs for my pair of paddock boots.  Composite toes weren’t allowed back when I got my steel toes so I don’t have a lot of experience with them but I have been told they are much lighter.  I did had a guy sniff my boot once, see the bottom for that odd story.  I’m not going to lie though, despite how heavy my Doc Marten Steel Toes may be, I still love them, we have been together 10 years now, we have traveled the world, spent about 10 months offshore together, and have caused numerous conversations in the airport security line as to why someone my size would be wearing such boot.  That being said, they have never once been worn to the barn.  Ok maybe once to drop something off on my way home from work while I was wearing them, but not on purpose.


Mythbusters, anyone remember them and their show?  “Oh yeah, they were the guys that tried to kill themselves 2-4 different ways every week.”  Yep, they love blowing up and breaking things.  Anyhow, they did tests on this, the picture to the right shows a cut off steel toe with a hunk of clay in it.  They found that it would take 6000 “pounds of pressure”* to crush the boot enough to “cut off your toes”, this can be seen on the left, my toes hurt just looking at that!  Then they tested a regular boot and found that 1400 “pounds of pressure”* will flatten your foot, when I say flatten, I mean pancake as can be seen to the right, yes that paper looking thing is a piece of clay, are your toes curling yet?  “Ewww gross, but how does that relate to my horse stomping on my foot?”  Since the units are confusing and from the video I can’t read what the gauge says.  So let us apply some logic.  “Logic, who uses logic, I am a free spirit, you can’t tie me down with your logic!”  I am going to say I have been stomped on in a regular boot, numerous times, thank you Emma, no that was not a snake in the grass, it’s a stick, and no it’s not moving.  So Emma weighs 1000lbs is barefoot and has hooves about 4″ across.  However, unless you count that time she stomped on my pinkie toe and twisted, I have yet to break anything wearing regular boots, let alone fully pancake my foot.  Since steel toes can protect over 4 times what a regular boot can, it stands to reason, if you have a massive draft horse that weighs 2000lbs, that is only twice what Emma weighs so your toes would still be safe and sound in steel toe boots.

“Great for your barefoot horses but what about shoes?”  Well, everyone knows that its a lot more painful to be stepped on by a stiletto heel than a regular heel, why is that?  Well all the weight of the lady (or whomever, I don’t discriminate) is focused on that tiny area, much like a needle is easier to push through skin than a large nail.  “Eww, needles, I hate needles!”  Yeah me too.  Moving on, a horse with a shoe will have his weight mainly concentrated on the rim of the shoe, but I have had shoes stomp on me in regular boots too, they squish and pinch but haven’t broken, thus you will still be protected by the steel toes, not squished and severed!  Fun little fact, the largest horse ever was named Sampson, born in 1846 stood 21 hands 2.5 inches and weighed a whopping 3,360lbs!  You might think twice about that steel toe cutting your toes off, let’s be honest, either way if the steel is cutting your toes off or not, you are in a bad situation anyhow.

One interesting thing that Mythbusters tried was dropping a blade similar to a guillotine, on the boots.  “Off with their heads, err toes!”  They essentially simulated dropping a very thin steel plate (think large heavy knife) that weighs 400lbs from 6′ high.  It hit the toes and then slid just past the steel toe and chopped the foot in half.  “Woof Gross!  Thank god my horse doesn’t have steel plates for feet, Edward Bladefeet?”  Yes I doubt in your barn you will come across a 400lb steel plate dropping pointy edge down on your foot but, the interesting point here is that it slid on top of the foot, instead of off the foot.  So if Fluffy pony stomps on your toes, it would in theory slide off the steel toe and land on the top of your foot.  I too know that when a horse stomps on the top of your foot, it hurts but does not usually cause a break, at least not in my case, thanks again Emma!  You can get boots with metatarsal guards like the ones pictured but I bet they are stupid heavy and not super comfortable.

Also, no sandals, flip flops, open toes etc. around horses!  Most of us have seen that Facebook post with the peeled open foot.  If you haven’t I will leave you to hunt that down yourself.  I too have made this mistake, spent a summer and a few months after with a gross falling off purple toenail, and I was lucky that’s all it was.  We all know we have that horse that we can trust, that would be Truman at my house, but even a stomp at a fly can end in an ER visit and stitches.  Especially if they have shoes on.  “Frankenstein feet, Frankenfeet?”  If you don’t believe me spend some time with our friend Google today, I hope you have a strong stomach.

One final thing I do want to cover is the soles of the boots, as you can see, my steel toes have big chunky tread on them, which is great for keeping you from slipping on a wet deck of a boat or in a muddy barnyard, but not great in english stirrups.  These may get you trapped in a stirrup, we have already covered FreeJump Stirrups and since those are the only ones I know of (for adults) that can let your foot fall out either change into suitable riding boots, ride without stirrups, or even go bareback!

