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"It Ate Tony."

By Cynthia Foley, July 24, 2014

I became a fan of SmartPak's series of videos, titled "If Horses Were People," as soon as I saw the first episode. They are laugh-out-loud funny, and Sarah, who plays the horse, probably ought to get an agent and head to Hollywood. She's awesome, as is her "straight man." A fabulous team!

Included here is their June release - "It ate Tony" is positively something I've "heard" my horse say on more than one occasion. All I have to do is think about that line and I laugh.

If you want to see them all, here's a link to the entire playlist. There are nine total, so far. 

SmartPak is an equestrian retailer, best known for their innovative SmartPak system of supplement distribution.

If horses were people - Episode 8
Credit: If horses were people - Episode 8

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Fourth of July Advice

By Cynthia Foley, July 01, 2014


Some horses aren't thrilled with fireworks.
Our sister site, EquiSearch, has some awesome tips for keeping your horse healthy, safe and calm on July 4.  And it's written by Dr. Joyce Harman, who is simply an awesome vet! 

Click here.

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Reliable Recipes or Time Wasters

By Cynthia Foley, June 18, 2014

Maybe the grass on the other side of the fence is home-made.
People love a home-made remedy. Many blindly believe it must be better than something store-bought. Make-your-own fly spray is a big favorite, followed by ointments, I’d guess. You can find recipes for almost anything we need for our horses – even supplements and feeds. That’s great, but I’m perplexed by the interest. A lot of folks must have more free time than I do.

I am thankful for manufactured products. Sure, I want to save money and that's why I usually choose a Horse Journal Best Buy, but I appreciate the convenience of knowing there's a reliable remedy readily available. Rarely will I mix up my own concoction. It’s not worth my time, and the savings is usually negligible. 

It stands to reason that if there’s a recipe out there the manufacturer has researched it and would duplicate it if it were indeed “better.”  With few exceptions – usually involving a specific horse with a unique problem – it is not. But home-made is often perceived to work better. We expect a commercial product to perform to perfection, but we give that home-made recipe a lot of leeway when it comes to being called “effective.”

We frequently get requests for a fly-spray recipe, almost always including original Skin So-Soft. That product has been proven repeatedly to not offer any more bug-repellent properties than what you would expect from anything containing a little citronella. Even Avon says Skin So-Soft isn’t a bug repellent; they now market a Skin So-Soft Bug Repellent (very, very smart, Avon). Still, the legend remains.

Of course, I’m not immune to the appeal of make-your-own products. This past spring I saw a recipe for home-made weed killer on Facebook (where else?). It claimed the recipe was cheaper than Roundup and worked within a similar time frame.

But this Facebook recipe included “blue Dawn Original” dishwashing detergent. I was mesmerized. That stuff is awesome. My husband mixes it with water and uses it to destroy small bee nests. I use it to clean my brushes, nylon halters, buckets, tubs and other things in the barn. (No, I don’t bathe the horses in dishwashing liquid nor do I use it on my leather tack because I know the pH is not optimal for skin of any type.)

So, excited about saving money and feeling confident that anything with Dawn in it must be good, I printed out the recipe and gave it to my husband.  His reaction? “It’s more expensive to make than what I’m using and a lot more effort. Why would I bother?” 

I was dumbfounded. I should have known that!

Some folks will counter that the Facebook recipe doesn’t include chemicals. Really? Have you read the ingredients in Dawn? Remember, prescription drugs are chemicals. Hemlock is "natural." 

Yes, I do understand why you make your own product, if you have the time and desire to use a recipe and the recipe is truly effective. But avoiding a product because it’s "commercial" or from a “big corporation” is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. I buy cookies from Wegman’s bakery because they’re really good and, when you factor in time and ingredients, less expensive. Plus, they last a little longer – Aack! Preservatives!

I guess my life forces me to save time anywhere I can. Running around to a couple of stores to gather several ingredients that I then have to drag home and mix together in a container (if I can find one; probably would have to buy that, too) before I can apply it to my horse is a lot more work than grabbing a jar at the store. And, as far as the cookies go, well, I can probably use the preservatives.




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Maybe It's You

By Cynthia Foley, May 13, 2014

At a stable at which I was once in training, I remember watching someone in a lesson on one of the horses I would sometimes ride. The horse looked like a million bucks.

Since I would bravely look in mirrors when I was riding, I knew I didn’t get the same performance, at least, according to my trainer, not consistently.

Even more troubling was watching my sister ride my own mare at home, and hearing my niece shout, “Wow! Look at Sally! She looks like a real show horse.”  Apparently that wasn’t the case when I was riding her. It was humbling and hard to accept. I suspect most of us like to think we’re pretty good at riding our own horse!

While my ego took a hit, the realization helped.  I took an honest look at myself and thought about what I was doing in the saddle. I decided to improve my own physical fitness (a huge factor in riding better) and work toward achieving the higher level of performance from the horses I ride. I worked harder, and it made a difference.

