Saturday, July 13, 2013

RECIPE - NEW SPRAY ! (Works for flies AND rain rot!!)

*UPDATED 8/31/2016*

While I think my recipe for "natural" fly spray has been my most popular post and one of the most popular conversations when people email me, I was never 100% satisfied that I was using a commercial product such as Skin-So-Soft.  I mean, it WORKED and it was vastly a safer, healthier option than the poison-laden fly spray on the counters in the tack stores but I never liked not knowing exactly what all was in the Skin-So-Soft mix.  (It definitely was not a "natural" fragrance! and artificial fragrances are some of the most toxic chemicals in our products today)

I decided to play mad scientist and play around with just natural ESSENTIAL OILS. 

Friends - I have to say I am extremely excited and proud to say that the combo that I used not only worked well as a fly spray, (and kept the bot eggs off of him in the process) but FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HIS LIFE, my 9 year old gelding DID NOT HAVE A TRACE OF RAIN ROT.  Not a trace.  Nada.  It BLEW MY MIND.   Sorry if the all caps looks like I'm yelling but yes....I'm yelling!! haha Because I'm excited!!

I think the Lavender played a large part in it, although the ACV is very anti-fungal/bacterial as well.  Whatever it is, it worked a miracle on my little boy. *please keep in mind that for rain rot, this works IN CONJUNCTION with a daily brushing.

Here's the NEW RECIPE!!

In a clean, empty spray bottle, (mine is 28oz.) mix together:

  1. 1/2 cup of any healthy, natural "carrier" oil.  I used light olive oil.  *I love coconut oil but only in warm months as the coconut oil coagulates in cool temperatures and will stop up your bottle. But in the summer, use it! It's wonderful!)
  2. 1 cup of vinegar (either white or apple cider vinegar will work)
  3. 40 drops of 100% pure Citronella essential oil
  4. 40 drops of 100% pure Lavender essential oil
  5. 40 drops of 100% pure Eucalyptus essential oil
  6. 20 drops of 100% pure Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil    (can substitute Lemongrass oil)
  7. Fill the bottle the rest of the way up with water and shake well.

Shake well each time before applying it to your horse and since the oil will quickly separate, it's best to shake periodically while using it, to keep it well mixed.

I spray this on the horses twice a day - morning and evening and it works!

(If you're exercising your horse heavily and he/she is sweating a lot,, then obviously, you will probably have to spray down more often)

Now, I'm positive that, since nothing works the same for each horse and each person, someone is going to email me and say it didn't work. All I can say is that it WORKED for me and if it doesn't for you, then play around with the oils.  Add 10 more drops of Lemon Eucalyptus, Citronella or Eucalyptus until you get a combo that the flies in your area despise. You'll be glad you did.

By all means, email me and let me know what you think!!!

Woot!  \o/

*IMPORTANT NOTE* - Please use only pure essential oils, NOT aroma therapy oils that are for FRAGRANCE only.  There is a huge difference.  I have been getting all of my oils from and have been buying "NOW Foods" brand and the "Aura Cacia" brand.   So far, Vitacost has had the best prices I've found.  Let me know if you find a cheaper supplier for quality oils!  :)

UPDATE! 8/31/2016 :  After reading an article that states that Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil is as effective as Deet,  I now add Lemon Eucalyptus to my fly spray and have modified the recipe above.  Depending on what I have on hand, sometimes I substitute Lemon Eucalyptus for the Lemongrass and if I have them both, I use both!   I love the smell and they both work!

Here's a link to that article.


Every once in awhile, I get an email asking if my blog is still "active".  I've not been quite sure how to answer that!  :)   The information is just as relevant today as when I wrote the first article back in 2008.  And I still get emails every single week from people asking very specific advice for their horse and I do my best to personally respond to each one through email.  Sooo...with that in mind, I guess the answer would be YES! The blog is still very, very active.

On THAT note, because every thing I've posted here and all of the emails I answer each week are a donation of my personal time without compensation, any amount you care to toss into my "tip jar" through the Paypal donate button over in the right hand column will be most graciously appreciated!!  Hey! Even a dollar helps!  :)

Thank you to all you loyal followers and to those who write me to tell me how helpful my blog has been. That was (and still is) my goal.
Stay in touch!
With much love,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How do you take a horses' pulse?

Of course, the easiest way to take a horses' pulse is by pressing a stethoscope directly behind the front elbow, in the girth area and listening to the heart. Since a lot of people don't own a stethoscope and even if we did, we may be out riding and not have one with us, it's a good idea for every horse owner to know how to take a pulse without one.

