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Finding the Right Trainer – 8 Tips

Finding the Right Trainer

Recent events in our happy little oasis have led me to want to write this post about finding and working with the right trainer.  Let me jump right in – folks, you pay an exorbitant amount of money, spend much of your free time and exert a lot of energy for your hobby with horses.  Please make sure you’re investing your time and money wisely.  There are many trainers out there (here in Northern Colorado, there are more than I can count – which says nothing about my mathematical abilities – and more are coming in), but not all of them are worth your investment.  Here, I will offer suggestions for you to help determine whether the professional you pay is worthy of you.

  1. Observe lessons and/or training sessions.  You should not be charged to do this.  While I don’t believe that a trainer should take time out of the session to converse with you, they should be available after to answer any questions and discuss what was covered during the session.  They should encourage you to speak with their clients, too.  Ask for an honest opinion of the trainer’s program.  Ask about progress made.  Ask if the client feels successful.  Look at the equipment used – it should be in good condition.  Does the trainer focus on the horse and rider throughout the entire session?  Or do they check their phone (watching for time doesn’t count), answer calls, send texts, etc.?  A trainer’s focus should not be split.  Where are they working?  If a quality facility allows a trainer to work there, chances are that the trainer has earned that privilege.  Is the facility run down, “backyard” or ill-equipped?  Why is the trainer there?  Hmmm…ask that question, folks.
  2. Look at the horses.  They should seem content, if not happy, in their work and be in good condition – this goes for horses owned by clients and owned by the trainer.  If you have a question about an animal, ask.  I’d also ask about the schedules for lesson horses.  If they’re used multiple times day and/or do not have a day off, that’s a red flag.  Horses should be prioritized in a trainer’s program, as they are the foundation and they should not be taken advantage of to make money.
  3. Do your research.  Find out about a trainer’s history, if you can.  Have they moved many times?  Why?  A trainer who moves many times in the same area may not work well with barn owners – RED FLAG.  Perhaps they did not pay their bills; perhaps they did not follow barn policies; perhaps they were simply difficult to work with.  All of these are problems!  You should be working with someone of integrity.  Not to mention, the chances of you having to move barns over and over again are quite high.  Eventually, you’re going to run out of places to ride.  Is the trainer educated?  Certified?  While this is not of extreme import to be a worthy trainer/instructor (as quality experience can replace them), it speaks to their commitment level to their profession.  Are they insured?  THEY SHOULD BE!  This should not need further explanation, but a trainer should be willing to do business the right way.  They should be willing to invest in themselves.  This speaks to character.  What do other professionals say about them?  Ask a vet, ask a farrier, ask others with whom the trainer claims to have a professional relationship.  Let me offer one thought once you’ve done your research, however:  use your judgment.  That is to say, if one person has something bad to say about your potential trainer, it’s quite possible that there is simply bad blood between them.  Conflicts are bound to happen, so again, use your best judgment.
  4. Do your research.  I know, I just said that above, but this is different research.  If you’ve observed a few sessions with a trainer, I suggest then that you find out if what they’re teaching, they’re teaching correctly.  I recently observed a trainer trying to teach one of their students how to ask for a haunches-in.  The problem (well, one of them):  she was telling the rider to bend the horse to the outside.  Wrong.  The horse should be softly bent to the inside.  When observing a lesson, ask yourself if the rider or horse is struggling to achieve something.  If so, do your research as to why.  Are they struggling with a canter depart?  Why?  This may offer you some insight as to the knowledge of the trainer.  Don’t pay to learn something incorrectly.  It’s a travesty to you and the horse.
  5. Check the cost.  Hear me out.  Is the trainer cheap?  Well, then the value of the lessons is likely cheap.  Don’t shy away from a trainer that costs a bit more.  I’m not saying that you should pay $80 a lesson when everyone else charges the $40-$60 range (unless there are obvious reasons for doing so).  I am saying that if you’re choosing a trainer strictly for what they charge, you’re likely getting what you’re paying for.  Invest in yourself by choosing a trainer who knows their value and who is willing to charge enough to reinvest in themselves and their business.  Horses are expensive.  Be willing to work with someone who charges more than $25 or $30 for a private lesson.  That really will allow a higher quality of horse care and will allow for the trainer to continue to educate themselves.  I’ll be honest, too.  A trainer who charges a bit more (aka, is within the realm of “going rates” in the area) is less likely to get burnt out.  Horses are hard work.  It’s highly rewarding and that’s why we do what we do – pure love and passion – but we still have to be able to justify our time and energy.  We cannot lose money or break even and keep doing what we’re doing forever.
  6. Choose for your goals.  Does the trainer train for your goals?  By this I mean that you should ask if working with this person will help you attain your short and long-term goals.  There are times when crossing over between disciplines is quite beneficial.  For example:  taking dressage lessons as a jumper rider.  Thumbs up.  There are also times when crossing over is detrimental to your goals.  For example:  taking lessons from a gymkhana, 4H, all-around trainer when you want to be successful in the equitation ring.  Thumbs down.  This somewhat applies to the “do your research” mentioned above, but these show rings DO NOT cross over.  Learning to compete in the 4H ring will not help you in the USHJA ring.  Sorry.  So, work with the right trainer for your goals.
  7. Trainer availability.  Ask if the trainer is willing to talk with you and/or be available outside of sessions.  If you have a question, can you call, email or text the trainer?  Will they happily respond and help?  While trainers deserve their rest, too, they should be willing to help you outside of the training and show rings.  Do they respond in a timely manner?  This speaks to their character and how they value their current and potential clients.
  8. Be patient.  I understand how much you want to ride.  Believe me.  But, don’t waste your resources either.  Be patient to find the right trainer for you (and your horse).  They are out there!