Unfortunately, it’s terribly easy to immediately blame the horse. “He hates me!” or “He only wants to do what’s right when you are riding him.”

Of course, the horse can’t have thoughts like that, but they do possess the intelligence to know with whom they can be lazy or who won’t care if they dive for some handy grass.  What living creature doesn't want to take the easy way out when possible?

If you’ve noticed someone achieving more with a horse than you can, don’t take it personally. Use it as a lesson and ask the person if they have advice to share.

Sometimes it can just come down to talent.  As with every sport, there are incredibly gifted riders and horsemen for whom our horses just “do,” while we work like crazy and struggle through our challenges.

Winning the horse’s respect is imperative.  The horse does not run the show, and it can take some energy and effort to win him over and respect your authority.

Consistency is key. When you’re working, you’re working. You cannot insist on an immediate canter depart one day, and the next day allow him to be lazy and trot his way into the canter.

Horses are black and white, and it’s essential you’re clear about what it is you’re asking. If you want him to walk beside you quietly, you cannot become lax one day, and allow him to pull you over the nearest patch of grass. The grass will win again next time and suddenly you’re back at square one.

Just as important as consistency and being clear, is to make sure you pay your horse for its cooperation. No one wants to work for nothing, and what is it they receive for doing your bidding?  What’s in it for them?  The reward of your affection and, sometimes, treats.

Your horse is working hard, carrying you and your tack around during a ride. Allow him a long rein at times, gently pat his neck and verbally tell him what a good boy he is.  You can carry treats your pocket and reach around and let him enjoy one.  This same philosophy is equally important when working on ground manners.

Treats don’t necessarily make a horse bite.  Once again the fault lies with the human. If you allow the horse to get away with nipping, it turns into biting.  Pestering for a treat should not result in one.  Treats must be earned, and you decide when it’s appropriate.

Rules. Consistency. Clarity. Rewards. That's what your horse needs from you. 

We all dream about having that brilliant connection with our horses.  None of us has all the answers, and the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.  Even the riders at the recent Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event and the Kentucky Reining Cup have trainers and ask others for advice. These are world champions.  If they’re smart enough to continue to pursue excellence, and seek help and advice from others, why in heaven’s name shouldn’t we? 



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Mosquito Activity

By Cynthia Foley, May 09, 2014


Mosquito activity may peak with full moons.
Did you know mosquito activity can be as high as 500% more on a full-moon?  It’s true, according to The next full moon is May 14, followed by June 13, so get ready if mosquitoes are active in your area. You can see the full moon schedule here.

Don’t know how active mosquitoes are in your town? You can put your zip code in at and find out during which hours the mosquitoes will be heaviest. It was amazing to insert my own zip code here in New York state and then compare it to Atlanta, Ga. (There are advantages to living in upstate New York!)  Yes, the activity is worst from dusk to dawn, which is one of the reasons we don’t turn our horses out at night.

Wondering how active mosquito-carried illnesses are in your geographical area? We found that too: the USGS disease maps.

But why worry so much about mosquitoes? Think Eastern and Western equine encephalitis (EEE/WEE) and West Nile virus (WNV), among other diseases. You already know the equine symptoms include fever, weakness, neurological (stumbling, circling), head pressing and so on, but why take the risk? EEE has around a 75% mortality rate; West Nile is around 40%. But you will have veterinary bills. The horses get very sick. Makes vaccination seem like a bargain, doesn’t it?

Besides shots, you can minimize mosquitoes on our property by keeping standing areas of water drained (look for places water pools, like empty plant containers, buckets), as water is a necessity for the mosquito life cycle. 

Natural repellent sprays containing cedar oil (which works well but some horses and people may find it intolerable), neem oil (often mixed with coconut) and citronella are good choices. Espree Aloe Herbal Horse Spray also contains eucalyptus, and works well (and leaves your horse’s coat soft). Many people swear by citronella. It’s the repelling ingredient in Avon's Skin-So-Soft, and it’s found in many horse sprays.  

However, when it really matters, we admit we turn to chemicals. Our favorites include Farnam's Mosquito Halt, Absorbine’s UltraShield EX and Farnam’s Original Formula Wipe (nothing works as quickly!).  You can also check a fly spray’s label for permethrin, which is approved as a topical repellent/insecticide for horses and works well against mosquitoes. (We know some people use it, but we would avoid DEET on horses.)

Some fly sheets can help, if they have a very tight mesh that makes it difficult for a mosquito to bite through, like Mosquito Mesh from Schneiders Saddlery. You can also lightly spray the sheet on both sides before putting it on your horse. Use just enough to moisten the fabric and allow it to dry before applying.

But remember that nothing is going to cover 100% of your horse’s body, bringing us back to sprays and vaccination. If you have a favorite product or ingredient for mosquito control, let’s share the information. We’d love to hear from you.






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