You can take the pulse in numerous places on the horses' body where there are large arteries that can be felt directly under the skin.
  1. One easy spot is directly under the jawbone. Press your index and middle finger into the hollow of the jaw, (the deep depression under the horses head, between the two large jawbones) and feel for the pulse.
  2. The inside back of the front knee is another good place (below the knee, several inches below the chestnut)
  3. Lastly, I would recommend taking the digital pulse at the back of the fetlock. The reason I advise this as the last place to take the pulse is because it is very difficult to actually feel a pulse there. By the way, if you DO feel a strong pulse at the back of the fetlock, it is a good indication that your horse is foundering or in the beginning stages of acute laminitis! It would be a good idea to watch your horse very closely. If you see any signs of or suspect founder, call a vet immediately.
You take the pulse by counting the number of times the heart beats in a minute. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to use a watch or clock that has a second hand and count how many times the heart beats in 15 seconds and then multiply that number by 4.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

TIPS, Product Swaps & Household Remedies!

~ NOTE: I will be updating this post periodically, as other ideas come - so check back often! ~

We may not always have the "horse specialty products" on hand OR want to make our own in order to save some money. Here are a few products you may have around the house to use instead:

If you don't have Swat to put on wounds, you can use most products (meant for use on skin) that contains zinc oxide which will keep flies away. Some of these products are diaper rash ointments from Desitin, Burts Bees, Aveeno, Gerber, etc. There are several facial moisturizers that contain zinc oxide, such as Oil of Olay, Cover Girl and Revlon (Check the ingredients label for zinc oxide)

No gauze pads for dressing a wound that needs to be covered? No problem! Use diapers or feminine napkins (yeah, mini or maxi pads!) Don't be embarrassed! They work! If you're the shy type or afraid of being embarrassed, you can disguise them under medical tape or leg wraps. They are clean, they won't stick to the wound, they wick away moisture, they will hold your medications in and keep dirt and flies out! What more can you ask for? It's a great idea!

No leg wraps? Cut the toes out of panty hose or knee high stockings and slip right over onto the horses leg and over the wound! NOTE: Since it's better for some wounds to get air, you can use nylons, pantyhose or knee high stockings alone without other bandages or pads. It will allow the air to circulate to the wound but flies cannot lay their eggs on it. Just make sure the nylons are clean, are not too tight that they cut off circulation and change them when they get soiled.

Got thrush? Use vinegar (white or apple cider) or Listerine mouthwash! (any flavor) Both of these products are awesome at killing bacteria.

Need to soak a hoof injury or abcess? Mix equal parts of vinegar with water for an effective hoof soak that will kill germs and bacteria.

Need a whitener or spot remover? Or have a really dirty horse? Vinegar to the rescue again! (I buy gallons of the stuff!) Equal parts of vinegar and water can replace your current spot remover. For especially tough stains or badly stained tails, use full strength and soak for about 5 minutes. Just be sure to wash it out well.

Monday, August 18, 2008

TIP: Use those socks!

I don't know about you but around our house, socks are strange creatures. I used to think my teenager thought of them as "disposable", (use them once and then throw them away). But I think it's more like the toys in Toy Story, I'm almost convinced that they come alive when we're not looking and some of ours just leave. Some of them hide in the sofa cushions, under the end tables and under the car floor mats but I think most just get up and walk out of the house on their own. (Actually, I think a few have discovered an escape hatch under the washing machine) I always have a laundry basket full of all sizes and styles of unmatched socks, waiting for the mate that never returns. Well, don't throw those single socks away! Save them for your horse! No, I'm not talking about using them as ear warmers...but now that I think about it, I guess a horse could be kinda cute with soft, fuzzy pink or blue ears!...and it might keep the gnats away! but here's more of what I had in mind:

Store them in a plastic bag or roll them up into themselves, making a big ball and throw them in your grooming kit, first aid kit or tack barn. When you need them, slip the sock over your hand like a glove for all types of uses:

  1. Apply those goopy medication cremes and pastes. And it will keep your hands clean! (And the cotton socks will be a nice, soft touch to sensitive areas or wounds!)
  2. Use to clean out the eyes, ears or nostrils;
  3. Clean the sheath or anus;
  4. Use as a soft, tack cleaning or polishing cloth;
  5. Put one or two around the Thrush Buster or Blue Lotion bottle to help keep your hands from getting stained purple! (or hoof polish!)
  6. Keep one in your pocket and spiff up boots right before going into the show ring!
  7. Cut the toes or feet out of tube socks and use them for leg bandages! It will help keep the wound clean, help keep the medication on longer and keep out flies! (Note: If you're dealing with a wound on the hock, the "heel" part of the sock will fit quite nicely over the hock joint! If the wound is on the front of the hock, you can also cut a small slit in the sock that will allow the hock to stick out and give the hock joint more freedom of movement!)
These are just a few uses. Use your imagination and I'm sure you'll come up with even more handy ideas! I was so excited to find something to do with all of those lone socks. If you're really thrifty, you could wash and reuse them but for really goopy messes (and especially those "personal cleanings"), I will definitely pitch them. After all, in my house, I'm sure there will always be a steady supply of them!