For what it’s worth, many trainers are good people and worth your time.  Unfortunately, there are also some who are not.  I hope this helps you sift through your options and find the right person!

Five Star encourages you to observe our sessions, come to shows to watch our clients and horses compete and please ask us questions!  We are available for you.  Sharon holds her BS in Equine Science and has been teaching for 10 years now.  She also maintains good professional and personal relationships with others in the area, just ask!  Five Star has made our home at Kayenta for the last two years now.  We would be happy to discuss our business history with you.  We are insured and we are happy to show you proof of such.  Our costs range from $25-$60 for lessons.  Please see our pricing pages for more information.  Our horses are happy, healthy and successful.

Best of luck!

Sharon

Helmet Awareness

As many of you know (I hope), this week is helmet awareness week.  Today, in fact, is helmet awareness day.  In its honor, I thought it would be a perfect time to post a helmet article (and please share with your friends!).

Your helmet is the single most important piece of equipment you will purchase and use in your riding career (READ:  you WILL use).  It offers the safety no other equipment or tack can.  It protects your head, after all.  I am, however, surprised at the increasing number of risks I see taken by riders (and their parents) with helmets.  Here are a few of the more important notes regarding helmets, their fit and their use.

The first, and most important, point (if you hear nothing else, hear this) is to WEAR your helmet!  Use it.  Do not feel stupid, do not feel weird and do not feel ashamed to wear your helmet.  Don’t copy what other riders do (or don’t do).  This thing can save your life.  Horses are unpredictable creatures – and they can act out in their best interests, without considering a rider or handler.  They are also bigger than we, humans, are (in case that fact escaped you ;) ) and as such, are inherently dangerous.  If you are new to horses, wear your helmet at all times – yes, even on the ground – until you get used to their mannerisms, habits, general reactions and behavior.  In all honesty, it’s really not a bad idea to just wear your helmet all time, regardless of your experience with horses.  Please, please, please (and I know people who haven’t done this in the past and wished they did, or who always do and are thankful they do) ALWAYS wear your helmet while mounted.  It really can save your life – this is proven.  Over and over again.  If you’re working with a new, young or unknown horse, I’d recommend wearing your helmet both on the ground and (of course) while mounted.  If you’re ever in doubt about a horse and its behavior, again, I’d recommend wearing a helmet.  It is not worth the risk not to take the few extra seconds to put on your helmet.  By the way, it doesn’t count as wearing your helmet if it is not buckled properly, so buckle your helmet.  Bottom line here:  do not risk your safety or your life by choosing not to wear your helmet.

