The three second rule

Biting horse

This biting horse is actually a wild horse, not a domesticated horse.

I think we’ve all seen horse owners who are afraid of their horses . . . and many times those horses see that leadership vacuum and step right in, treating the humans around them like they are subordinate horses in the herd — and that can mean biting or charging at humans.

I’ve been up close and personal with two horses who had those tendencies — one charged me in the pasture, rearing up and striking out at me; the other would try to bite you while you fed.

It’s no fun to be in situations like that and even less fun when it’s not your horse, because the owner might not appreciate your method of dealing with their behavior. In these cases I’m a strong proponent of  John Lyons’ three second rule. In Lyons on Horses he wrote:

The horse never ever has the right to kick or bite you. Biting is more dangerous than kicking because it is a more aggressive act on the horse’s part. You can’t every justify that action in your mind.

I don’t want to be bitten. If the horse tries to bite me, I will try to kill him. His act is that dangerous and my rule is that simple. I have three seconds in which to kill this thousand-pound beast. The only limitation I’ll put on the murder is that his head will be off limits. Remember, I don’t want to blind him, I want to kill him. Immediately after I’ve exhausted the three seconds, I’ll pet him to reassure him that I still like him, but he knows that he made a serious mistake that almost cost him his life.

While this might seem to be an overreaction, you should take some time and watch how horses interact in a herd situation. Retribution is swift, can look harsh, and when it’s over, they all move on.

I won’t say that I tried to kill any of those horses but for those three seconds I was loud and scary. With one, I carried a whip and used it (not on his head).

My own horses are not aggressive. They can’t be — I’ve always had larger horses and it’s meant that manners are important for my safety and for anyone else who handles them. I have a zero tolerance for bad behavior and so most potential issues get nipped (pun intended) in the bud, before they become a problem.

Freedom will, on occasion, give me the evil horse face and pin his ears, but he backs right off if you growl at him or assert your leadership. Once or twice he’s cocked a hind leg — when that happens, he gets to run around in the field a bit until he wants to “join up” and behave like a domesticated animal again. In fact, he looks very offended if you chase him off.

Zelda will push the boundaries (she is, after all, big) but in a totally passive way — by not moving, or by walking off slowly, knowing there is no way that you can stop her. With her, it’s important that she always respects my personal space, picks up her feet nicely for the farrier, and stands quietly for getting tacked up.  She occasionally needs to be reminded that she can’t always be the boss, and she generally takes reprimands well. A growl or chain over the nose is enough to convince her to step down before any force is required.

How do you keep your horse in line? Have you ever reverted to the three second rule?

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Do you know what Cavaletti means?

Thanks to Denny Emerson’s Facebook feed, I do! And you should subscribe, too. He posts a wealth of information.

My tip for the day - Subscribe to Denny Emerson's Tamarack Hill Farm Facebook feed. He always posts interesting stuff. Click on the photo to go to his page.

My tip for the day – Subscribe to Denny Emerson’s Tamarack Hill Farm Facebook feed. He always posts interesting stuff. Click on the photo to go to his page.

The word “cavaletti” has the same roots as the word “cavalry” and “cavallo”, Italian for “horse”.

And although we trot horses over cavaletti, the name has nothing to do with actual horses.

It`s a diminutive term, meaning “little sawhorse.”


Feline Friends

My first horse, Bogie, loved cats. His particular favorite was a barn cat who resided at Red Raider, a barn in Ohio that I boarded out back in the mid-90s. He was never happier than when his cat came and visited in his stall and he would nuzzle him with such gentleness. I always wondered how the cat knew to trust him. If I were that small, I’m not sure I’d want a horse nuzzling me! Apparently the horse in the video below feels the same way.

Submit your posts for the August 2014 Blog Carnival of Horses

Blog Carnival of HorsesOn August 4th, Equine Ink will host the August 2014 Blog Carnival of Horses. You can submit your blog post here.

Each month I look forward to reading new blogs and revisiting my favorites. It always amazes me how many things equestrian there are to write about.

Please consider submitting your blog post to the carnival so you can share your stories with new readers. Or find more blogs to read.



The Benefits of Beta Biothane

Two Horse Tack

Zelda models her Beta Biothane bridle from Yes, I know here throat latch is on upside down!

