Dear Mr. Ed,
I hesitate to ride my horse during the cold winter months. What do I do if he gets sweaty and it’s cold outside?,
Signed, Just Wondering
Dear Just Wondering,
Working a horse into a sweat during cold weather means having to cool him out carefully. A cooler can help you accomplish that. Like the lightweight sweatshirt in your gym bag, a cooler is a useful part of a working horse’s winter wardrobe. Made from warm but breathable materials, coolers control the rate at which a hot horse cools down, reducing the risk of chills. Most coolers do this in three ways:
• by wicking moisture away from the horse’s skin and onto the fabric’s outer surface, where it evaporates.
• by blocking the wind, which will literally blow away the heat produced by the horse’s body.
• by trapping and retaining warmth between the fibers of the fabric to act as insulation.
To get the greatest benefit from a cooler, toss it over your hot, sweaty horse and walk him until his pulse and respiration rates return to normal. Then, keep him in a draft-free area, with the cooler on, until his skin feels warm—not hot—to the touch. But be watchful while he is wearing a cooler: Some do not secure as well as regular blankets, which makes it easier for a horse to become tangled.
When your horse’s coat is mostly dry and his skin feels nearly normal in temperature, you can put on his regular blanket and call it a day. Or, if he’s a real man and doesn’t wear a blanket all the time, make sure he’s brushed out thoroughly before putting him back out in his stall. An important part of any horse’s winter wardrobe, coolers help hot horses cool down without the risk of chill.
Well, that’s what the experts say. Directly from the horses’ mouth, Mr. Ed recommends NOT working your horse into a sweat at all, any time of year. Why? What’s so great about exercise? However, if you do, be sure the cooler is stylish, in colors that match or at least coordinate with your horse’s coat, feed plenty of treats while he’s drying and of course, brush, brush, brush until he shines before putting him back in his cozy stall. Oh, and don’t forget the fresh shavings and a nice big flake of alfalfa.
If you have a question for Mr. Ed, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org He will answer your question if he feels like it. He is a horse after all.
Dear Mr. Ed, My horse won’t stand still when I try to get on him. Any suggestions?
We horses don’t want to stand around all day while you decide to get on. As soon as you bring us to the mounting block, we know what’s next. GO!!! FAST!! We can’t help it if that’s not what you had in mind. Here’s what we’re thinking. We KNOW we should be respectful and stand quietly until you are seated and give us the cue to move off. We figure, “why wait for her to tell me to move? I’ll just move when she gets on me”. Then, “why wait until she’s on me? I’ll just start going when she brings me next to the mounting block”. Then, before long you have a horse that won’t stand still next to the mounting block because horses know what you’re going to do before we actually do it. We’re very smart that way.
So, here’s the solution. Whenever you get on your horse, do nothing but lateral flexing for the first three to four minutes. Bend their heads from side to side before asking them to move off. Not only does this get them really soft, but they start to anticipate it every ride. If you have a horse that constantly walks off when you mount, you’ll be amazed at the end of one week how quietly he’ll stand if you do lateral flexing every time you get on. Teach your horse that when you get on, he needs to stand there and wait. That way, the last thing he will expect you to do is to walk off straightaway.
Hope that helps.
Mr. Ed’s Training tip of the Month: Don’t Sneak around your horse
Most people fail when it comes to desensitizing their Paso Fino to scary objects because they’re sneaky and overly cautious. They slowly walk up to the horse with the object hidden behind their back, and then very carefully try to touch the horse with it, or, if “it makes a noise”, they immediately remove the cause. Of course the horse gets scared and moves away because he’s a Paso Fino and assumes that if you’re being cautious, you must have a reason. Don’t tip-toe around your horse and be afraid to scare him. In reality, trying to protect your horse from objects he’s scared of only makes the situation worse. You are the trainer, and your goal is to desensitize your horse to as many objects that move and make a noise as you can. You can’t get that done if you’re afraid to scare him. When desensitizing your horse, if he wants to get scared, that’s fine, let him. As long as you’re in a safe position, keep making the noise or moving the object until he quiets and stands still. Of course this “safe position” is at the end of a LONG lunge line, in a round pen or other confined area. Watch for the signs of relaxation, licking the lips, cocking a hind leg, taking a deep breath, blinking the eyes (him, not you) and most importantly his feet are no longer moving and his head is in a relaxed position, not up in the air showing the whites of his eyes. Mr. Ed is a quiet, reserved kind of guy but those Paso Finos can be a bit high strung if you know what I mean. Don’t give up and quit before you get the result you are looking for. If you do, what lesson have you taught your horse? “If I get scared and keep running around, eventually my trainer will give up and the scary object will go away”. Don’t forget, these guys remember everything! Don’t teach the wrong thing.
