In a previous post, we explained the differences between Western and English riding. Both types of riding have their own disciplines, or activities, commonly associated with them. In this post, we give you a crash course in several of those disciplines so that you’ll know what people are talking about if you ever hear them mention cutting or hunt seat.
Barrel Racing - The horse must turn around 3 barrels at high speed without knocking them over. The fastest horse and rider win!
Cowboy Mounted Shooting - This relatively recent sport involves riding a horse while shooting blank guns at balloons in a set pattern. Participants are judged based on their speed and accuracy.
Cutting - The horse and rider enter a herd of cattle and separate one animal from the group. They must prevent it from rejoining the herd for a certain amount of time.
Reining - The horse moves in various patterns, including circles and slides. It’s judged based on its obedience and accuracy.
Rodeo - This event combines several typical cowboy activities, including roping and barrel racing. Participants also try to remain seated on a bronco - an untrained horse - or bull, for 8 seconds.
Roping - In this speed contest, the rider throws a lasso at a steer, or young neutered male cattle. The rope is attached to the horse’s saddle horn. The rider then dismounts and ropes the steer’s legs.
Dressage - In this competition, the horse must move in set patterns and movements, such as circles. The horse is judged based on its accuracy, obedience, and presence. In a variation known as quadrille, 2 or more pairs of horses move to music.
Eventing - This competition with military roots combines dressage, cross-country jumping, and standard jumping.
Hunt Seat - A person riding hunt seat sits farther forward in the saddle, both for jumping (hunter over fences) and on-the-ground riding (hunter under saddle). The horse is evaluated on its style. Due to the discipline’s origins in fox hunting, the jumps are often painted natural colours with plants around their base to mimic a natural hunting setting.
The opposite of hunt seat is saddle seat, in which the rider sits far back in the saddle, and the horse moves with a high-stepping gait.
Jumper - This discipline tests horses purely on their ability to negotiate jumps cleanly - the judges do not take the horse’s style into account.
Mounted Games - The pony and rider participate in a variety of tests of their speed and accuracy, such as picking up objects. The event takes place at a gallop and involves getting on and off the pony repeatedly. If the rider makes a mistake, they must stop and correct it.
Polo - This sport played on a grassy field involves 2 teams of 4 riders. They use mallets to knock a wooden ball between goal posts.
Who knew there were so many activities you can do on horseback! Do any of them sound like fun? Let us know in the comments!
Though grooming may seem like one of those tasks that’s nice but not essential, it’s, in fact, an essential part of horse care. In this post, we’ll outline the steps for grooming so that, if nothing else, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s going on around the barn.
Horse Grooming - The Basics
Brushing encourages blood circulation and spreads a horse’s natural oils. It’s also a chance to check for injuries and irritations and bond with the horse.
Ideally, a horse should be groomed every day. As a minimum, it should be groomed before and after riding. If the horse is not ridden often, once a week may be enough.
If you’re ever involved with grooming, you’ll come across a few supplies that may be unfamiliar. A curry comb, for example, is an oval-shaped rubber or plastic tool with short teeth. You’ll also use several different brushes and cloths or sponges, as well as a hoof pick and perhaps a spray or two.
The grooming routine varies slightly depending on the person and on whether they’re giving the horse a quick or a more thorough treatment. In any case, however, you’d start by tying up the horse.
Currying and Brushing
Rub the curry comb in small circles to dislodge dirt and mud, starting at the horse’s neck and working toward its hindquarters. Do not curry a horse’s sensitive face, spine, or legs.
Next, use short, brisk strokes with a hard or dandy brush to remove the loosened dirt, again avoiding sensitive areas. Finish with long, smooth strokes with a soft or body brush, this time cleaning sensitive areas as well.
Cleaning the Face and Dock
Gently wipe the horse’s face and dock - around the tail - using two different cloths or sponges. Both of these areas can accumulate dirt and mucus.
Brushing the Mane and Tail
Run your fingers through the horse’s mane and tail to remove the worst knots, then brush small sections, starting at the bottom. Use detangling spray on a badly knotted mane or tail.
When brushing a horse’s tail, stand off to the side. Keep a hand on the horse if possible and talk to it so that it knows you’re there and will be less likely to kick you.
Picking the Hooves
Make the horse lift its hoof by leaning gently against its shoulder and running your hand down the back of its leg. Use a hoof pick to scrape toward the toe, removing dirt, rocks, and other debris. Do not dig deeply into the hoof’s grooves or scrape the frog, which is the sensitive V-shaped area.
Using Sprays and Creams
Other than detangling spray, you may apply a coat polish or a grooming spray, which protects the horse against the sun and makes its coat shine. You can also find equine sunscreen. Finally, fly spray is a good idea if flies are an issue.
Do you think you’d be able to groom a horse? Let us know in the comments!
Do you know what a horse’s hock is? You can probably name at least a few horse body parts, such as the shoulder, back, hooves, mane, and tail. In this post, we’ll describe some body parts with which you may be less familiar so that you can increase your understanding of horses and become more confident working with them.
