Horse Shopping!

Horse shopping can be an exciting and a scary time. You will be spending a lot of money on an animal that you only get to look at a couple of times before handing over the cash. I am by no means a professional when it comes to the horse purchasing world, since I’ve only ever been involved in the purchase of my old pony and my mare, but I learned a lot from the experience.

The single most important thing to do when purchasing or considering a horse is to go with your gut. I spoke to many sellers over the phone and their phone mannerisms often dictated whether or not I would make an appointment to view the horse. Sometimes, when viewing a horse, you get a gut feeling about the animal or the seller, whether it be good or bad. I find that it is often best to listen to these gut feelings. The very first horse we checked out seemed perfect, but there was something off about him. I just wasn’t sure that he was the right fit for us. It turned out that his eyes were beginning to show signs of what we believed to be cancerous tumour growth. Thankfully, myself and my parents trusted our gut feeling with him, and we didn’t purchase him.

Hank was the first horse we looked at, and I'm glad we didn't purchase him!

Hank was the first horse we looked at, and I’m glad we didn’t purchase him!

It is also important to pay attention to the body language of the seller, as well as the property itself. We went to look at horses in the spring, when things were just starting to thaw, so all of the farms we visited were muddy and not in the best condition, but we could still tell which farms were well managed. The overall upkeep of the farm can be an indicator of the type of business the owner runs. A fancy barn doesn’t mean a better horse; my mare is excellent, and lived primarily outside. The family that I bought her from had a barn only for broodmares and foals, and the horses that buyers were looking at, as they often looked at more than one during an appointment. The body language of the seller can indicate their level of honesty. Sometimes these signs don’t indicate the quality of horse that you are purchasing, but an honest seller with a well-kept property is less likely to land you with a horse that isn’t what you bargained for.

When I went to look at horses I went with a list. I had created this checklist based on what I was looking for in my ideal horse. For my family, it was all about being bomb-proof, as these horses would regularly be around wheelchairs, and one would be used as a therapy pony. We included things related to health, like the vaccine status, and things related to training, like the familiarity with hoses, trailering, and the like. Your list depends on your priorities, but using the same list for each horse provides an easy way to compare prospects.

This is Felix's sale photo

Felix’s sale photo

Purchasing a horse is an exciting time, because the possibilities seem endless. Each new appointment to try a horse comes with excitement. It is important to stay level-headed and open-minded in these appointments so that you can end up with a horse that fits well with you.

AQHA has a great article on things to consider when purchasing a horse, which can be found here.

Equine Legal Solutions also has an excellent article specifically for first time buyers, found here.

Happy shopping!


Happy Birthday to You!

Today we have a special post about my special mare. I have been busy with midterms and missed posting on Tuesday, but this one will have lots of photos to make up for it!

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Yesterday, March 4th, was Domino’s tenth birthday! This made me feel really old, but it also made me think back on all of our accomplishments and hardships.

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I bought Domino in the seven years ago, in spring 2008. I was fifteen, and was perhaps a little too overconfident in my riding abilities. Still, I had enough sense to know that a green-broke three year old was not a good fit for me. My parents had a very poor grasp on the riding world, however, so off we went to visit this little Quarter Horse filly.

Of course, they fell in love. My father was convinced we should buy her, since she had such a calm and sweet personality. I was less sure, but he convinced me, and I drove home that night as the proud new owner of my first horse; a little three year old green broke filly with an in-your-pocket personality.

Welcome home baby Domino, 2008

Welcome home baby Domino, 2008

It was a learning curve from the beginning. Despite her calm nature, she was still a young horse, and had tons of energy. She loved to run at the gate and perform a pretty epic sliding stop just before crashing through it. My silly girl provided lots of entertainment for us, but also some scary moments.

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I had to teach her everything, from standing in cross ties, to loading on a trailer, to jumping her first cross-rails. It has been a rewarding yet frustrating process. We have had our fair number of breakdowns, ending with me in tears and Domino swishing her tail in frustration. Sometimes I get frustrated that I haven’t made it further in the world of showing thus far, but I have learned so much from this horse, and I would never trade my knowledge for winning ribbons.