As promised, the boot sniffing incident story.  I was on the back deck of the boat, we were preparing for the next project, I stopped to talk to a group of guys about a few things and the one guy looks at my boots and comments on how small they are, “What size are those?”  “Men’s 6.”  You see back then, if you wanted a pull on boot, which I did because you have to change shoes when you go inside the boat, you had to get men’s boots. They didn’t make women pull on steel toe boots until about 3 years later, then they had pink on them, I just couldn’t.  Anyhow, he asked to see one, so I pulled my boot off and handed it to him, all of the guys commented on the fact that it might be the smallest boot they have ever seen, then the guy holding it, lifts it to his face and totally takes a sniff!  Duuuuude…  The group went nuts “What are you doing?”  “Ok weirdo!”  His response was priceless.  “Well she is a girl, I wanted to see if it smelled like a girl or like all the other nasty boots out here.”  One of his buddies said “What did you think it would smell like roses?”  “I dunno, I just wanted to see what it smelled like.”  Truthfully the only reason they didn’t stink like a regular boot is that they were still fairly new and had spent the last month in my closet.  From then on, the whole offshore trip, anytime that guy walked into the room the guys would sing “I’m in love with a sniffer” to the tune of I’m in Love With a Stripper.  Now you can have that song stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

*These units are quoted directly from the show.

**I might get a little kickback from Amazon if you purchase something from a link above.

Bareback Pads Are for Sissies! Or Maybe Not

The other night I decided about 30 mins before sundown that I was going to head out and ride Lily, in shorts and clogs.  Ain’t nobody got time to change.  So clearly I wasn’t about to slap my saddle on and attempt to rip all the skin off my calves and knees.  This is when I turn to my trusty bareback pad.  “You wuss, bareback pads are for weenies.  If you knew how to ride you wouldn’t need one.”  I used to totally agree with this, then about 8 years ago, I took a ride on Emma bareback…

“So you think a pad is going to keep your horse from dumping you in the dirt when she freaks out at the imaginary boogieman?  You are about to get dirty, very dirty!”  I almost wish that was the case.  “What could be worse than hitting the dirt?”  Blisters, lots of blisters, in places where only toilet paper should go.  “Eww, gross”  Agreed, also quite painful.  After it happened twice… “Hold the phones, you let this happen twice?”  Well twice in a row, and then it has happened one or two more times over the years.  Anyhow, this began my foray into bareback pads.

To be honest, if all you are doing is walking around like cooling out after a ride, then a regular saddle pad thrown on the back works just fine.  It’s tricky keeping it in place while you get on but once you are on, it doesn’t really move.  If you are like me, you do whole rides bareback.

So first, why a bareback pad?  Well, obviously if you have a horse that is built like a fence board (Emma), you want it to protect your crack from chafing.  “Well Fluffy Pony is nice and fat so I will save my money.”  Well ask yourself this, do you have a bony butt?  “I don’t think so.”  Try this test, get your best barn buddy of the human variety to sit on the mounting block or a chair.  Sit on their leg, wiggle around a bit, if your friend at any point says “Ouch, you have a bony butt!” you might want to consider a bareback pad.  Most of us are less stable without a saddle and stirrups so you will wiggle around more and a saddle distributes your weight down the whole panel, your butt is smaller than your saddle.  Just consider it back protection.  Also, a bareback pad with stirrups is a complete cheat, so before anyone asks, no I have not tried them nor do I intend to*.

So I started cheap, you know the navajo print with the D-Ring cinch strap.  This is great for walking and maybe some light trotting, as soon as they go full “Emma” and start spinning, attempting to take off, bolting out from under you or bucking (Emma is a bolter not a bucker), they start slipping and going wonkey on you.  The cinch never really gets tight enough to do much.

Next I went to the thick fleece ones with the girth, I was given one of these when I was a kid, it works ok but if your horse has high withers (Emma), its going to slide back.  You can usually get them tight enough to keep them from going rogue on you in the heat of an Emma moment.

The next one I got was called a Best Friend Comfort Plus bareback pad, it was spendy but super nice, the underside was lined with that neoprene checkerboard stuff like you use to line shelves and drawers so it didnt slip much and it had d-rings to add a breastplate if needed to help keep it from sliding back.  The girth is also neoprene mesh and the buckles have elastic so they stretch and give like the elastic on your girth.  I would have kept it forever, but in an odd and rare stroke of luck I won a bareback pad.

“Whoa you actually won something?  Was it one of those navajo bareback pads, that would be your luck!”  No actually I won a ThinLine bareback pad.  “You mean like ThinLine boots and saddle pads?”  Yes, that ThinLine, the pad is very similar to the Best Friend one above but it has a layer of memory foam in the seat.  I’m not going to lie, it’s so nice its almost cheating.  When you have a back like Emma does as can be seen in the picture, you need all the help you can get.  “Do you ever feed that thing?”  Oddly enough I do, a surprisingly large amount, yet she still looks like this. I would say that its a Thoroughbred thing but Lily has a nice and soft round back and body, so thats just Emma for you.  I did find that when you trot and canter through belly deep water in the creek, the pad has a tendency to slip back, in these situations I suggest a breast plate or something to help hold it in place.  And yes, I did ride Emma in the creek bareback at the walk trot and canter and did not die.

