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The Women & Horses Newsletter - July 2009

Horses and Fireworks and a Question from Tasmania
by Mary D. Midkiff

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A valuable message from Holistic Horse Magazine:

Take these steps and the Fourth of July can be a fun holiday with no injuries to deal with!

by Madalyn Ward, DVM

Greetings! Tomorrow is the 4th of July and that means fireworks in many areas. Fireworks and horses are not a match at all. In my veterinary career I have treated many horses, including my own, who were seriously injured by running into or through fences when they were frightened by the loud noise and flashing lights of fireworks.

There are a few precautions you can take to keep your horse safe and hopefully lessen his fear over the holiday.

  1. Walk your pasture or pen and make sure there are no protruding objects, weak or low places in the fence. A pastured horse is likely to run some when fireworks start so you don't want them stepping in a hole or getting hung up in the fence.
  2. If your horse has never been around fireworks and you don't know how he will respond the safest thing would be to put him up in a secure stall. If you have electricity to the stall, leave the lights on and a radio playing to provide a distraction.
  3. It is not too late to do some conditioning to help you horse be less frightened of loud noises. Tie him to a safe, strong overhead branch so he can move his feet and then get a radio or music play that you can turn up loud. Start low and then increase the volume while walking around your horse. Turn the volume down when your horse relaxes. Once your horse accepts the constant loud noise try turning the volume up and down sharply until this is also accepted. You may not get this lesson done in one session but you can get started.
  4. Flower essences like rescue remedy or CrisEase can help your horse relax in frightening situations. They work best if you give them before the horse is upset. Start the day before by giving a dose directly in your horses mouth or mixed with his water. A few drops is all it takes. Some people also mix up the flower essences in a spray bottle with water and spray the stall or barn area. You can get rescue remedy or a similar product at most health food stores.

(Reprinted from Holistic Horse Magazine, www.holistichorsekeeping.com)

*I would add that you may consider an ear bonnet on your horse for the night or put cotton balls in his ears in addition to the Rescue Remedy oral treatment. Mary

A Letter from a Horse Lover in Tasmania!

Dear Mary, I recently acquired my dream horse... a beautiful paint mare of 14 hands, with her foal, now a rising two gelding. I have been schooling this little mare, who was trained to pace behind a cart. Fortunately she never raced and has been an easy dream to handle, mount and school. My experience is very limited and it has been a most wonderful learning curve to bond with these horses while training them.

However I now seek advice ... somewhere along the line she has picked up the habit of not standing while I try to saddle her... my approach has been to keep her moving in a circle to create her desire to stand, however I am concerned that, as the saddle is not yet girthed up, it has to be removed before she can be put in a circle... so she wins by freedom from the saddle. I am not sure whether to persist in this approach. Last time I tried she started to push past me too... so any advice would be greatly welcomed as she was an angel at the stand.

Cheri, Tasmania

Dear Cheri: Thank you for your letter. It sounds like you are having fun with your mare driving and riding her.

You didn't say, but I assume you are saddling her while tied up. Use a safety quick release knot and tie her to a very solid post or to a solid ring in the wall. You can do this in her stall or in a grooming area or even in the arena but ultimately she should be tied while saddling.

You can also integrate this issue into your ground work. Put a rope halter and long lead or rope on her and work her on the ground to be responsive in every direction, move her feet independently and stand when asked. Ask questions of her, such as stepping over some randomly placed poles on the ground forward and backward, then ask her to stand quietly and reward her with some strokes down her neck and mane and rub her withers to lower her blood pressure. Keep asking her questions (be creative) and when she gives you the answer, reward her and ask her to stand. Start mixing in putting the saddle on with her reward time.

Also if she gets nervous about saddling you can add my essential oil blend The InBalance Horse for calming aromatherapy and Bach Flowers Rescue Remedy to take out the emotional aspect. These will help greatly in your training in general. I put it on all of my training horses while I groom. This prepares them mentally for their work.

Thanks heaps Mary!!!

As soon as the saddle goes on she starts to push past, then sometimes as soon as I go to move to reach for the girth she moves...making getting the girth very awkward.

I managed to have a session with her after your email and found success by not tying her and asking her to keep moving in a small tight circle while standing close to her, very calmly with head flexed, every time she went to move while saddling. Did this with the saddle sitting loosely and was able to hold it in place without it being girthed. I am very excited as this was such a successful lesson!

She is such a sweetie and learns very quickly...she ended up standing perfectly letting me take saddle on and off. (I watched intently for miniscule hints of even thinking of moving as she slightly dropped her head, and corrected even that). So, in the end standing still with the saddle on was her reward! She ended up standing as still as a statue while saddled and I walked away.

Really like your idea of combining ground work with saddling up...and will do this soon. She moves well in all directions, turning on forequarters, backing up, has just started side stepping, and I am keen to learn how to have her turning on hind quarters. It is a very wet winter in Tasmania this year so time is limited...but every session ended on a positive note sets the standard for next time... so I am feeling very pleased and looking forward to applying your advice THANKS !! xxx Cheri

- - -

July brings bugs and heat to all of us. Make sure when you are using fly spray around the horse that you wear a mask or put a bandana or towel over your nose and mouth. If not you will breath in toxins into your upper respiratory system which can cause inflammation even leading to an illness.

Keep a cooler or a small refrigerator of water on hand at all times and always wear safety helmets with venting for air circulation.

Summer months do not mean wear sneakers or sandals around the horses or when mounted. Always wear boots with a one inch heel when around the horses or mounted.

Have fun, love your horse unconditionally, never call a horse stupid and ride with joy.

Mary D. Midkiff

New Phone Numbers: Office 502-552-1195

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