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I couldn’t have made it this far without the help of my coach. She has been integral to the success of my partnership with Domino. She has more knowledge than I could ever hope to gain, and provides the necessary eyes on the ground that I need when I’m in the saddle.


This is my horse of a lifetime. She has seen me through high school graduation, heart break, success, loss, and accomplishment. She will soon see my through my university graduation, and beyond. We have become an amazing team. She sees my truck coming down the road when I come home to university and runs to the gate to greet me. There is no better feeling in the world.

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Happy tenth birthday to my horse of a lifetime.

A Little Company With A Lot Of Shine

If you know me, you know that I’ve been wanting to write this post since I started the blog. I wanted to do a product review, but this company has so many excellent products that I use on a daily basis that it was impossible to just pick one. Instead, I have decided just to write a post on the company itself.

My Barn Child is a small Canadian, family-run company based out of Ontario. Their motto is “Hunter Classy & Jumper Sassy”, and they certainly have products for everyone. I first learned about MBC through their very active Twitter and Instagram accounts. I have also had the pleasure of meeting the owner, Averill, at their booth at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. MBC’s online presence has allowed the company to grow into something huge. Their product line continues to expand regularly, and their social media accounts gain followers each day.

Domino always sports two MBC charms on her bridle

Domino always sports two MBC charms on her bridle

There are a number of reasons that I love this company. The first is their customer service. Averill works very hard to ensure that she responds to all emails, tweets, and messages on Facebook. She is personable and generous if something goes wrong with your order. When I spoke to Averill at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, she told me how another small business, Shop Dapple Gray in Collingwood, helped to launch MBC, so she tries to pay it forward by helping out other small businesses. At the Royal, she featured products from other small businesses in her booth.

This is one of MBC's more popular charms!

This is one of MBC’s more popular charms!

Their social media presence is another aspect of MBC that I love. Averill takes time to post regularly on all of her social media accounts, and her fun personality comes through in many of the posts. MBC also has a very active ambassador program, and the ambassadors run their own Instagram account.

Some of my MBC collection

Some of my MBC collection

Now, to the products. MBC started out with bridle and boot charms, as well as earrings. I own many of their charms, and, like many other customers, have found some unique places to put them! They come in virtually all shapes and sizes, and they have a clasp as well as two different sized rings. One of the rings is the perfect size for a charm to fit on a Pandora bracelet. The earrings also come in many different styles. My favourite earrings are the 18k Rose Gold Bow Pearls. The 18k gold means that I can leave them in my ears for days without worrying about irritating my ears. I also receive tons of compliments on them!

I use an MBC charm as my bookmark for my planner

I use an MBC charm as my bookmark for my planner

MBC also has a variety of other products. Their winter apparel line was new this year, and was an immediate hit! I purchased a two-tone grey infinity scarf, and it is fantastic for the barn. It is warm but also thin enough to zip under a jacket or vest. These scarves are infinity scarves, which means that there is no danger of a dangling end getting in the way at the barn. They also carry toques with the MBC logo or the saying “Stop Staring at My Pony”.

Me modeling my MBC winter scarf

Me modeling my MBC winter scarf and MBC earrings

MBC also carries a variety of other products, including fashion scarves, necklaces, bracelets, and belly button rings. They are working on more apparel to add to their collection as well. This well-managed company has been able to take the equestrian world by storm through their online presence and fabulous products. Check out their website or social media accounts for more information. You won’t be disappointed!

A Closer Look at Equine Metabolic Syndrome

I am the proud owner of an overweight, retired pony, who spends his days grazing happily. My horses have always been fed primarily pasture during the summers. This year, however, I noticed that the old guy was putting on weight at a much more rapid rate than usual. He was developing fat patches in different places than normal.

