I think Zelda is part Border Collie

Zelda has upped her game of tag. When I went to hunt her on Saturday, she started by running laps in the pasture. Then she decided that Curly needed to join in her game. I think that Zelda is part Border Collie because she’s very good at herding.

Of course, Curly is a good sport. She plays along until Zelda tires of the game and then goes back to eating hay. It’s interesting to watch the herd dynamics.

Zelda didn’t get tired so easily. She ran for nearly half an hour before she deigned to be caught and I had to hose her off before the hunt.

Hmm, I wonder what kind of music Zelda would play?

Sapphire the horse has shown a remarkable talent on the electric keyboard, enjoying both the sounds and the feeling of the keys. He’s got quite a riff going! But he’s not the only horse that likes music.

Researchers at Hartpury College in England tested the effects of different types of music on eight stabled horses. They played classical (Beethoven), country (Hank Williams Jr.), rock (Green Day), and jazz (New Stories) – for 30 minutes each.

The horses showed a marked preference for classical, country music and silence;  jazz and rock music caused horses to display behaviors associated with stress — head tossing, stamping, snorting and vocalizing.

In addition, horses ate more calmly when listening to classical or country music, while when listening to jazz or rock they snatched at food in short bursts.

So next time you have the radio on at the barn, make sure you’ve got it tuned to soothing music. Or, set up a keyboard and see what happens. Sapphire’s playing is surprisingly musical — it makes me wonder what Zelda would produce!

Riding bitless doesn’t mean lack of control

Riding Bitless

You can read this article on the Chronicle of the Horse by clicking on the photo.

No, Kelly McKnight did not forget his bridle. He also didn’t forget that horses get some “say” in how they are ridden. When you read the horse bulletin boards you’d think there was a “magic bit” du jour. That if your dressage horse doesn’t like a loose ring snaffle, if your show hunter isn’t perfectly mellow in a D-ring, or your eventer can’t go cross country in his dressage bit that you are somehow doing something wrong.

For many years I hunted a Trakehner who loved to be ridden bitless. In fact, he told me very clearly, and for a long time, that he didn’t like bits, that they were

Once I discovered this bitless set up I had a much happier horse.

Once I discovered this bitless set up I had a much happier horse.

uncomfortable in his mouth, where his big tongue and low palate didn’t leave a lot of room.

Eventually, I tried riding him bitless. First I tried the Dr. Cook’s bridle, but he didn’t much care for the poll pressure. Then I discovered the LG bridle, which is basically a side pull bridle with the reins attached to a wheel. You can achieve a bit more leverage when you attach the reins to a spoke that turns the wheel very slightly.

This discovery was a real turning point for us because suddenly I had a happy, willing partner. He was soft and light in my hands, he jumped beautifully and he was never out of control. I hunted him bitless for many seasons. Sometimes it surprised people, who wondered if I had enough control in it.

Certainly, this isn’t for every horse. I’ve tried riding Freedom and Zelda both bitless and I don’t have a lot of control. It’s fine for a hack, but out hunting? I don’t think it would be much fun. But I think that everyone should try, on occasion, to give their horses a break and see what kind of ride they have without a bit. Who knows? You might never go back!

Remember Sheldon? The CANTER horse I had before Zelda? He also was a much happier horse without a bit. The important thing is to listen to your horse and see what works for him.

How about you? Do you ever ride bitless?

How much fun is a horse’s tail?

I love this video of the cat in the horse’s tail. It reminds me of my standard Poodle, Merlin. We got him when he was about a year old and he had never seen a horse before. He used to chase after me when I rode and would grab onto my horse’s tail. My instructor used to laugh until tears ran down her face.

Eventually, my very patient horse gave a very gentle tap to the mischievous dog and that was the end of tail surfing.

What’s Zelda doing on TV?

Aiden Turner riding Seamus

When I started watching Poldark I did a double take. What’s Aiden Turner doing riding Zelda? In fact, Zelda bears a striking resemblance to the horse he is riding, a 16 hand Irish Draught named Seamus. Apparently, Seamus has become almost as popular as the brooding Turner. His owners are getting calls asking Seamus to attend events as the visiting celebrity. Seamus is so important to the series that he has his own stunt double! In the original Poldark series, the riders had Thoroughbreds. This time, they are using more “authentic” mounts that represent the types of horses that would have been ridden in Cornwall.

zelda hunt

Okay, I’m not Aiden Turner, but Zelda sure looks like Seamus (only more feminine).

Insulin Resistance in Horses


Willow wears the Muzzle of Shame. Don’t worry, even though she looks pitiful, she is still able to eat enough through the hole in the bottom to survive. Sometimes, I wonder if the Muzzle of Shame could be used to stop humans from over eating!

Freedom’s pasture-mate, Willow, was recently diagnosed with Equine Metabolic Syndrom (EMS) or Insulin Resistance (IR).

 What does that mean?

According to the Department of Animal Science at the University of Connecticut,

Glucose (sugar) normally functions to fuel many metabolic processes in the body and is the primary energy currency of the body. Insulin is normally produced in response to elevated blood glucose and is key to the regulation of blood glucose concentrations and glucose utilization. Insulin promotes glucose uptake by cells and promotes formation of glycogen or fat. Insulin resistance is defined as a reduced sensitivity of the body’s cells to insulin’s facilitation of glucose uptake.

Basically what happens in insulin resistance is that the cells become resistant to the glucose uptake action of insulin. Initially, this just means that more insulin is needed (hyperinsulinemia) to keep blood glucose concentrations within normal limits after a starchy or high sugar meal. If it is severe enough even super high insulin concentrations are ineffective and blood glucose may also be abnormally high. The problem is that not only does this limit energy availability to the cells but insulin also has other effects on the body that may be detrimental when it is higher than normal for prolonged periods of time. Unlike humans, horses rarely go into the second stage, where the pancreas becomes “exhausted” and no longer can secrete adequate insulin.

In practical terms, this means that Willow, who only gets enough concentrate to mask her vitamin/mineral supplement, must wear a grazing muzzle because too much sugar could cause an episode of laminitis. In fact, it was because her owner felt digital pulses that she ran a blood panel and got the diagnosis.

It didn’t take Willow very long to figure out that this is NOT FUN. She is getting less tolerant about putting it on, although putting a tiny bit of grain in the muzzle is still enough of a temptation to overcome her reluctance. Unfortunately for Willow the new barn has a lot of grass and she’s mighty peeved that her access is now restricted.

I tried using a muzzle on Freedom when I first got him – not because I need to restrict his eating, but as a way to stop him cribbing. That lasted about 5 minutes. He destroyed two or three grazing muzzles in short order and then refused to let me near him him with a halter.

Have you had to use a grazing muzzle on your horse or pony?