Do yourself and your horse a favor, if you haven’t ridden bareback before, start by ensuring you can ride in a saddle without stirrups comfortably first, then move to cooling your horse out at the walk bareback.  Then add trotting, then cantering, eventually you will be able to do everything bareback.

*I have seen these used in therapy/handicapped situations  and they are great but for the rest of us, ditch the stirrups.

**I may get a bit of a kickback if you purchase something through an amazon link on this page.

No Outside Shavings Allowed! And Why I Agree.

$10 for a bag of shavings!  What a rip.  I can get the exact same shavings from tractor supply for $5 or even get shavings from the local saw mill for $3 a bag.  Why do they charge so much for shavings?  “Because you are at a show and if you can afford to show you can pay their prices.”  Man what a rip, I will bring my own from home and save $20-$30 or more!  “That will teach them.”  What is this, the entry says “No outside shavings”, that’s just their way to make sure you pay their prices right?  “This is High Treason, off with their heads!”  But is it?

Well the show grounds has fair reason to want to keep you from bringing in outside shavings.  “Suuuurre, so they can charge me astronomical prices.”  Well how about the health aspect.  Lets say you bring in a bag of shavings, and you get yours from some shady dealer, it has black walnut in it, your horse founders, you blame it on the show people, unhappiness for all, lawyers are involved etc etc.  They might also chose to use a low dust version which helps keep the facility from being overcome by dust particles.  “Emphysema barn E.”  Its one thing to have some dust when you have 5 horses, its a whole other thing when you have 2000 stabled in close quarters.  Plus the dust accumulation on the stalls and barns is actually a fire hazard, yep, every horse owner’s nightmare, fire.  The really terrifying part, is if it builds up in places, it can actually spontaneously combust, not super likely but still possible.

“So I can bring in low dust shavings myself and still save money.”  Yes you can, but in most of these large horse show facilities that are used weekend after weekend, the stalls must be stripped between shows, for health reasons.  So the facility has to pay someone to come strip the stalls at the end of the show.  “That’s what my stall fee is for, duh.”  The stall fee is for the use of the stall.  Those of us who have had to strip stalls before, if there is one bag of shavings in the stall, it takes like half a wheel barrow and you are done, its fast and easy, when there are 6 bags of shavings plus 2 days worth of poo and urine, thats 3 wheelbarrows or more.  This takes some time.  This is why I have rubber mats in my stalls at home, less shavings less time to strip.  Since I am a run the numbers girl lets say $5 for low dust shavings, that leaves $5 left, heck I would strip a stall for $30.  “Me too, show me the money!”  Lest we forget, the horse show has to ship it in and store it so when you arrive and decide you want 7 bags instead of 4, they have them on hand for you, that’s worth about $1, plus the time to pay the show manager to order more $0.25, plus the dude to deliver it to your stall with a fork lift $0.50.  Now we are down to $3.25 a bag extra, but dont forget that pitch forks and wheel barrows cost something $0.05, and someone has to haul this stuff to the dump $0.20.  So now you are stripping that stall for $18, not terrible, but not great either, and since they all have to be done rather quickly, that requires a crew of people to sometimes work Sunday evening and all day Monday to get it done.  They are also in charge of keeping the dust down in the barns, so its not just stall stripping.  Not looking so great now.

If you go to events/combined training shows, most of them hold a $25 stall deposit, returned to you if you clean your stall.  Since shows at these locations tend to be fewer and farther between, the stalls have time to rest and any bacteria from the previous horse has time to die out, thus shavings can be reused from one show to the next.  The bags of shavings are a bit cheaper like $8 a bag, and because barns are generally spread out, dust accumulation is not as big of an issue, so that cleaning time is saved as well.

Although I am big on saving money, I do not recommend you do it by bringing your own shavings, if this is going to break the bank for you at the show, maybe look into trailering in for the day, showing less days, or skip this one so you can save up for the next one.  Its also not good practice to skimp on shavings, you want your horse to be comfortable when they are performing for you.  Who knows, maybe some of my other frugal tips will help you save enough to help cover the cost.  If you buy a $200 show helmet instead of a $550 show helmet, that is $350, you can buy 35 bags of shavings for that!

Frugal and Horses? They Don’t go Together but Here is How to Save a Few Bucks.

Frugal and Horses, the 2 words don’t belong together on the same page let alone in the same sentence.  Well my friends, you are absolutely correct. “Well, what are we doing here then?”  Well, there are a few things I have learned in the 4 years the ponies have been at my house.  I am the type to make my own laundry detergent to save a few dollars, so I can spend it on horse shows.  I buy clothes for my office job at Goodwill so that I can have a new show shirt.  Nuts?  “Yes, you are nuts, clearly, who has time to make laundry detergent when you have horses to ride.”  Maybe so but part of my engineering nature is to “run the numbers on things” and dig for a bargain.