After some googling, I discovered that he most likely had Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), also known as Peripheral Cushingoid Syndrome. Essentially, excess fat cells cause hormonal irregularities. It can affect any mature horse, but shows a preference for those that are prone to obesity, like ponies.

Our pony is prone to obesity

Our pony is prone to obesity

These horses also express insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that is released in response to consumption of a meal, particularly to meals high in non-structural carbohydrates (NSC). Insulin acts to promote glucose absorption from the blood and deposition (storage) of fat. This insulin resistance can lead to laminitis and muscle wasting.

Horses with EMS generally deposit fat in a characteristic way. They show fat deposits along the crest of the neck, the rump, and the sheath in male horses. On my pony, we noticed the cresty neck and the deposits around his sheath the most.

It is difficult for horses with EMS to lose weight. However, the only treatment for EMS is dietary management. High fat and high carbohydrate feeds must be eliminated, as well as molasses. Lush pasture is another risk, as it contains fructans which may lead to laminitis.

Management is key for horses prone to laminitis

Management is key for horses prone to laminitis

Our little pony has lost some weight over the winter, but we will see how things end up once the grass starts to grow. We are much more careful about what we feed him now that he has shown these clinical signs of EMS, and I always transition him to grass very slowly to avoid laminitis. This is just one disease that increases the incidence of laminitis; there are many more out there, and management seems to be one of the only ways to avoid this painful condition.

The Importance of Biosecurity

Biosecurity isn’t a word you often hear around horse people. With my veterinary background, sometimes I forget that people don’t think of things in terms of disease transmission like I have come to do instinctively. My father is a vet, and when we made the decision to build a barn and have our horses on our property, I was given an intensive lesson in biosecurity. As a prevet student, all of these lessons have been reiterated time and time again.

The dictionary definition of biosecurity is: “procedures intended to protect humans or animals against disease or harmful biological agents”. We all practise some form of biosecurity in our day-to-day lives, when we wash our hands before meals and the like. The livestock industries place a much larger emphasis on biosecurity than most people would think. Most dairy vets scrub their boots before leaving a farm, and most pig production operations are shower in-shower out, meaning you must shower before entering the facility, and shower before exiting the facility.

Dairy farms follow stringent biosecurity practises

Dairy farms follow stringent biosecurity practises

In the horse world, practises aren’t so stringent. The entire nature of the industry is different, since our animals generally are not contained on one farm for the majority of their lives. We travel for shows, switch barns, go to clinics, have other horses ship in… You name it. When was the last time you saw your farrier scrub down his boots and equipment between farm visits? The entire industry is not conducive to biosecurity.

However, there are many things that you can do to increase biosecurity on your own farm to minimize the risk of disease for your horses. It is easier to implement these changes if you have your own farm or board at a small, low-traffic facility, but some of these practises can be utilized at any equine facility.

The first big one is individual water and feed buckets. Most facilities already use this practise. However, sometimes you go to a horse show, and you forget your water bucket by the trailer. It is tempting to allow your horse to drink from someone elses’ bucket, but this action carries a significant risk for disease contraction.

As a student, I also find myself riding at other barns regularly. Before I return to my own barn, I wash any of the clothing that I was wearing and ensure that the boots I was wearing have been washed.

At shows, or when riding with others in general, I never allow my horse to touch noses with another. Though it may look cute, or be amusing to allow her to socialize, there is a risk of disease transmission through the saliva.

Shows are a high risk place for the transmission of disease

Shows are a high risk place for the transmission of disease

We can all increase the biosecurity of our facilities by implementing some changes, and making these clean practises into every day habits. When your horse’s health is at risk, what’s the big deal about taking a few extra minutes to clean your boots?

The Benefits of Television

Luckily for us snow-bound equestrians, many of the Grand Prix’s at HITS Ocala have been live-streamed online for our viewing pleasure. Many riders watch simply for entertainment, but it turns out that watching these top riders compete can actually be extremely educational.