Let me know what other uses you find for them!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My horse won't stand still!

It's just my personal opinion that unless there really is a tiger in the woods , (like so many horses think), a horse should stand still when you need or want them to, regardless of what you're doing. It's extremely annoying and another of my pet peeves when it comes to a horses' manners. They should not be stomping and stepping all over you or trying to walk off when you're grooming, saddling, etc. It's not only annoying but it can be really painful when they step on you. If they're flinging their head all around in your space, or trying to gallop off as soon as your foot hits the stirrup, it can even be dangerous. Do your best to break this bad habit.

First of all, make sure you're being fair to the horse. Is the horse legitimately afraid of something? If so, be fair and help the horse deal with his fear. John Lyons, one of my favorite trainers, says it something like this: We can't teach the horse not to be afraid but we can teach him how to act when he is afraid.

If they're not afraid, then how old is the horse, what breed is it and how long are you expecting them to stand? Are you being reasonable? If a yearling has been in a stall all night, chances are they're going to be dancing around and ready to go! You and I would, wouldn't we?

Keep the horses' breed in mind. If you're dealing with a naturally high-spirited breed such as a Thoroughbred, (especially a young one!), put them in a paddock or someplace where they can blow off some steam for a few minutes before asking them to stand still for more than a couple of minutes. If you don't have a paddock, the second best thing you can do is lunge them for a few minutes and let them burn off some of that pent up energy before you ask them to stand while you put a gazillion of those tiny rubber bands in their mane.

I worked at a barn once that had about thirty of a wide variety of horses and ponies, everything from trail mutts and lesson horses to show ponies to retired race horses. When I would get Sylvia (a retired Thoroughbred race horse) out of her stall, I prayed that not one leaf would fly by or else I knew my shoulder was sure to be dislocated. It was like trying to hold on to a rope attached to the NASA space shuttle. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I absolutely loved getting out sweet Jack, a husky, bomb-proof Quarter Horse used for lessons. The trash truck came by one day and picked up a large metal dumpster and dropped it not far from us. I thought my eardrum had split and my heart was gonna stop (and perhaps Sylvia had just created a sonic boom when she tore off galloping across the pasture) but Jackie reached down to grab a snack and waited until he had grass sticking out of both sides of his mouth before bothering to raise his head to casually look around and see what all the ruckus was about. So keep your horses' breed, age and spirit in mind and make sure that you're making reasonable requests of your horse.

Another question: Has the horse had sufficient training to understand when they're supposed to stand still? Have they been taught the command "stand"? Do they know what it means? If they haven't been taught, then it would be silly to expect them to do it and even sillier and unfair to punish them if they don't.

Also, to be more successful in training, I think a horse needs to learn the patience needed to stand quietly while haltered and tied and the only way for the horse to learn this patience is to do it. Now, of course, I'm not talking about tying your horse up and going back in the house to watch the movie "Titanic". That's not only kinda mean, I don't think horses should be left unattended for long periods while haltered and tied. Too many get caught in the rope and they can panic and thrash. They can hurt themselves or develop a phobia about being tied which will totally defeat your purpose and is a royal pain to help a horse get over. (If a horse gets a phobia about being tied, you're in a for a very long battle in teaching that horse that it's okay to ever be tied again). If they don't get a phobia, almost all horses who get tangled in the rope get at least terrible rope burns and many horses have died because they hung themselves. So, don't leave them tied for hours unattended but haltering and tying them for an hour or so while you clean their stall, tidy the barn, oil some tack or whatever else you need to do is good for developing patience in a horse.