Lets start with tack.  Well I live for the clearance pages of any tack website but there is also Tack Of The Day which has new deals every day.  I bought an ovation saddle off of here for less than $900 with shipping, they regularly have brands like Ariat, and BOT so there are some good deals.  Buyer beware, there are no returns, and check other sites, they aren’t always the best deal out there. can have some pretty good deals too but they can have some junk, so research other sites before you purchase so you don’t get a bunch of cheap garbage.

Another little trick I found, if you want a European saddle, sometimes you can get it cheaper from Europe.  Before I got my $900 saddle, I was looking at an Italian made saddle and found a website that sells it for almost $1000 cheaper than the US!  With the Euro being almost equal with the US dollar, its even better.  Also, the British pound is pretty low right now (When I was a kid 1 pound was equal to $2, now its about $1.30), so you may be able to get a deal on that too.  You can use google to show you what the exchange price is.  Watch out though, your credit card company may charge you a foreign transaction fee!

Also, if you are an english rider like I am, there are some deals to be had in the western world.  I bought this hackamore off Amazon, put a piece of halter fleece over the rope nose and swapped the chain for a curbchain like you would see on a pelham bit, and the whole thing cost me about $45, I did this after looking at this $200 Herm Sprenger one.

Buying used, I am all about buying a used saddle or bridle, heck even gently used show clothes.  Lets be honest, no one wants those stained white show pants that you have soaked in sweat all summer, but if it looks newish, and in good shape, I’m game!  I just bought a used pair of fillis stirrups, unlike the jointed ones and the FreeJump stirrups, these puppies will last forever, I am leaving them to Baby Equestrian when I die and they cost me $20.  I would avoid used leathers unless they are in very good shape, and used helmets can be shifty.

Oh yes and Smartpak came out with show shirts in tech fabric with mesh under arms for about $35 and they go on sale I think I got mine for $25ish

I keep track of all my shows, lessons and “toys” costs with Mint. “Mint? Like a breath freshener?  You are clearly losing it.”  Not that kind of mint, Mint is an online website that takes all your bank and credit card info and then categorizes it and helps you make a budget, it also tracks your spending over the years.  “Oh, great so this mint has all my account information in one place so its easy to steal!  What next, you are going to tell me that Nigerian prince is actually real and he will send me a million dollars if I wire transfer him $10k by tomorrow…”  Actually Mint is very safe, it was recommended to me by the IT guy at my first company, so its been around at least 8 years.  I have never had my identity stolen.  This can help you track all expenses including horse show expenses, feed costs, new show shirt costs, and your personal groceries.  The best part?  It’s FREE!  There is a phone app too, so you can monitor your money on the go.

For feeding, Hay is the cheapest, for me, a square bale is $8-10 and about 60lbs, that is much cheaper than feed, so get quality hay and feed that first.

Did you know its actually cheaper for me to feed Purina Ultium at $25 a bag, than to feed a cheaper feed and give supplements to get the same nutrition?  “That cant be.”  Well, when you have a hard keeper like Emma, by the time you add oil, fat supplements and enough feed to meet the “complete feed” amounts, Ultium comes out cheaper.  Here is some maths for you:

Purina Strategy, about $17* per 50lb bag

Protein 14%fat content 6%


Recommended feeding for 1000lbs in moderate work =7.75lbs

Cost per day $2.63

Purina Ultium, about $25* per 50lb bag fat content

Protein 11.7%fat content 12.4%


Recommended feeding for 1000lbs in moderate work = 6lbs

Cost per day $3.00

So if you have a horse that doesn’t need a lot of fat, then Strategy is obviously the cheaper option but a cup of canola oil a day to get the fat up pretty much eats up that $0.36 difference.  So when you have a hard keeper, especially one that will attempt to kill you when they are on a lot of feed, sometimes the more expensive feed is actually the cheaper option.  Nutrena tends to be a bit cheaper than Purina with similar feeding guidelines but Purina is easier for me to get and it has lower starch and sugar which helps Buddy the Donkey not founder.  “You feed your mini donkey Ultium?” No, but he lives with Emma, so he gets all the droppings, and since I have switched, he has had considerably less laminitis issues.

I used to mix my own feed, and I just compared my feed costs from last year to this year and I have saved $500 so far and its only June!  “How dare you mix your own feed, that completely unbalances the vitamins, you are clearly a moron, we should all leave now.  Mutiny I say we mutiny!”  You are not Jack Sparrow, cool your jets, I balanced my vitamins and minerals with Omega Grande, and used whole oats and alfalfa pellets, I even created a massive spreadsheet to ensure proper nutrition.  “Well surely that has to be cheaper than ultium!”  Well, Mint tells me its not.

Now, for my 2 retired big guys, they struggled some this winter so they got ultium then, but now they are fat, bring on the Ration Balancer!  Both Purina and Nutrena make something called a ration balancer 1-2lbs of food a day for your easy keepers, it provides all the vitamins they need and they feel like you still love them because they get a snack at meal time.  In my area, Purina’s Enrich Plus ($0.60/lb)* is a bit cheaper than Nutrena’s Balance ($0.68/lb)*.  This is what Buddy gets, I found adding a vitamin supplement helps prevent laminitis episodes (Thank you to Chancho’s mom for the recommendation).