The second, and almost equally important, point for you today is:  DO NOT EVER (seriously, ever) purchase a used helmet.  Don’t do it.  Did you know that helmets are only made and intended for one time use?  Once a helmet has been through a fall and the wearer has hit their head, the life of the helmet is over.  Thank it for doing its job and retire the darn thing.  Give it a proper burial if you need to.  No judgment here.  If you drop it on the ground, its done.  It is not as safe as it was prior to the drop.  A helmet’s integrity is severely compromised once contact is made with it and a hard surface with any amount of force.  Let’s face it, that’s what it is intended to do – work once, cushion the blow, break the fall.  After that, it cannot (and is not made to) work again in a life saving manner – the interior has “broken” on contact.  So, why do I say never to purchase a used helmet?  Because, you cannot guarantee that the seller/previous owner took the right kind of care of that helmet.  They can say that it never came out of the box.  They can say it was only used once and is still in pristine condition.  They can be offering a fancy helmet for a steep discount.  It. does. not. matter.  This is the one time I say NO.  This is NOT the place to skimp.  Your life is more important than saving a few dollars.  And, I guarantee that potential hospital bills, and those subsequent therapy and recovery bills (if you’re so lucky in an accident), will make you wish you’d spent the extra dollars up front.  Besides, there are affordable, safe, new helmets on the market today that cost less than $100.  You can afford to purchase a new helmet on which you can count to do its job.  If I’m being brutally honest (when am I not?), if you cannot afford to purchase a new helmet for $60 or $70, you cannot afford to ride…so save your bucks until you can.  As a note to those of you selling your helmets:  I ask you, please don’t.  I’m not being rude or mean.  It’s just not worth it.  Please do not give someone the opportunity to take that risk.  This is no reflection on you or the kind of care you take of your equipment.  There are those who do not know or understand the risks involved and I’m asking you to remove the option from the market.  To reiterate as well:  do not get careless with the care of your helmet (this will increase the amount of money you spend in this area).  Do not drop your helmet to the ground – this is contact that can and will compromise your helmet’s ability to cushion your head in a blow.  Set your helmet down gently.  Wear it around until you have the time and hands to take it off and place it where it goes (preferably off the ground where it cannot be kicked or hit by you or others).  If your helmet does get dropped or kicked or smashed (even when not being worn), guess what?  It’s time to replace it.

Following up on the previous point, you should replace your helmet every two to three years, regardless of use and wear and tear.  The materials will begin to be compromised as the years go on and general wear and tear will occur.  Again, this is to minimize your risk with our big, beautiful animals.  It does not matter if you’ve taken pristine care of your helmet and never had a fall or hit your head (or been hit in the head) – it is in your best (and safest) interest to replace your helmet regularly.  Remember, you can purchase helmets for less than $100.  Split over a few years, I’d say that’s a pretty affordable investment when we’re talking about something that can help to save your life.  Safety standards are also improving on a regular basis and minimum safety requirements are always changing.  Helmets that were the best of the best when purchased will no longer meet safety standards after a few years.  On that note, when purchasing a helmet, make sure it meets the minimum ASTM/SEI safety requirements.  (Truthfully, anymore, this is difficult not to do as the majority of retailers are legally required to sell equipment that meets these requirements – if you’re ever curious what those minimum requirements are, you can visit the ASTM website).  If you’re purchasing from a small, local tack shop, I’d perhaps double check that you’re getting a helmet that does meet those requirements, as it’s possible they may be selling older inventory.

My final point (promise) is this:  get a helmet that fits properly.  A helmet cannot do its job properly if you purchase one that does not fit. Parents of younger children: this (again – do I sound like a broken record yet?) is not the place to try to save money.  Do not purchase a helmet that is too big for your child, thinking that they can grow into it.  A helmet that is too big can slip around and not protect your child in the right places; it can increase the amount of concussion in a fall or blow as it will move more and can add to the contact or not absorb the initial blow properly; and it can even cause additional injury by being so big it falls off all together.  Associates in the tack stores should know how to properly fit a helmet and can and will assist you with choosing the right fit.  A helmet should be snug (but not too tight/small that it does not cover you properly), should sit a bit down on your head and should be fitted so that the strap will hold it in place and not allow it to slip or come off.  Since there is so much information on how to fit a helmet available out there, I won’t go into much detail here, but I’d suggest you visit a site like this one for more information (this is not an affiliate link).  There are also videos out there, too, that will show you how a helmet should fit and move (or not move) on your head.