If the horse doesn't understand what the command "stand" means, then go back to the basics and teach them to "stand". I'm assuming they already know the commands "Walk" and "Whoa". So, with their halter and lead rope on, give the command "walk" and walk them around for a few paces or a minute or so. Next, give the command "whoa" and stop walking and praise them when they stop. Next, give the command "stand" and take a step away from your horse. If they start to move with you, give a slight tug backwards on the lead rope and give the command "stand". Hold a crop, lunge whip or your flat hand up in front of their face if you have to, something that tells the horse "stop moving". Do this until you can get them to stop and praise them lavishly if they stand still for even just a second. Continue to do this for about 5 minutes. Put the horse away or continue doing what you were doing to give the horse a break and let them think on what they've learned. Give them maybe fifteen or thirty minutes or an hour , giving it a little time to sink in. You can work on this several times a day, each time increasing the amount of time you work with the horse. Gradually, over a period of several days, expect the horse to stand for longer and longer periods of time. Horses are smart. They should get it quite soon, usually in just a day or two. And once they get it, reinforce it. Stay in communication with your horse. They like hearing your "nice" voice. Most horses enjoy pleasing you. Be consistant and reward your horse every time they do what you want and they will quickly make the connection of verbal cues and that "stand" means "stop moving!"

Once they understand the new word or vocal cue, they won't forget it. Once they learn something, you can skip a month without giving them the cue and when you give it to them the next time, they will remember. So, if you're absolutely sure they've got it and they don't do what you ask, then you know that they're just being disobedient.

If a horse won't stand still, punishment is quite easy. The philosophy is this: When you're working with your horse, their attention should be on you. Their attention should not be on everything going on around except you. A horse should always know that you are in charge. They don't get to make the decisions. If they want to move, they move on your terms, not theirs. If they want to move, make them really move! Using your halter and lead rope or bridle, (whatever is on the horse), hold them with one hand, drive them with the ends of the rope or reins in the other hand and make them move quickly in tight circles around you, (about 6 feet in diameter, not wide circles like lunging). Don't beat the horse, don't terrify the horse, just get their attention. Their eyes should be alert, their ears forward and their attention should quickly switch to being on you instead of whatever was making them fidget around in the first place. Moving in tight circles like that is hard on a horses' legs and hindquarters and they will begin to cramp up in a short amount of time. A few circles like this and standing still will suddenly seem like a really great idea to the horse. They will "ask" you if they can stop moving by licking their lips, which is a sign of submission. When you see that little licking of the lips, then stop. It may take three circles, it may take twenty but move that horse until standing still sounds like a really good idea.

With some horses, you may only have to do this once or twice. With other horses you may have to do it twenty times and with a real flighty horse, you may have to do it every single time you're ready for them to stand still but it's the most effective technique I've seen for a horse that won't stand. Be consistant. Always be consistant in all of your discipline (and rewards) and the chances are extremely high that you will be very successful in ground training your horse to behave in a way that makes spending time with your horse much more enjoyable.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My philosophy on horse training

Before I begin giving training advice, I thought it would be a good idea to share my philosophies on training. Every horse owner I've ever met views, approaches and trains a horse a little differently. It seems to me that peoples' ideas on horse training are quite similiar to religion, meaning that even those who hold to the same philosophy don't always agree on every little detail and people can get quite passionate on their beliefs! Just for the record and in case you're interested, here are a few of my beliefs and practices.

There is no one way that is the best way to train a horse and there is no one technique that will work on every single horse, every time. What may work well on one horse may have little to no effect on another. Just when you think you have horse training all figured out, another horse will come along that will challenge everything you've ever learned and prove you're wrong in many areas and you're sometimes back to square one. Just as people have different personalities with different ways of thinking and looking at things, so do horses. You have to approach every horse as a unique personality and try different methods or "tricks" with each horse until you find what works.

Speaking of methods or tricks, this is a good place to say that you do not need a lot of special gear or equipment to train a horse. There are certain basic things that will make training easier and quicker, such as a halter, a lunge line, a baton (or flag) and a round pen but if you had to, you could train a horse to do what you want with nothing more than a rope and a long stick, (to use as an extension of your arm, or a driver like a lunge whip, not as a weapon)

I start with what I and others have had the most success with and go from there. If it doesn't work, then I consider it my responsibility to get into that horses' head and find out what he or she needs from me to understand what it is that I'm asking them to do.

I use primarily natural horsemanship training techniques that I've learned from varied sources over many years with a dash of Native American training thrown in.

I'm also really big into horse language, the way horses communicate with one another. I find it incredibly rewarding to know what a horse is saying to me by the carriage of the head, the movement of the mouth or the flick of an ear. It's equally, (if not more), fascinating to sit and silently watch a herd of horses interact and communicate with one another with just body language and rarely a sound. Their ways of dealing with one another are so simple yet their communication is so intricate and complex and I know I still have much to learn. It's an amazing experience to get a glimpse into their world and watch how they interact with one another. It's definitely one of my favorite things to do and I believe that learning to communicate with the horse in their language is a major factor in how successful you will be in training.