Aside from gazing longingly at the palm trees and warm weather, watching the technical ride of each competitor can be an important tool for riders at home. My coach urges me to watch top riders compete whenever I get the chance, and here’s why:

These riders are top riders for a reason.

The CN International at Spruce Meadows is also often livestreamed

The CN International at Spruce Meadows is also often livestreamed

These riders have immense skill to navigate their horse through a jump course with crowd noise, vehicles, lights, and all manner of unfamiliar stimuli. Some of them may not be the most beautiful riders in the world, and they don’t all have perfect rounds every time, but the technicalities of their ride is where the average rider can gain some knowledge. My coach tells me to watch the difference between the way the average male rider handles his horse versus the average female rider. She has told me to note that many of the female riders have to use their entire body in order to have the strength to direct their horse.

This is just one example. I personally like to watch how the riders negotiate combinations, and their specific actions in the two or three strides before a fence, as those are my own personal trouble areas.

Live streaming of these big shows allow us equestrians at home the opportunity to soak up some tips and techniques from riders that we would otherwise be unable to see in person. It’s also nice to pretend that we can soak up the Florida sun through the screen.

Dealing With Setbacks

We’ve all heard that cliche saying that “life is full of setbacks”. There’s also the ever-present, yet ever-important, “it’s not about how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up”.

Setbacks can be small (like this uncooperative pony) or large

Setbacks can be small (like this uncooperative pony) or large

Even though these are cheesy sayings, they do hold some truth. In the horse world, it feels like we are always getting knocked down (or thrown off), and getting back on again. Sometimes, however, the setbacks can be much more major than a tumble in the dirt, and how you deal with these setbacks can be a major determinant in the success of your riding. There are a number of things you should do when dealing with a major setback, such as a change of coach or horse.

The first thing to do is allow yourself to be emotional. Mad, sad, whatever the emotion may be, allow yourself to feel it. Wallow in self-pity, but set a time limit. Depending on the extremity of the setback, I set myself a time limit of anywhere from 10 minutes to a day to allow myself to be upset. Having a pity party won’t allow you to move forward, but sometimes it is necessary for your psyche.

Once your time limit is up, it’s time to stop. It’s easy to get caught up in the self-pity cycle, but it doesn’t allow you to progress. Now it is time to focus on the positives. I search for the silver lining, wherever it may be. Once I find it (or if I find it), I use it as a reminder every time I get a little down about my setback. Trying to find the good in a bad situation is difficult, but it will help you to see the ways in which you can move forward.

Next up… Make a game plan. Your options may not be ideal, but time is going to move on whether you do or not. It’s important not to get stuck in a rut by focusing on your setback. Instead, make a plan, and then make a back up plan in case option one doesn’t work out. Planning your next actions also gives you a feeling of purpose; you are doing whatever you can to recover from your setback.

Setbacks like successive refusals can require a lot of hard work to overcome

Setbacks like successive refusals can require a lot of hard work to overcome

Lastly, ask for help. There are lots of people who may have experience related to what you are dealing with. Someone else may also have a different perspective than you, and may help you find that silver lining. Perhaps they can offer more guidance to help you plan your next steps. Be careful not to turn your advice-seeking into an opportunity for more pity. Instead, try to explain the situation, and then be open to any advice or criticism they may have. You can always learn something!

What are the biggest setbacks you’ve had in your riding career? How did you deal with them? Let me know in the comments section!

Product Review: Black Knight Competition Accessories “The Rider’s Wristlet”

I recently purchased my first Black Knight Competition Accessories product from Willow Equestrian. I’ve been wanting one of these pieces for a while, and “The Rider’s Wristlet” is a beautifully crafted multipurpose piece.

My Black Knight Competition Accessories Wristlet

My Black Knight Competition Accessories Wristlet

Black Knight Competition Accessories offers a variety of products, from tack trucks to wristlets and passport covers. The company operates out of Markham, Ontario, and each item is handmade.