We already covered saving money on Smartpaks in a different post.  If you are feeding some kind of herbs, there is a website Herb n Horse that sells them in bulk or you can get them on my secret love Amazon, even on subscribe and save so they come to you every month without headache.  If you use mare magic, this is the same stuff at a much cheaper price.

Now that I have inundated you with links to all the things, I shall stop here but there may be a part 2 in the future.  What tips do you have?


*Pricing is based off of estimates for my area, local pricing can vary so be sure to check what you have around you.

**The links to amazon help support this webpage, the rest of the links and products I have no affiliation with, I just have used or are using the products.


I Rock N Ride! Bluetooth Speaker for Horse People

Welcome to another addition of Fresh Tech Friday!  For once, I actually own this piece of technology!  My neighbor gave me an I Rock N Ride for Christmas, yes, I have an awesome neighbor, actually I have a bunch of awesome neighbors.  “Yeah yeah yeah, you are uber cool, no one cares, lets hear about the toy.”  Someone is cranky today, I bet they wished they had great neighbors like me.  Anyhow, this is a bluetooth speaker that attaches to your saddle.  You can also make phone calls through it, hands-free on horse back.  Phones are so much of a part of our lives these days, its about time they came into the horse world.  Between this and the new horse version of fitbit, and a halter that sends alerts to your phone if it thinks your horse might be colicing, the possibilities are endless, what next, direct texts from your horse telling you he needs a treat “Right Now!”.

What I love about this: I can have tunes wherever I go!  No more walking around the ring trying to ride with one hand while you are still having that conversation with your best friend (don’t deny it, we have all done it).  It is universal, it can go on a western or english saddle.  You can now get them in fun colors!  “Ok Google…” works through the speaker, so I’m sure Siri, Alexa and whomever else you have on your phone will work too. It charges with a micro USB, which most phones and tablets use(unless you are an Apple user) so if you are like me, you have a cord for it in the car, house, tackroom, trailer, desk, bedside, etc.  It’s water and dust resistant too so when you get caught in that rain storm, you wont ruin it.  It has a “phone case” like outside on it so I imagine its ok for some abuse too, although I doubt it will survive a horse landing on it, so do some tests first so you don’t freak out Fluffy Pony.

There are a few drawbacks:  The first time I used it, I put it on Lily (the quiet one), she was pretty sure a band was attacking her from behind, it took her a bit to get used to the noise.  Also, the buttons are impossible to see when you are sitting in the saddle, so you hope you remember which button you are pushing.  for us english folks, they sit on the withers so you have to make sure your saddle pad is far enough in front of the saddle so it doesn’t tickle your pony.  They are expensive, in a world where you can get a bluetooth speaker for free in some cases, $130 is a tough pill to swallow.  My neighbor did tell me that they had a sale before Christmas so maybe they will do another this year.

Overall, this is a cool toy and compared to some of the tech we have seen lately, this is a rather reasonable price and much cheaper than replacing your phone that Fluffy stomped on, again.  Back in the days when I had to clean stalls regularly, this would have been great to strap to the wheel barrow so I could still talk hands free while mucking.  I hope everyone has a great horse filled weekend!  I’m still basking in the glow of being champion both days at the schooling show last weekend, a first for me, EVER, I hope your weekend endeavors are just as exciting, whether its getting over a jump for the first time in 5 years, just making it to a show, or winning the whole thing, each victory is a victory no matter how large or small.

*Note: I do not work for I Rock N Ride and am not an affiliate, this is just my opinion.

It’s So Hot I Stopped Sweating! Anhydrosis sucks.

Well, summer is upon us, here come the posts about drink more water, bla bla bla.  So I am obviously not a doctor or a vet, but I have had a mare with anhydrosis for 9 years, summer number 10 is upon us, and I live in Houston, Texas.  “So if you aren’t a doctor then why are you talking about doctor things.”  Well to be honest, anhydrosis sucks, a lot.  Since I have experience, I thought I would share.

First of all lets discuss what it is.  It’s basically your horse’s inability to sweat when it’s hot.  I would like to reiterate, your horse can’t sweat, WHEN IT’S HOT.  I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me, “Look at how great she is sweating!” in January.  Yep, it all works fine until she gets “heat stressed”.  I bought my mare in February, no problems, at all.  Come June, I would trot a lap around the arena, and she would be panting, nostrils flared but barely damp or completely dry.  I thought, “Gee, a 7 year old TB shouldn’t be having problems like this.”  I was lucky, I had friends who spotted it for me.  I got my girl tested mid to late June.  “There is a test?  What do they do, run them on the track until the sweat or pass out?”  Nope they inject them with epinephrine, like an epipen, a normal horse will sweat like mad in the spot where they were injected.  Emma, she did not.