Last year, shortly after Zelda came to my barn, she broke my Micklem bridle. She did it while I was tacking her up by deciding to leave. She was slow and deliberate. She knew I couldn’t stop her (she’s large) and she kept going, stepped on the reins and the stitching broke.

The bridle was fixable, but at that moment I decided that she wasn’t going to get another expensive leather bridle until she learned some manners. I found a nice looking Beta Biothane bridle from and bought it. I had no idea how much I would like it!

Let’s see, let me count the ways that I have come to appreciate the benefits of a high quality synthetic bridle — because these are very nicely made, indeed. They really changed my mind about using synthetic tack.

  1. It isn’t expensive. Zelda’s bridle was about $40 including shipping (it did not include reins). In fact, it’s such a good deal that I bought two more. Here’s a link to the bridle that they both wearing.
    Freedom in his Biothane Bridle

    Freedom modeling his Beta Biothane Bridle from Two Horse Tack.

    bridles, one for Freedom and one for Zelda. I keep them in my tack trunk in my trailer. I love having a spare that doesn’t break the bank and I know that sooner or later, having that spare will mean the difference between riding and not riding when I’ve shipped out somewhere.

  2. It isn’t cheap. This is a nicely made bridle that just happens to not be leather and which isn’t expensive. My horses look quite fine in their Two Horse Tack bridles. I’ve had a Wintec bridle in the past as a spare, but I like this one better. The material is softer and more supple — even after a year there are no cracks.
  3. The Beta Biothane is strong — but the buckles provide a “breaking point” to make it safe.
  4. They have buckle ends which I vastly prefer. They make it so much easier to swap out bits.
  5. Cleaning it is SO easy. Just dump it in a bucket of water while you’re cleaning the bit. I am lazy so this is a great benefit, especially in the summer when the horses come back sweaty and their tack is grimy. I no longer feel guilty about abusing my bridle and it always looks new.
  6. It doesn’t get dried out, brittle or moldy so it is carefree piece of tack. My tackroom tends to get damp in the summer or too dry when I use a humidifier so my leather tack requires a lot of care even when I’m not using it. Zelda’s bridle is more than a year old now and it looks brand new.

I’m considering getting some of the more flashy options for the future. Zelda, in particular, would look might nice with some bright colors or some bling! I’m looking forward to trying some of their other products and am sorry that I now longer have a horse that goes bitless because their sidepull bridles look very nice.



Real World Equestrian Apps

Real World Equestrian Apps

Very funny article on the Chronicle of the Horse. Click on the photo to read the rest

On this July day it’s too hot here for me to ride. In fact too hot for the horses to spend much time out of the barns (their choice). Whenever I go over to the barn, they are standing in their stalls looking at me with an expression of irritation, like, can’t you please do something about this heat?

So, if you’re stuck looking for a cool place to pass your day, here’s a funny article from the Chronicle of the Horse. Maybe it will get your creative juices flowing and you’ll come up with your own Real World Equestrian App!

Another Craig’s List Gem

Craig's List ad

Own your own rare Przewalki horse? This cute gelding is

Who knew that you could buy your own, rare Przewalki horse for a mere $600? Only on Craig’s list!

The ad says,
This horse is rare if you look it up they are critically endangered and they have them in zoo’s (sic). This horse will walk up to you in the field and sometimes he can get aggravating because he will stay right beside you all the time.

You have to give them credit for knowing about the breed and spelling it correctly, but the only things that poor horse has in common with a Przewalski horse is four legs, a tail and a mane with a Mohawk trim.


Here is what the “real” Przewalski horse looks like. Not even close.

In fact the Przewalki horse, which is native to Mongolia, is one of the only true “wild” horses (as opposed to feral horses, such as mustangs, which are descended from domestic horses that escaped).  Hardly a breed that could ever be described as “kid broke”.

The breed was considered to be  extinct in the wild in 2008 and there are about 1500 of them alive today.  All Przewalski horses in the world are descended from nine horses that are descended from 15 captured horses captured around 1900. So, if this really is a Przewalski’s horse then it needs to scooped up right away because he is priceless! The ad doesn’t say but I hope they didn’t cut the family jewels off. A Przewalski horse gelding just wouldn’t cut it.

Don’t get me wrong — he’s a cute, scruffy little horse that seems to be in good weight, but it would take a real leap of faith to turn him into a Przewalski’s horse.