Working with horses can be so rewarding, despite the inherent dangerous involved.  Take part of the worry out of the equation and choose a safe, properly fitted helmet – take care of it and replace it every few years.  If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments, or ask them on our Facebook page or message/email us.  Five Star is always happy to help you.  We’d love to hear your helmet stories, too!  Happy and safe trails!

Sharon and Five Star

Something for Nothing

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted (so much for that particular New Year’s Resolution), but as we are growing and expanding our programs this year, I’ve noticed something of a trend in people asking for, and expecting, so much for so little.  So, I thought I’d speak to that here for a bit.

I don’t think anyone in horse world lacks understanding that horses are expensive.  And, they require commitment outside of just financial – they require time, effort, emotion, and more.  If you’ve been involved in horses for any amount of time, you know exactly what I mean – and you’ve probably lived it to some extent, too.

Here’s the thing:  this level of commitment never changes.  It varies to some degree, but it doesn’t change.  No amount of “paying your dues” changes what horses require of us.  What I mean is, at no point in time should expect something for nothing, or perfection for little to no cost.  It doesn’t work that way, and it never will.

I saw the other day a post somewhere on the internet (Craigslist, social media…?) from someone who was in search of a jumper that was able to do 3′-3’3″ and she specified that the horse shouldn’t be too strong to the fences, etc., among other things.  Her price point was $1,500 or less.  Are you kidding me?  I hope that there was some kind of typo on the posting and that she really meant $15,000, because that extra zero is the minimum needed for a safe and quiet 3′+ horse.  However, this is not the only post I’ve seen like this.  In this part of the USA (Colorado), a horse that is capable of 3′ and is trained to that height would start (likely) at no less than $10,000 (and that’s conservative).  Prices would vary, yes, for conformation, vices, health, soundness, and more, but let’s be reasonable – if a horse is jumping over 3′, then some of these points are minimal issues.  Her 3′+ horse for $1,500 doesn’t exist (if it does and you have it, call me).

Another scenario I’ve seen popping up more and more around here lately are people who expect to pay less than $30 for a 45-60 minute private lesson (usually on a lesson horse!!! – see below for the cost of horse care).  Perhaps this exists elsewhere in the country, but not here and not for high quality lessons from an experienced and educated (and insured!!!!) trainer/instructor.  Let me explain.  Learning to just sit in a saddle (western, likely) and wander around getting comfortable with horses does not carry the same time and financial investment (nor business risk) as learning to jump does.  (I apologize if I’ve offended someone out there, but it’s true – not to say that trail riding doesn’t have its place, but there is a significant difference between the two disciplines).  You can read this on my “About” page, but here is a brief rundown of what I’ve invested in my equine career:  lessons, at least 1x per week  from age 5-13; showing every summer during those years; college education (4 year degree); leasing and purchasing a horse; hours working for free (as in no pay, not that I wasn’t learning – so I was more than willing to trade time and labor for invaluable education); hours reading and studying and sooooo much more (this doesn’t include working for minimum wage grooming every day before college classes or internships in college, cost of tack or equipment or clothing, or any other lessons and training during the over twenty years I’ve been in the horse industry).  Since opening Five Star over three years ago, I’ve invested time, money, risk and effort (in addition to working a full-time job) into building this business, with no guaranteed outcome.  I pay for insurance, I do this business the right way, ethically and otherwise.  So, with me, and many other hunter/jumper (and other – eventing, cutting, reining, etc. etc. etc.) trainers out there, you are truly getting what you pay for.  You’re getting our years of experience, sacrifice and education, often hard-won, in the cost of lessons (and this by no means says that I know it all – I’m constantly reinvesting in myself and this business to be the best I can be for my clients).  And, I don’t know a trainer that won’t go above and beyond for their clients and students.  It’s a bit of an insult asking for us to be available at a lesser rate.  Let’s be honest, horse people are all crazy (trainers, too!) and while we love our clients, being in the industry takes a lot of patience – and we are here because we truly love it – but it’s not viable at a certain point if we sell ourselves short, literally.