The wristlet is part of the “Monarch” collection. It comes in a variety of colours, and features a wrist strap as well as a belt loop attachment. They come in two sizes; I opted for the larger as my phone is somewhat long. It has two pockets: a larger one, which fits my iPhone 5 quite easily, and a smaller one on the front which I usually use to stash my keys, cash, and cards. The wrist strap is removable, and is quite secure, so you don’t have to worry about the wristlet detaching from the strap while it is around your wrist. The belt attachment is also quite secure and can fit a variety of belt sizes.

The belt attachment for the wristlet also provides an attractive detail off the belt

The belt attachment for the wristlet also provides an attractive detail off the belt

I’ve only had my wristlet for a week, but I have already received so many comments about it! The gold zippers and logo add a rich look to the leather. My phone, keys, and cards all fit quite easily, and stay organized with the multiple pockets. This is a timeless piece that I will be using again and again. I wish I had one in each colour!

The Broccoli of the Riding World: Flatwork Basics

As a hunter/jumper rider, it’s easy to get caught up in the next jump and forget about all of the strides in between. As much fun as it is to jump school, flatwork is important, and often dictates the efficacy of a round. My coach is a firm believer in the importance of flatwork. As a rider, I often lack confidence over jumps, so her mantra for me is “it’s not the jump that matters, it’s all of the strides in between the jumps”. She makes a good point. If you are on a course with 12 obstacles, each of those obstacles represents one stride. Your round will consist of many more strides, and it is important to focus on these strides, in order to get over the jumps properly. Equestrian legend George Morris has often spoken about the importance of practising flatwork, and the strides between the jumps.

We practise our flatwork 3-4 times per week and jump 2-3 times per week

We practise our flatwork 3-4 times per week and jump 2-3 times per week

The word “dressage” means “the training of the horse”. Though upper level dressage schooling is usually out of the question for most at-home riders, many of the principles of dressage can be applied to every day riding. Dressage is based on a pyramidal system; that is, you must master the bottom of the pyramid before moving up a level. The first level is rhythm, meaning that the horse must maintain consistent energy and tempo before moving on to the next level. Next comes relaxation, and with it, suppleness. Connection is next, which is accepting the bit. Some riders try to force this on their horses before the horse is ready; instead, the horse should seek contact with the bit themselves. Impulsion, followed by straightness, and finally collection, are the final three stages of basic dressage training. These levels are organized in a pyramid because they practically follow in order. You cannot have suppleness without rhythm, and cannot have collection without impulsion. These principles can be applied to almost any horse and rider combination, regardless of their discipline.

Photo credit to

Photo credit to

The pyramid structure also holds another important lesson for riders. If something isn’t working, it is important to go back a step. If the horse is jumping crooked, perhaps it is important to get proper impulsion before approaching the jump again. Personally, I’ve never been a big dressage rider, even during my brief stint as an eventing rider through my Pony Club. However, that doesn’t stop me from using the dressage principles in my daily riding.

Flatwork also has other benefits. Aside from providing physical fitness for your horse, it can help to strengthen your position and aids. Common practises like the half-halt and leg-yield can challenge your horse to use his brain. Improving the efficacy of your aids as a rider on the flat will also translate over into your jumping position. Putting out some ground poles or moving your riding session outside of your ring or arena can help avoid boredom while practising a lot of these basics on the flat.

Practise, practise, practise!

Practise, practise, practise!

Flatwork may be the broccoli of the horse world; boring, but healthy! As I grow older, I’ve begun to find that broccoli isn’t so boring… Perhaps flatwork will begin to feel that way too!

Gone Grey

When I was a young, budding equestrian, I rode a little grey Welsh pony. By the time I got to ride her, she was 13 and had taught many other children before me. She had also faded to white. There was nothing Melody loved more than using her poop pile for a pillow. I would get to the barn in the morning, and she would be coated in manure stains. Her face was always green and brown, and I could never seem to get her tail to lose that yellowy shade. I swore to my coach that I would never buy a grey horse when it finally came time for me to have my own equine partner.