Emma at a show in Estes Park, CO in August

So there are some odd side effects I have noticed with Anhydrosis.  “In case being completely miserable wasn’t enough?”  No joke.  Emma gets clumsy, like cutting herself, running into things, getting hurt in general.  My normally nimble mare becomes a doofy teenager with bald spots on her face where she somehow scraped herself.  She swells, like back legs look like stove pipes.  If she does get a legitimate cut, that swells like mad too.  Emma got a “nose job” after a clumsy moment one summer many years ago.  I remember when I thought a box fan was enough.  Get a big metal fan, those box fans are a joke!

“Well great, now what do you do?”  Well lets face it, no one in a colder climate was going to buy my orangutan mare.  “No one would buy your mare anywhere.”  Very true.  So thus began my foray into an absolutely ridiculous experiment of all kinds of “treatments”.  Anytime you tell someone down here that your horse has anhydrosis, they all have “the cure” some are fairly legit, some are a little out there and some are downright nuts.  I have listed them below for your reading pleasure.

  1. One A/C
  2. True Sweat
  3. Equiwinner patches
  4. Acupuncture
  5. 4 tablespoons of “Lite” salt twice a day
  6. Dark beer (Guiness)
  7. Light beer
  8. Apple cider vinegar
  9. Noni Juice
  10. Omega 3 supplement
  11. The cheapest malt liquor you can find
  12. Injecting everclear directly into the vein (please for the love of Nancy and all things 4 legged, do not try this, but yes it was suggested to me)

A barn in Dubai that actually had A/C blowing into every stall.

I believe I have forgotten some over the years, numbers 1-6 I have heard have actually worked for many people.  I did put her on a trial for some new herbal blend but it didn’t work, smelled like pickles, and I never saw anything from it again so I guess it didn’t pan out. My experience with the rest are listed below.

  1. One A/C is a white powder you put in their feed that supposedly increases dopamine levels which help with sweating, it seems to work well on mild cases but has to be started before it gets hot. This is like the only one you can get in smartpaks, click here for ways to save money on your smartpak.  It was a fail with Emma.
  2. TrueSweat another white powder you put on feed, it supposedly engages neurotransmitters to jump start the sweating process. Supposedly you can start it when you see problems but seems to work best if started before it gets hot.  This also did not work for Emma.  I will tell you, if you order from their website they sometimes send you free samples of their other products.
  3. Equiwinner patches are literally stickers with 2 little nubs, you put the sticker on your horse, its supposed to fix an electrolyte imbalance and help them sweat. Get out the duct tape for these, Emma never kept hers on, thus they didn’t work.  Although I know some people that this has worked for.  They do offer a money back guarantee if they don’t work.
  4. Acupuncture, I put this off for years, its expensive and like all the others, has mixed results. I took Emma to a chiro in February and she had acupuncture for something else, the lady said she would hit some of the spots then and I should bring Emma back in May to get it done again.  Come May, I was looking in the pasture, I saw Lily, then was looking for Emma, I found Emma but it wasn’t Emma, it was Lily.  The first horse I saw was Emma, because she had sweat on her neck in May, I thought she was Lily.  In 7 years I had never seen her sweat like that.  I am a convert.  You have to find someone that knows what they are doing, and yes its expensive but not any more expensive than 2 scoops of Truesweat a day for 6 months of hot season in Houston.  The picture is of her in July after acupuncture.
  5. Lite salt, I have no idea what the difference is between lite salt and regular salt, it worked for my neighbor when one of hers started to shut down one summer but Emma was getting 1/4 cup of salt twice a day (the recommended dosage) and if there was any improvement it was slight.
  6. So Emma was not a fan of beer, I know, this is nuts, what horse in their right mind doesn’t like beer? Also, this gets pretty expensive, especially if you are giving 1-2 a day for 6 months out of the year, since she wouldn’t eat it, the results were inconclusive.
  7. See above, although if you are from Texas and know of shiner beer, she did like that but again, expensive and trying to keep it cold and not having it all consumed by the barn hands gets logistically crazy.
  8. ACV, very popular right now, according to some people it is the cure for everything from warts to indigestion to cancer, I jest but lets be honest, we have all heard a few crazy things. This did a pretty good job of keeping the flies off my horse, she got 2 tablespoons a day, and I combined this with the salt, minimal results if any.
  9. Noni Juice, its some odd looking tropical fruit that produces some brownish colored juice, oddly enough, Emma thought this stuff was super tasty, I didn’t think so but whatever floats your boat. It didn’t seem to do anything for her.
  10. She is on flax all year, although I saw improvement in other things like less runny eyes, I did not notice a change in sweat behavior.
  11. See notes on beer, I didn’t even bother.
  12. Injecting liquor – Im going to be completely honest, the guy who told me about this said he hadn’t ever done it but had seen it done to a race horse once. “The hit the back of the stall like a shot and instantly start sweating.”  Yeah, probably because they are about to die.  DO NOT TRY THIS!!!
  13. A little bonus information, apparently beet pulp can cause problems with sweating, something to do with the chemicals that are used to process the beet pulp.  I don’t know how true this is but it may be an easy thing to eliminate if you are having trouble.