And I might as well admit it now: generally, I'm a sap...yep that's right, a big sappy mush. I love on horses, hug them and give them kisses. I baby talk them and nuzzle their velvet muzzles. I love to smell their warm, hay scented breath. Sometimes, (usually when no one is looking) I bury my face in their manes, neck or withers and fill my nostrils with their wonderful horsey scent. I think they are the most beautiful, graceful, magnificent creatures on the planet and most of the time, I am in awe of them....and yet I don't tolerate any nonsense or bad behavior for one single second!

This is my horse training philosophy in a nutshell: Love them to pieces when they're good but quickly, firmly and fairly discipline them when they're not.

I'm really passionate when it comes to ground manners. I've seen a countless number of people who never teach their horse basic respect and ground manners. It absolutely blows my mind to see people who allow the the horse do whatever the horse wants to do and then make the excuse: "Well, that's just the way he is." To that, I say "Horsefeathers"! Any horse and I will repeat: Any horse can (and should) be taught manners! Needless to say, a horse is a very large and extremely powerful animal. Even the most gentle, well mannered horse can severely hurt you, even when they're not meaning to. A 12 year old girl whom I knew very well was killed a couple of years ago in the blink of an eye. It was no ones' fault. That type of danger is just the nature of working with such large and powerful animals. While there is no foolproof guarantee that you can keep yourself safe 100% of the time, I believe there are certain things you can insist on that will improve your level of safety. #1 is that you absolutely must demand respect, for you and for that 2 to 3 feet around you, whether you like to call it your space, your box or your bubble. Now, as I said before, I love to cuddle with a horse and I never want them to be afraid of me or afraid to be close to me but they cannot clumsily fumble and step all over me and they can't force or intimidate their way into my bubble. When they come into my space, they must approach me as they would a lead or alpha mare - they must be paying attention and they must either ask politely or move in respectfully...not cautiously or fearfully but respectfully. There's a difference.

I firmly believe in the 3 second rule: When they misbehave, you have 3 seconds to let them know what is unacceptable. If you're teaching them something new and they do what you expect, you have 3 seconds to praise them and let them know they are on the right track.

I will never advise you to do anything that will make a horse fear you, only respect you. In most cases, you can effectively discipline a horse by simply making him think you're going to kill him without actually doing anything directly to the horse or anything that will hurt the horse. Also, there are several instances in which you can discipline a horse in a way that he doesn't know he's been disciplined. These are my favorite techniques. Using the nail for a nipping or biting horse is a good example (more on that in another post) In that situation, the horse thinks he has done something to himself. He doesn't realize that you have done anything to him and therefore, he has no reason to get headshy or afraid of getting smacked. Now, I'll say here that I have no problem with a firm smack now and then. It doesn't hurt the horse, in fact, you're much more likely to hurt your hand than you are the horse. A firm smack is often necessary when dealing with horses, especially if a situation occurs and you have nothing else to protect yourself or get your point across. Because of the 3 second rule and the way a horse thinks, you cannot take the time to go find a crop or other instrument for discipline. By the time you get what you went for, too much time has passed, the horse won't have a clue why you're disciplining them and the training moment is lost, so you have to issue a quick, firm smack right then on the spot when they commit the offense. You should always try to avoid hitting the horse in the face or head if possible. If you're being attacked, of course you're going to react accordingly and you will have to do whatever you have to do in order to protect yourself but hopefully those instances will be very rare. Whatever the case, a horse should never be beaten or abused. A horse should never be humiliated or belittled. They are majestic creatures that deserve respect, too. Mankind would have never advanced in the manner and speed in which he did had it not been for the strength and speed of the horse.

Read this snippet by Charles Chenevix Trench in A History of Horsemanship and see if it gives you goosebumps: 'God found it good to bestow on man a supreme mark of His favor, and so He created the horse...Man, encompassed by the elements which conspired to destroy him, would have been a slave, had not the horse made him king.'

How true it is! Imagine how the history books would have to be rewritten if we removed the horse from our past! The least we can do is show them some respect and allow them to keep their pride and beautiful spirit.

It is my desire that the relationship between horse and humans should always be one of mutual respect.

Ok, with that being said, let's talk some training!
Please feel free to email me your horse questions and I'll do my best to answer them or at least point you to someone or someplace that can. (Scroll down to the "About Me" section and click on "View my complete profile" to send me an email) I look forward to hearing from you! ~Melanie