Let’s turn to boarding (so long as you’re not already tired of me).  Now, this is an area of horse world that has quite a bit of variables – more than anything else I’d say.  For the sake of this, I’ll keep my thoughts to boarding in the Northern Colorado area, where we’re based (although I’ll likely reference Denver and Parker, as these are related horse areas).  Boarding is more than just the cost of feed and shavings.  Here’s a quick list of costs (variable and fixed) involved in boarding (*takes deep breath and…):  hay, grain (if applicable), water, shavings (also, if applicable), equipment (pitchforks, buckets, wheelbarrows…), labor (we will come back to this), insurance, maintenance (facility, etc.), and mortgage (again, if applicable).  I’m absolutely positive that I’m missing some, but that’s a big chunk of what it costs to run a boarding facility.  As above, this doesn’t include any time invested in learning about horses, their care, and investing time and effort into starting the business.  Most of these costs, I think, are self-explanatory, but let me say this:  if you think you can accurately estimate what each of these categories might cost, multiply it by at least 1.5.  It’s very easy to underestimate the cost of horses. Let me discuss the labor aspect, though.  Running most boarding barns takes more than one person.  Feeding horses a minimum of twice per day (not just throwing hay, but measuring grain and supplements), turning out (if offered), blanketing (if offered), daily cleaning of pens (there is NO reason pens shouldn’t be cleaned daily – this is a good indication of a boarding facility), cleaning and filling waters as needed (depending on the type of bucket/trough, this could be more than once daily), general facility maintenance (grooming/watering arenas, pasture management, repairs) requires a huge time commitment (seven days a week) and as such, most people cannot maintain even a small facility for very long by themselves.  Now, ask yourself this:  would you work for minimum wage to do any or all of the above (part or full time)?  Consider the early and late hours, the weather, and the hard work.  That’s right, labor costs money, and finding knowledgable, hard-working and ethical labor is hard (really, really hard).  In today’s small business environment, labor likely costs more than it did five years ago (and I don’t just mean the increase in minimum wage).  Let’s do some basic math.  Let’s say your boarding facility is lucky enough to have labor at the price of minimum wage ($8) and there’s someone working full time (40 hours per week, which, by the way, probably doesn’t cover all 7 days).  So, that’s $320 per week, or $16,640 per year.  Let’s say your barn has only 10 horses.  That’s $1,664 annually per horse – or just under $140 per month per horse (at minimum wage, let me remind you – at $10/hour, the monthly cost is just under $175 per horse for a 10 horse barn).  That’s a lot of money to your board bill.  Consider the amenities offered at your facility:  how many arenas, what kind of arenas, condition of pens, pastures, barns, etc. etc. etc.?  All of these things cost money to build and maintain.  Is your barn reinvesting in the facility?  That requires profit.  Consider insurance costs.  Utility costs.  Guys, all I’m saying is it takes a lot of money and time to run a quality facility.  If you’re getting full/inclusive care, you’ve got to be willing to pay for it, especially at a facility that has amenities like an indoor arena, pasture turnout, etc.  Feeding 2x per day (of high quality hay), graining/supplementing, turnout, blanketing, cleaning, handling for vet/farrier, and a well-maintained and well-appointed facility is worth the cost.  Seriously.  What about trailer parking?  It may not cost the barn anything, but ask yourself what money is it saving you?  That kind of care and these amenities are rare.  Where horses are big and money is plentiful (think Parker, maybe areas of Denver), it’s easy to get $500+ (in some of those places, it’s $750 and up) per month in board.  But in Northern Colorado, most people think full care should be $400 or less.  Costs don’t vary quite that much between the two regions, so you’re getting a lot for your money in NoCo, but don’t count out a place that costs more than $400 a month for full care – ask yourself what you’re getting for that money.  Ask the right questions.  And be honest with yourself with what your peace of mind is worth to you.  Quickly, for those of you willing to self-care, please consider what image and quality of care your facility is trying to maintain.  If you’re willing to show up every day (and, I mean EVERY DAY) to clean, water and maintain your horse to the facility standards, then by all means, ask.  If you’re not, don’t.  Don’t disrespect the work and investment the barn owner has made by letting them down with your level of self-care.