Once you have the result you want, STOP. Let him rest, do something else for awhile, then go back and desensitize him with the same object again. Don’t be surprised if he acts like he’s never seen it before. He’ll stop reacting much sooner than he did the first time. DON’T OVERDO THE LESSON. Be happy with your results and try again another day. Pasos hate doing the same thing over and over when they’ve already done it perfectly. You do too, I’m sure.
Finally, Mr. Ed reminds you that you know your horse better than he does and must treat each horse differently. If your horse is comforted by you talking to him, do it. If he’s more relaxed with less lunge line, shorten the line. Above all, you don’t want to make your horse crazy and running like the lions are after him leaving you with no control.
If you follow Mr. Ed’s advice, you will have a quieter companion that you can trust to THINK instead of REACT to new objects and noises.
Mr. Ed from Dec/Jan/Feb 2013
Well, the cold weather is upon us and I just have a few things to say about how to keep your Paso Finos warm and toasty during the winter months when temperatures can dip farther than a slow walk’n quarter horse chasing peanuts on the ground.
First, if your horse is on the skinny side, shame on you, but now is the time to put some pounds on him before winter arrives. A good body weight will keep him from getting chilly because a little body fat insulates as well as stockpiles energy to maintain his core body temperature. Now, too fat is also unacceptable. We don’t want to talk about laminitis here, but use your eyes and assess your Paso’s body condition. If he’s already on the chunky side, you can stop reading right now.
If he needs a few pounds, boost his caloric intake safely. Serious health problems can arise from a diet too rich in sugars or carbs. Paso’s are generally easy keepers and don’t benefit from too many sweets. Instead, look for feeds that supply extra calories from fats, or add corn or other vegetable oil to his daily feed ration. You could also try adding another meal or allow him to free feed. Slow feeders can be helpful when free feeding as they reduce waste. Most Pasos eat grass hay, but for the horse that has trouble keeping weight on during the winter, sometimes adding a little alfalfa to his grass hay can do the trick. Pellets are also available in alfalfa and grass.
Horses do well in cold weather if they are in good condition, have shelter, good food and water that is around 40 degrees. We don’t ask for much. Just feed us and love us and we’ll give you all we have.
Until next month,
MR ED FROM SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2012 NEWSLETTER
A HORSE IS A HORSE, OF COURSE, OF COURSE!
Mr. Ed’s Training Tip of the Month: How to stay looking and feeling your best.
Mr. Ed wants to thank everyone for the all the questions and inquiries on how I keep my coat shiny and in pristine condition. With all of the supplements on the market for a shiny coat, it has been my experience that a healthy diet of excellent quality hay, fed 3 or more times per day has been the easiest on my digestive system. Frequent feeding allows for a more natural course for digesting and therefore reduces the acids in the stomach. This prevents stomach ulcers, colic, and large vet bills. I do however recommend a vitamin supplement only for areas with less QUALITY hay as well as free access to salt. Fresh clean water can also be hard to come by when summer is at it hottest. Scrubbing the trough and refilling every other day is best but that does not always fit into our owners busy schedules. I would advise using goldfish or a procostomus in the horse trough to keep it clean and free from moss and mosquito eggs thus allowing for refilling versus a full scrub down of the trough. This works well on our farm when you have multiple animals drinking from the same source. These helpful hints should help with the financial pressure of our owners being told to feed costly supplements for a healthy horse. These suggestions don’t apply to young, nursing, elderly or horses with medical problems which should follow their Vets treatment plan.
Seeeee ya soon, and keep the questions comin,Nnnnaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhyyyyy, Mr. Ed