Muzzle - A horse’s chin, mouth, nostrils, and whiskers. Since horses cannot see straight ahead, they use their whiskers to sense what is directly beneath their mouth.
Forelock - The part of a horse’s mane that grows between its ears, protecting its forehead from flies and rain
Poll - The potentially sensitive area behind a horse’s ears
Crest - The top of a horse’s neck. The horse’s mane grows from here.
Withers - The highest point of a horse’s thoracic vertebrae, just above its shoulder blades. A horse’s height in hands is measured to the top of its withers.
Barrel - The middle of a horse (around its ribcage)
Loin - The area between a horse’s last rib and its croup. This section is the weakest part of a horse’s back.
Croup - The top of a horse’s hindquarters
Dock - The living part at the top of a horse’s tail
It may be confusing hearing people discuss the parts of a horse’s legs since some of the names are completely different from human body parts, while others have the same name but a different location. In this section, we’ll clarify the major parts of a horse’s front and hind legs.
Elbow - Where a horse’s front legs meet its belly. This joint cannot rotate from side to side.
Forearm - The section of a horse’s front legs between its elbow and knee
Knee - A large joint in a horse’s front legs, below the forearm. This joint is similar to our wrist joint except that it cannot move from side to side.
Stifle - Where a horse’s hind legs meet its belly. This joint is similar to our knee and even has a kneecap. It allows the horse to move forward.
Gaskin - The section of a horse’s hind legs between its stifle and hock. This muscle is similar to our calf muscle.
Hock - A large joint in a horse’s hind legs, below the gaskin. This joint is similar to our ankle joint.
Cannon bone - A long, straight leg bone between a horse’s knee or hock and its fetlock
Fetlock - A joint that connects a horse’s cannon bone with its pastern. This joint is similar to the ball of a human foot.
Pastern - A joint that connects a horse’s fetlock with the top of its hoof. This joint is like our toe bone. The pastern’s angle and length affect the way that a horse moves.
Well, now you’re about ready to ace a pop quiz on horse anatomy. Let us know in the comments if you think you could point out the parts of a horse’s leg!
Can you name any Canadian horse breeds? These horses’ hardy, shaggy beauty is sure to pull at your heartstrings. In this post, learn about breeds that have developed to survive hard work and Canadian winters.
This breed originates from horses that King Louis XIV of France sent in 1665. The original horses - of several breeds, like Belgian and Dales Pony - developed to have thick, dark coats; long, wavy manes; and tough hooves. These calm, intelligent animals can pull heavy loads, carry a rider, or even perform dressage or jumps.
After thousands of Canadian horses were sent to the United States to fight in their Civil War and serve as breeding stock, the federal government started a breeding program in 1913. By 2018, the population had reached about 6000. The Canadian horse was named Canada’s national horse in 2002 and a heritage breed of Quebec in 2010.
Canadian Rustic Pony
This sturdy, athletic breed was developed in Manitoba as a cross between the Arabian horse, Welsh Mountain Pony, and Heck horse. Canadian Rustic Ponies tend to be dun, bay, buckskin, or grey, often with a stripe along their spine or zebra stripes on their legs. These kind, trainable ponies are used as pets, pleasure horses, and show horses.
Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony
This compact, powerful breed - probably the only breed developed by Indigenous people in Canada - is likely a cross of the Spanish mustang and the Canadian horse. These gentle, forest-dwelling creatures have a solid-coloured coat of any colour except for white or cream; a thick mane; small, hairy ears; and tough hooves.
The Ojibwe of northwestern Ontario and northern Minnesota used these ponies for winter transportation, then let them loose in the summer. The ponies’ population diminished to 4 mares by 1977, but the population has gradually attained 150 individuals. Today, these ponies participate in equine therapy, Indigenous heritage programs, and tourism.
The friendly Newfoundland pony has its roots in ponies that settlers brought from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. These agile equines have a thick mane and winter coat; short, furry ears; hoods to protect their eyes; and low-lying tails to allow snow to slide off. Their hair is often brown, although it can also be other colours, and sometimes changes colour depending on the season.
Sadly, many Newfoundland ponies were sent to meat plants in the 1980s. Their current population is less than 400. In 1996, this breed was declared a Newfoundland heritage animal.
Sable Island Horse
These horses are famous for living on narrow Sable Island, off the Nova Scotian coast. They have dark, shaggy coats and long manes and tails. They were once domesticated but now live in small herds.
In 1960, there was a plan to turn the Sable Island horses into dog food until many children wrote to protest to Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. There are currently about 500 Sable Island horses.
Did you learn about any new horse breeds? Let us know in the comments!
Neighing is one of the classic behaviours associated with a horse. Although horses mostly communicate using body language, they also use a variety of sounds to communicate basic ideas and emotions. In this post, we’ll describe some of the most common ones so that you can start to learn how to speak horse.
It’s not only humans who slowly exhale through their mouth and nostrils. Horses tend to sigh when they’re around humans and for similar reasons to us, like contentment or boredom at being asked to perform repetitive exercises.
