Excerpts from Your First Horse
Todays horses continue this long association with man. They can be found in many different situations giving man the unparalleled opportunity to share in a unique partnership. Horse ownership can be extremely rewarding, not only because it provides an opportunity for recreation, but because it offers the chance to form a special friendship with an animal.
This book is written as a tribute to all the special horses I have met in my years in the horse business. Every horse has a character and personality which can be discovered by spending time with him. A lot can be learned about a horse from handling him on the ground. Stable chores may not be as glamorous as riding, however, it is whilst caring for your horse that you really have an opportunity to understand his character.
Horsemanship is not based solely on riding ability. A true horseman is a person that understands the horses needs and is able to provide for them. A true horseman knows when his horse is hurt or sick and is able to take the correct action to help the animal. A horseman puts his horse before himself and does not ask for more than the horse can give.
Becoming a horseman takes time. Spending time with horses is not sufficient. The time spent must be productive. Knowledge can be learned from books, but practical experience comes with time, practice and patience.
This book is written as a guide for the person who wishes to enhance his life by becoming more closely associated with the horse.
Selecting a horse is quite a daunting task. As well as finding a horse that is suitable for your level and style of riding, you need some assurances that the horse will remain sound and healthy. There is always some speculation involved in buying horses. We can never be one hundred percent certain that the animal in question will not turn out to be a lemon! The chances of making a poor selection can be reduced by acquiring a base of knowledge which directs the decision making process.
Once you have found a horse that suits your needs providing the best possible care will be your next priority. Caring for your own horse is an incredibly satisfying experience. If time and other commitments require someone else to care for your horse, a knowledge of horse care will give you the satisfaction of knowing that your equine partner is well cared for.
From Chapter One, "Horse Shopping"
With spring, peoples interest is renewed. The laws of supply and demand come into play and consequently horse prices are highest in April, May and June. There is no harm in window shopping during these months, but wait until winter is on the horizon before making an offer.
Do Your Homework
Dont ignore a horse that is rough looking or has some minor vices. A well mannered, fat, shiny horse will be more expensive than one which is a little thin, untrimmed and has a pushy nature. Make a careful assessment of your ability to deal with whatever the problems may be. Remember that a quiet horse may become more lively with proper food and care. Not all problems are fixable and it takes a lot of practice to recognize those that are permanent and those that are not.
Ask For Experienced Help
Whenever possible spend time with knowledgeable people at shows and other events. Pick their brains and learn as much as you can. Frequently, you can find out about a horses background by talking to people who have competed against it.
From Chapter Two, "Conformation"
Look at the shoulder. Ideally the shoulder slopes at 45º from the vertical. Compare the length of the shoulder to the length of the head. The shoulder should be at least as long as the head.
Draw an imaginary line from the center of the withers through the point of shoulder and extend it to the ground. This should be close to 45º. Where this line hits the ground is approximately where the horse will be able to place his foot at maximum extension, or his maximum length of stride.
Draw a second line from the point of shoulder to the elbow. Where this line bisects the shoulder line we have the angle of the shoulder. Ideally this angle is 90º - 100º.
Compare the shoulder slope to the slope of the pasterns. Because angles repeat throughout the body the pasterns should have the same slope as the shoulder. A long sloping shoulder is usually accompanied by a long sloping pastern. Pasterns of a good length and angle are desirable as they act as shock absorbers. Short upright pasterns will produce a short choppy stride. Going to the other extreme, an excessively long pastern will place extra strain on the tendons and produce a slow swinging stride.
Combine good shoulder and pastern length with the correct angles, and you have a horse that moves with good extension and plenty of freedom. Any deviation from these guidelines will probably indicate a horse with less than perfect action.
From Chapter Four, Grooming
With the rubber curry comb, stand at one side of the horse and begin at the top of the neck behind the ears. The rubber curry comb is used in a circular motion on all the large muscles and fleshy areas. Dont be afraid to rub hard, as it is the rubbing action that loosens the dirt and draws the natural oils to the surface. Go over the entire body with the rubber curry comb being careful to avoid the bony areas of the legs and the face. These can be curried with caution! Use a light touch here. For really muddy horses or ponies with a thick coat use the dandy brush to remove the mud and loosen the dirt.
If you are lucky enough to have access to a horse vacuum, now is the time to use it. Make sure your horse is accustomed to the noise of the machine and to the feel of the vacuum. Vacuum all the fleshy areas moving the head of the vacuum over the coat in the a smooth motion. The vacuum sucks up dirt and sand and loosens any deeply seated dirt. If a vacuum is not available, dont worry, you can still get your horse clean with a little elbow grease!
After loosening all the dirt with the curry comb go over the entire horse with a damp rag. This picks up loose hair and dirt and can be used to remove any stains from the coat. You can use plain warm water, or to really bring out the shine try this mixture. In the bottom of a small bucket put a little fabric softener and pine cleaner, fill the bucket to the top with hot water. Take the rub rag and wring it out so that it is damp. Go over the horse from head to toe with the damp rag. Make sure to clean around the eyes and nose. This mixture works great in areas where horses can roll in sand and fine dirt. The fabric softener picks up sand and dust and the pine cleaner kills bacteria and helps to bring up a nice shine. Some grooms like to add a little rubbing alcohol to their grooming water. This lifts out the dirt and cleans the hair. Another mixture to try is a squirt of baby oil to the water, which leaves a trace of oil on the coat and helps to enhance the shine. Try any or all of these and judge the results for yourself.
Take the body brush and starting behind the ears use long sweeping strokes in the direction of the hair to remove fine dirt and stimulate the skin. This will bring the natural oils to the surface which give you that great shine. Brush the entire horse, and dont forget under the mane, the legs and the stomach!
The mane and tail should be handled with care so as not to pull out or break any hairs. There are several products available which can be sprayed on the hair to make combing out easier. Traditionally the mane should lie on the right side of the neck. If you have a mane which naturally lays to the left it will be more manageable to keep it on that side. Treat the tail with the utmost care to avoid breaking the hairs. Take the tail in one hand and start at the bottom with a couple of inches of hair. Comb this out and then move up a little higher. Progress up the tail this way until the whole tail is combed out. Some grooms will pick through a tail with their fingers to remove bits of bedding and never comb out the tail. The tail will grow thick this way however, it will also be in ringlets which are very hard to get rid of!
To finish the horse off, wet the dandy brush and dampen down the mane. Doing this every day will encourage the mane to lay flat. Take a dry towel and run it over the horse to remove any fine dust and promote the shine.
To do a really good job you will need to spend at least thirty minutes working on your horse. A daily grooming will produce a cleaner horse than a weekly bath. A well groomed horse is something to be proud of, especially if he is the result of your hard work!
These excerpts are taken directly from Your First Horse. If you have enjoyed these excerpts please consider ordering your own copy of the book and learn all the secrets of successful horse shopping and horse care.
Author: Jacqueline Dwelle