Melody the Welsh pony

Melody the Welsh pony!

Fast forward four years. I was out trying horses, and chanced upon a lovely three year old filly. We signed the papers and she was ours. I wasn’t too worried about her colour; her papers stated that she was grey, but she was really more brown. After some digging, I discovered that her father had been a palomino, and her mother a grey. I believe that she was sold, together with her mother, because the breeding farm was looking for offspring that inherited the father’s palomino colour.

I have had the same coach since I was 10, and when she saw the new horse that I had purchased, she could barely contain her laughter. Still though, Domino was quite brown as a youngster, so most of her manure stains blended right into her coat.

Domino in her younger, brown-er years

Domino in her younger, brown-er years

Once again, fast forward a few years. I started showing, and Domino seemed to favour her grey colouration more and more. Every winter, her fluffy winter coat would come in a little whiter than before. Her tail was (and continues to be) the worst. It is dark grey on top, and gradually fades to yellow… I mean, white.

It has been a battle getting that mare clean! So how do I do it? Here’s some tips for keeping your whites white.

Domino has really faded to grey in the last few years

Domino has really faded to grey in the last few years

The first, and perhaps most important thing I do, is groom daily. I don’t let big chunks of dirt sit in her coat. Daily grooming also brings the natural hair oils to the surface of the coat, and generally makes the hair look nicer (even if it is still stained!).

I plan out my show schedule, and three to four weeks before our first show, we start to concentrate on the tail. I am blessed with a horse with an extremely full tail, which can make washing it a mission. I usually wash it with shampoo once or twice per week leading up to the first show, in order to get all of the stains out. It’s a process, and it takes quite a bit of time. I don’t have a specific brand of shampoo that I use; usually just whatever whitening shampoo I have on hand! There are a variety of whitening shampoos on the market, and I have probably tried most of them. I don’t have a preference (thus far, anyway!). Sometimes I use Orvus, which is a brand of shampoo favoured by all of my friends who show dairy cattle. It works quite well, but it must be rinsed thoroughly!

I also swear by waterless shampoo for early morning, pre-show cleanups. Recently, I’ve tried a new product by EcoLicious Equestrian – a whitening treatment. I generally use it as a whitening cream for specific spots. You put a little on the spot and rub it in, and don’t wash it out. The first time I tried it I was skeptical, but this seems to be the best use for it! It also smells lovely.



Most owners of greys seem to bathe their horses on the morning of the show day. I have never seemed to be able to work this into my show morning routine. I travel quite far for shows, so I often have to leave long before the sun comes up. This means that I bathe the night before. I thoroughly bathe Domino, then tie her in my wash stall to dry as I braid. By the time I am done braiding, she is usually almost dry. This mare is a bit of a Houdini type… She can get herself out of any clothing we put on her. For this reason, I don’t put any type of protective sheet on her over night. I do have a spandex “hood” that I put on to protect her braids, but she often has it all twisted around so that it covers her eyes by morning.

Without any protection, it’s a wonder that she even stays moderately clean overnight. I make sure that her stall has been thoroughly cleaned, and she has lots of clean bedding before I put her in for the night. We often stay up very late doing our show prep, and then I am up very early to check for stains, so Domino doesn’t actually get a lot of time to sleep, and roll around in the dirt. This method works quite well. I always ensure that I leave enough time for an emergency washing before we leave for the show, but she usually doesn’t need it. Occasionally I will have to wash a few spots. I usually use waterless shampoo, or just plain warm water if it isn’t too big.

We always manage to get that tail cleaned up for show day

We always manage to get that tail cleaned up for show day

Grey horses provide a constant battle for cleanliness. However, all horse people appreciate a sparkling clean grey, and I have won many turnout awards with Domino. My methods may not work for everyone, and I’m sure there are far more effective solutions, but hopefully some of my tips and tricks can help you with your grey. What do you do to keep your horse clean? Leave a response in the comments below!

Happy cleaning!