Lastly (I promise), I want to say this.  I was raised by a single mom who couldn’t afford to lease or buy me a horse.  She worked hard, with the help of my  dad, to pay for consistent lessons with good trainers and for shows every summer.  I worked at summer camps to pay for extra lessons, I sat around during other lessons to learn what I could and be a go-fer.  I worked at shows to pay for other shows.  I spent any money I earned on horse show clothes, tack and what not, and let me tell you, I didn’t have the fancy stuff others did (but what I had worked and I was proud of it).  It’s important to know in what you should invest.  If horses seem too expensive, take a step back.  Invest in lessons, clinics, reading materials.  Be willing to work hard.  I was willing, and I had trainers who were more than willing to give back to a horse-crazy kid like me.  I never expected it, but I was beyond thankful when I was given a no-cost opportunity.  Invest in the right parts of this industry, be willing to work hard – because there are still trainers out there willing to help however and whenever they can, and never, ever expect something for nothing.

Sharon

A Few Things About Impaction Colic

Earlier in April, Irish suffered from what turned out to be an impaction colic episode.  If you’re in Northern Colorado, you were aware of the crazy winter storms we had roll through our area.  We had continuously cold weather with plenty of snow for a few days in a row.  Incidents of impaction colic are higher during cold weather due to the fact that horses tend to drink less.  Dehydration is a causing factor  for impaction colic.

Many people, horse or otherwise, are aware of the term “colic.”  However, let’s get a little bit more specific, sort of…Colic is a general term in the horse world.  Colic can mean any abdominal pain and can have numerous causes (seriously, about 100 or so…) so the actual cause of the abdominal pain is what you should attempt to determine in order to accurately treat and hopefully cure.

For now, I will just explain (in mostly basic terms) what impaction colic means.  In a few words, impaction colic happens when the intestines become “impacted” or blocked, caused, in Irish’s case, by a large amount of food that got stuck in his gut, because of dehydration.  As you would think, the lack of water in the system makes it more difficult for horses to pass food through their intestines.

How horses may present:  Irish presented with signs of discomfort (which is common with any kind of colic).  You should check vitals when you think a horse might be suffering from colic as they may help indicate the cause.  Irish’s temperature was normal (you should regularly check your horse’s temperature so that you have a number off which you can determine a fever).  In checking his CRT (capillary refill time), however, he showed a slow refill time (closer to 3 seconds, whereas 1 is normal) and his gums felt tacky.  **As a note, you check capillary refill time by lifting the upper lip and pressing your finger to the gum for a second or two with firm pressure.  Watch for how long the color returns to normal.  One thing you should also check while you are looking at the mouth is the gum area around the teeth.  If you notice a dark pink to purple color in rings around the teeth, you should call your vet immediately as this indicates toxins in the system, which is deadly.  Most horses are unable to stand still and will try to stretch out and will look back at their stomach when suffering from colic.  If you can, check for gut sounds.  About every minute or so, horses will make a “pushing” sound as they pass food through their system.  Put your ear to their side (either) just in front of their flank and see if you can hear their gut making noise.  If you can’t hear anything, this is another indication of impaction colic.  If you suspect colic and cannot seem to make your horse comfortable by walking and they haven’t had a bowel movement, and won’t drink water, you should call and talk to your vet.  They will advise you on how to proceed.

Irish’s treatment:  If a vet comes out, they will conduct an examination.  In most cases, this means a rectal exam (yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like) which will determine if there is something blocking the gut.  In Irish’s case, the vet felt a football-sized impaction above the pelvic flexure.  We then passed a tube (a long plastic tube through which water and mineral oil is pumped to help protect the stomach and loosen things up and lubricate the gut to help pass the impaction).  **A note:  if your horse has had a tube passed through the right nostril – typical since most people are right-handed – you should alternate which side you pass the tube to help prevent excessive bloody noses.  Most vets will inject banamine (in Irish’s case, we used Equioxx), which helps with pain, and Buscopan, which helps with gut motility.  Then, we start the waiting game.  Don’t feed horses (at all, for any reason) until they start to pass their manure.  Every time you notice that your horse has had a bowel movement, feed a little bit of hay to encourage their system.  Once you notice the oil pass through their system (manure will be shiny and somewhat soft) you can phase your horse back into their regular diet.  I would caution you to follow your vet’s directions as opposed to what you read here in regards to care, feeding and treatment.