I know there are other options out there of feed through treatments, some of them are similar to the ones listed above.  There is also one called APF, but it is very expensive $1 a day minimum but probably more like $2 a day for a therapeutic dosage.  So, at the end of it all, for Emma the best thing was acupuncture (about $150 for the treatment), I also bought her a small Port-A-Cool that I have set up in the barn that she can come stand in front of.  The one last thing I need to really make her happy is a pond, but those take a bit to dig!  Who has a shovel and a weekend to spare, or a back hoe?

*I may get a little bonus if you buy something from the links above.

Trailer Confusion, Steel, Aluminum, Galvanneal! Which Trailer Type is the Safest, the Best? Only The Best for Fluffy Pony!

There are so many options when buying a horse trailer, straight load, slant load, bumper pull, gooseneck, tack room, living quarters, drop down windows, slats.  The list goes on and on and on.  Most of these are a preference but what about the construction?  Steel, Aluminum, Galvanneal?  Let’s think back to our Sesame Street roots “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things are not quite the same, one of these things are not like the other so now it’s time to play a game”  So which one of these is not like the other 2?  “Galvanneal, everyone knows what steel and aluminum are, so what is galvanneal?”  Well actually Aluminum is the correct answer.  Galvanneal is steel with a coating on it.  We will get more into it below.  “Dirty trick.”

First I want to start with a little material science.  “Hold on, let me get my pillow so I can nap during this snooze fest.”  Well I can stir it up with a little controversy.  “Ooo will there be drama?”  Could be.  So there is a lot of rumor, voodoo, whatever you want to call it out there about how “aluminum crushes like a beer can” and “You see how easy it is to tear apart a Dr. Pepper can, that could be your horse inside an aluminum trailer if you have a wreck.”  Well my friends, I am here to dispel the rumors and tell you it’s a load of crock.  Why would Ford*, a company leading in truck sales decide to make the F-150 aluminum (yes the truck is made of aluminum**) if it’s going to crumple like a soda can.  Unlike horse trailers, trucks have to survive crash test ratings.  “Well I saw an article that the 2015 aluminum trucks failed bad in a crash test, so why should I believe you?”  You are correct, they made a new crash test in 2015 to simulate you driving off the road and hitting a pole or tree with your driver side headlight.  The Ford crew cab did not do a good job and in that situation you would have some broken legs and would get squished.  “Told you!”  However, Ford went back to the drawing board and just 1 year later their aluminum truck outperformed all the other trucks.  “Wait wat?  I need a source!  I demand a source!”  See your source here from IIHS who is the testing company that gives the star ratings for safety.  So, how is it that in a year, they were able to fix this issue and become safer than the steel trucks?

It’s all about the design and the type of metal used.  One other thing to consider is that trucks have a lot more stuff going on, there is literally a spinning rod running from your engine to your back axle, this is putting torsion on the frame of your truck.  The bigger the truck the more the horsepower the more that rod can spin.  If you used straight aluminum it’s soft, and easy to tear, however if you mix a few other metals in it, aluminum becomes just as strong as vehicle grade steel.  You can put it through the same tests and it will perform exactly the same.  “Yeah but it’s really easy to rip apart a soda can, I can’t rip apart a beans can.”  It’s all about the thickness of the metal, a soda can is less than 0.1mm where as a food can is between 0.16-0.3mm.  It’s a lot easier to rip 5 sheets of paper than it is to rip a phone book.  Plus, a fair number of beans cans these days are aluminum with some coating on it.  It’s all in the mixture of metals.

“Well I have read bad reviews about aluminum trailers over the years.”  Sure, we have been building steel trailers since the early 1900s maybe even earlier, there is a lot of experience behind over 100 years of building steel trailers.  Here is an interesting article on trailer history I found.  Aluminum trailers have really only been around in the last 40 years so there is less experience working with it.  At this point, aluminum has made strides enough to be safe to build vehicles out of, and possibly because of all the work done with horse trailers.  As a final point on this, I saw pictures of a very bad wreck in an aluminum trailer, including the trailer breaking lose and ending up in the median, luckily upright.  Other than some scrapes, the horse was fine.  It was a slant and it was in the first of the 2 stalls, had it been in the back, it may have suffered something worse, so back to my original comment, “it’s all about design”.  Maybe trailers need rear bumpers or crumple zones… as it turns out they do have some crumple zones.

So with that out of the way, let’s dive in with the tried and true Steel trailer.  Most of us have had one somewhere along the way or still do.  My first trailer was a steel 2 horse bumper pull you know the kind, with the rounded fronts and the little head doors with the vents and wood floors.  I believe it was a 1994, bought used in 2008, it was glorious, with mangers and a small tack space underneath, I paid a whole $1850 for it.  A fair price for such a treasure, the outside had recently been blasted and painted white but the inside was still dark brown, until it got attacked with about 10 cans of white spray paint.  I was pretty high that night.  Soo what are the pros and what are the cons, first of all, steel is cheap, easy to paint, easy to repair, and if you want to add stuff, any joe with a welding machine can help.  The cons, it’s heavy, like almost twice the weight of aluminum.  When you live in humid places like Houston, or places where it snows and they “salt” the road, you are going to get rust.  So part of your maintenance plan needs to include “blasting and painting” every 8-10 years in a place where it will get “as-salted”.  “Really, that is a terrible pun, is that the best you can do?” Sadly yes.  Wood floors, they are more forgiving than metal but they rot and need to be replaced.

