From ShowSheen to Freedom Feeders, and Back on Track Wraps to Grooming Buckets, all horse people have a list of things that they simply can’t live without. I managed to catch up with three local riders with varying backgrounds to find out the one thing that they just couldn’t give up.
Elizabeth French – Nipomo, California
Elizabeth and her Warmblood mare “Stormy” have been best friends for nearly five years. They compete regionally in Dressage and also enjoy the occasional trail ride on the beach. When asked what single product makes her “horse life” easier, Elizabeth took a moment to think before replying, “I think I would have to say my saddle is the one thing that I couldn’t live without. When I got Stormy, she suffered from severe back issues and I was constantly calling out the chiropractor, vet, anyone who could offer any help to me, really. After a lot of time and energy (and money), we can to the conclusion that Stormy had a very sensitive back. She was always swishing her tail, pinning her ears, and generally had a bad attitude every time she saw me coming with the saddle. I had a friend suggest that I try a Verhan dressage saddle, and I was a little skeptical that the answer to my problems would be so easy, but to my surprise…it was! I love my saddle; I show in it, trail ride in it, school in it, basically nothing else touches Stormy’s back, and she’s been great ever since.”
Great example of how important saddle fit can be for a horse. If you notice behaviors like pinning of the ears, tail swishing, unreasonable attitude, or simply an uneven ride, it may pay to have a look at your saddle fit. There are many great saddles out there, and all of them fit differently, so you just have to find the right one for your horse…but when you do, it will last you for a long time.
Melanie North – San Luis Obispo, CA
Melanie and her Quarter Horse mare “Chica” have been together for about 2 years. Chica is an ex-show horse, and in her retirement is teaching Melanie the finer points of riding. As an ex-show horse, Chica has a few personality traits that make her an interesting mare to deal with, but Melanie loves her and they are quite the pair. When asked what item she could not possibly live without, Melanie didn’t hesitate with her answer. “I think that Chica would go crazy without her Freedom Feeder hay net. I think it is because she is an ex-show horse that was used to being in a stall for long periods of time, because when Chica is stuck in a situation where she has nothing to do, she gets herself in trouble by either fighting with the horses in the neighboring pens, kicking the fences, chewing her stall, etc. I saw a barn friend using a Freedom Feeder and I thought I’d give it a try; I was really impressed. Chica only eats grass hay, so I have the ‘feeders’ at the barn put a flake in the bag three times a day, and she basically has food all the time. She eats slower, doesn’t seem to have as many digestive problems, and she’s much easier to deal with. I sometimes go out on overnight trips or to clinics and little training shows – just for fun – and I couldn’t leave the barn without that hay bag.”
The slow feeding revolution has definitely arrived in the horse world. Horses are grazing animals, and thus are meant to be eating small amounts of food all day long. In current stabling situations, most horses get food twice a day and are finished within an hour of being fed. This leaves them with at least 23 hours a day in a stall without anything to satisfy their natural cravings. The Freedom Feeder can greatly extend the amount of time your horse spends eating, and thus reduce the time that is spent in boredom. It is also much better on the digestive tract.
Toni Sharp – Santa Maria, CA
Toni is a competitive Reining rider and has approximately ten horses in her barn at any given time. She travels the circuit in California, Nevada and Arizona, so she (and her horses) spend a lot of time on the road. Toni was quite forthright when she admitted the one thing that she couldn’t live without. “A good electrolyte supplement. I use a product called Perfect Balance Electrolite, which I get from SmartPak Equine. I have all my horses on it, and it works wonders with as warm as it can get out here (in Santa Maria) and with as much traveling as we do. We take our horses to some of the hottest places, like Las Vegas, Scottsdale, etc., and we expect them to perform at their peak, but that’s only possible if they are properly hydrated and their electrolytes are in balance. I’ve only been using this program for a couple of years, and before, we would have horses colicing during travel, not performing their best at shows, etc., but since we added this to our daily supplement program, things have really turned around. I don’t think it’s the ‘brand’ either, any good electrolyte supplement will do, but I suggest something given daily, especially for a horse in a full training program.”
There are lots of good alternatives to replacing the minerals and electrolytes lost through your horse’s sweat during exercise, and whether you choose to use a daily supplement or just a good “Stress Pack” during travel or at a show, it’s a good idea to make sure that your horse is “in balance” at all times.
Just as diverse as our horse community are the things that our horsemen and horsewomen couldn’t live without. What is it that you couldn’t live without? Let us know, we’re always looking for new information to share with the horse community.