On a good note, Irish did fully recover and is back to normal.  Other, more extreme circumstances, can call for IVs in a clinic and/or passing multiple tubes, one every few hours, until your horse passes the impaction.

To help prevent, try your best to monitor your horse’s drinking, especially when it’s cold outside.  And, never be afraid to consult your vet when in doubt or if you are concerned or have questions.

Tips for Working in Cold Weather

Well, it is spring in Colorado, which actually means winter.  The month of March tends to be our wet month, generally in the form of snow.  And, yet again, we have gotten quite the storm.  Nothing by Alaska standards, that’s for sure, but, definitely a good one.  I cannot complain, however, because as many of you know, Colorado needs to moisture.

The drop in temperatures means that we as horsemen need to take extra steps to ensure the well-being of our animals when we work in the cold.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

If at all possible, tack up and untack in a warm area – if you have access to a heated barn or arena, use it.

I don’t recommend riding or working your horse if you do not have some kind of a cooler that you can use before and after.  If you have only an outdoor area in which to work, a quarter sheet is highly recommended for work on the flat.  Coolers are great for helping your horse warm up at a walk prior to working and for allowing them to cool and dry without catching a chill and causing muscle issues.

Currying your horse vigorously while grooming will help the muscles relax and warm a bit – not to mention that currying your horse should be a regular part of your daily grooming routine as it pulls essential oils to the surface of your horse’s coat.

Take your time warming up – do lots of walking, stretching and relaxed trot work before you move up to canter work, transitions, training, or jumping.

When you cool down, and this is important to do no matter the weather when you’ve worked your horse hard, let your horse trot in a loose frame for a few minutes.  Trotting as a cool down helps remove the lactic acid from your horse’s muscles faster than just walking to cool down will.  As mentioned above, once you have trotted a few minutes at the end of your ride, grab your cooler and throw it over you and your horse while you walk out.

If your horse is mostly cool and dry, untack and curry your horse again.  Then throw your cooler back on and walk your horse out one more time, a few minutes or as needed until your horse is completely dry and no longer hot.

If your horse got very hot and wet, use a warm, slightly damp towel to rub off the excess sweat.  Then curry again and rub with a dry towel to pull as much moisture out as possible.  Walk out with a cooler until dry.

One thing I also recommend, no matter the weather, is to stretch out your horse.  Do it as you clean out hooves post workout.  Pull the fore legs forward carefully and extend them.  Pull the hind legs up to flex all of the joints, then extend the hind leg out behind your horse’s body.  I am also a fan of stretching (you will need a treat) your horse’s neck by having them reach towards their belly on each side.  Then have them “bow” by encouraging them to lower their heads between their fore legs.  I’ve noticed a positive difference with my animal from these basic stretches.

Taking the extra time to make sure that your animal is properly warmed up, cooled down, and take care of will ensure that you don’t encounter any problems due to the cold weather.  Enjoy your riding!

Sharon

A New Beginning! Welcome to On the Beat!

Welcome to Five Star Equestrian Sport’s blog – On the Beat – and thank you for reading.  This is our first official post!  I encourage you to check back regularly, take a few minutes, and enjoy reading something about one of our favorite topics – HORSES!

My purpose and goal for this blog is to share experiences, thoughts, knowledge, practices, advice, wisdom, and information.  I also intend this blog to be a learning tool for myself.  While I have quite a few years of experience in this industry, I do not for a moment believe that I know everything or have all of the answers.  I believe that there are always more things to learn.  I believe there is such a thing as getting stuck.  And, I believe that sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself and your horse, is to ask for help.  I encourage your feedback, discussions, questions, and answers.

I sincerely hope that you enjoy reading this blog, share it with your friends, and perhaps learn something along the way.  Thank you so much for visiting and see you again soon!