The opposite extreme is aluminum, this is what I have now.  No joke, it’s expensive, like twice the price if you go buy a chunk of it verses a similar chunk of steel.  I paid over $17k for a new aluminum bumper pull 2 horse straight load with tack room.  I love it but we also paid that much for our new Chevy Cruze.  “Which one, you dorks have 2, NERD ALERT!” It won’t rust, the floor is aluminum so no replacing but the aluminum can get corroded by urine. Also my trailer weighs nothing, literally 3,200 lbs empty, my steel one weighed about that.  A few more cons, the shiny aluminum gets oxidized over time and doesn’t look shiny anymore so you have to acid wash it, you can’t paint it, and because they are light, they can rattle a bit when empty.

“So what about steel frame, and aluminum skin?”  I have also had this, I really enjoyed that trailer, although lighter than an all steel trailer, it is still quite heavy, this one is heavier than my Sundowner and considerably smaller.  On our annual trip to Colorado, we noticed that we stopped for gas fewer times with the all aluminum trailer.  Also, a huge benefit of aluminum is that it doesn’t rust, BUT, when you pair it with steel they “contaminate” each other and next thing you know, you have holes in your aluminum trailer walls.  I know this because it happened to me.  The trailer was about 10 years old when I started seeing “rusted out” holes in my back doors (that is all the dark dots on the right most edge of the door and around some of the screws too).  And you still have the problem of not being able to paint it, or weld in a patch.

A note about floors: All floors need to be checked regularly and I suggest rubber mats on all floors to prevent slip. Wood will rot and you may not be able to see it it, thus you have to stab it with a knife to make sure it’s not rotted.  “It’s ok, I have some leftover rage from last night’s lesson that went south.”  Urine can corrode aluminum so if you have a horse that likes to pee in the trailer, Emma, make sure you rinse it out or clean per manufacturer’s instructions.  There is WERM flooring and similar which is a rubber coating put onto the existing trailer floor, kind of like Rhino lining in your truck bed and it eliminates the need for mats and can help (but can also hide if not careful) with rotting and corroding.

“I heard about galvanneal from a trailer dealer, what is that?”  Well a gal drives a van with a guy named Neal.  “Let me guess, you put the horse in the van and the gal is me?  But I don’t have a friend named Neal though.”  Well good news for your galvanneal has nothing to do with any of those things and can be explained using Peeps!  “Wat?  Peeps?  Like that stupid Easter candy that no one likes?”  Well I love Peeps so what then.  “Like I said, no one…”  Well fine, those that hate Peeps may get a particular joy out of this, and those that like Peeps may get a snack idea.  So for those that don’t know what a Peep is, it’s a marshmallow shaped chick, coated in brightly colored sugar.  “What does this have to do with horse trailers?”  Well assume the marshmallow part is steel, when you galvanize steel, you coat it in usually a liquid, but in the Peeps case we are coating it in sugar.  This helps prevent the marshmallow from going stale as quickly by not letting the air get directly to the marshmallow.  When you galvanize steel, like the Peep, it limits the exposure to air by coating the steel which keeps it from rusting.  “Is galvanneal just coated steel?”  Well sort of, but let’s say you take your Peep, put it on a stick and roast it over a campfire.  All the sugar on the outside starts to melt and makes a hard crust, this is what the galvanneal process does, basically you put a coating on, and heat it up and it makes it harder.  Now, if you have a kicker and he kicks a hole in that coating, your metal underneath can still rust, but this provides a much stronger coating to the steel somewhat similar to what is on steel vehicles.  As far as weight goes, its comparable to steel, and you still risk rust, also welding things right onto this is a no-go as the heat will damage the coating and give off some pretty terrible fumes.  “Who cut the cheese?”  Good news though, it can be painted!

I had planned on discussing straight vs slant but lets be honest, this post is LOOOONG enough, and I have a few experiments planned.  Send me further questions and I can address them then.

*I don’t work for Ford, as a matter of fact it’s a 4 letter F-word in my house, but I cannot ignore the strides they are making with an Aluminum body.

**For clarity, they still have steel, but the majority of the framing and body panels are aluminum. The main ladder frame is still steel, the main base frame around the drive train, most cars don’t have a ladder frame, mainly full size trucks and large SUVs, because its stronger for towing and its easier to bolt different “tops” to.  The Chevy 1500s and the Suburban used to use the same ladder frame, not sure anymore though.  “This one is a suburban Fred, but the next one is a truck.”

Final note, if you ever want to get your heart pounding and your palms sweating, google horse trailer accident photos and articles.  Wading through the stories as part of my digging for this article was tough, really tough.