Snort or Blow
When a horse pushes air through its nostrils, producing a loud purring noise, it may be excited to hit the trails. Watch out since an eager horse might make sudden movements, and its snorting can make other horses excited.
Snorting can also be a sign that a horse is anxious or about to fight another equine. Of course, a snorting horse may simply be clearing its nostrils or having air forced through its lungs while exercising.
When a horse makes this soft, affectionate noise, it’s probably saying hello or expressing excitement about being fed. Mares also make this sound to summon their foals, and stallions use it as part of their courtship ritual. On the other hand, a horse could nicker out of apprehension at a perceived threat.
Whinny or Neigh
This loud sound can indicate that a horse is anxious, such as if it’s in a new setting or separated from its herdmates. On a similar note, horses neigh or whinny to warn other horses about a new, strange element in their environment.
A neigh or whinny may also come from a confident horse demanding food. Whinnies have 2 frequencies, one that signals whether the emotion is positive or negative and one that indicates the emotion’s strength.
Like humans, a horse may groan to convey reluctance or satisfaction. There are also a couple of occasions when a horse is likely to groan naturally: getting up or down, which forces air from its lungs, and giving birth. However, groaning can also indicate that the horse is in pain, such as from ulcers or a saddle that does not fit right.
A horse may produce this short, high-pitched noise if it’s meeting another horse or angrily telling a horse to leave it alone. Stallions also often squeal when they approach a mare to check whether she’s interested in mating.
This deep, throaty sound is longer and louder than a squeal. Horses sometimes roar when fighting each other. Roaring can also refer to a respiratory disorder in which the horse’s larynx is paralyzed.
Hope that you never hear a horse make this sound since it tends to occur when a horse is dying or at least suffering intensely. A horse may also scream when it’s fighting another horse.
Which of these sounds have you heard a horse make? Let us know in the comments!
Some of the most beloved horses of all time live on the pages of books or the silver screen. Horses’ central role in literature and film is hardly surprising given their bond with humans and their cinematic beauty. At least one of these enduring horse-centred stories is sure to catch your fancy.
Black Beauty (1877)
This children’s classic by English author Anna Sewell was the first major story told from an animal’s perspective. Though Black Beauty starts out with kind owners, he faces increasingly cruel masters. Black Beauty has had numerous movie adaptations.
Smoky the Cowhorse (1926)
This novel by Will James won the 1927 Newbery Medal for American children’s literature. Set in the Western United States, it tells a similar story to Black Beauty of a horse that develops a trusting relationship with a human but then faces harsh treatment. Smoky has had 3 film adaptations.
National Velvet (1935)
In this book by Enid Bagnold - perhaps better known for its 1944 film adaptation starring Elizabeth Taylor - 14-year-old Velvet Brown wins a horse in a raffle. Velvet decides to enter The Piebald in the Grand National, a major English horse race.
My Friend Flicka (1940)
In this book by Mary O’Hara, imaginative 10-year-old Ken lives on a Wyoming ranch and wants his own colt. He ends up with a spirited filly named Flicka. My Friend Flicka has been the subject of several adaptations, including a 2006 movie with a female protagonist, Katy.
The Black Stallion (1941)
This popular book by Walter Farley is the first in a series of 20 books. It describes the adventures of young Alec Ramsay and Arabian horse the Black or Shêtân, starting with being trapped on a desert island. There have been movie adaptations of 3 books in the series.
Misty of Chincoteague (1947)
American writer Marguerite Henry based this fictional children’s classic on real people and ponies. In the book, the first in a series and adapted into a 1961 film, siblings Paul and Maureen buy Phantom and her foal Misty at an auction. Henry brought the real-life Misty with her to author events.
In this novel by British author Michael Morpurgo, horse Joey lives on Albert’s family’s farm until Albert’s father sells him to the British army. Joey courageously rides with kind Captain Nicholls, while Albert longs to reunite with his horse. Warhorse was adapted into a 2007 play and a 2011 Steven Spielberg film.
The Horse Whisperer (1995)
In this best-seller by British author Nicholas Evans, teen Grace has a serious accident while riding her horse Pilgrim. Her mother Annie takes her to “horse whisperer” Tom Booker in Montana in the hope that he can heal her daughter as well as Pilgrim. This story was made into a 1998 movie starring Robert Redford.
Have you read or seen any of these classic horse stories? Or maybe you have another book or movie to add to the list? Let us know in the comments!
At Shelby Ranch, we offer Western riding lessons and trail rides, but what does that mean, and how does this type of riding differ from English style? The divergence stems from Western riding’s origins in cattle ranching. In this post, we’ll outline the major differences between Western and English riding.
Tack and Clothing
One of the most obvious differences if you look at a person riding Western versus English is the gear that they use. The larger, heavier Western saddle distributes the rider’s weight over a greater area for safety and comfort even during a long ride. A Western saddle also has a horn traditionally used for attaching cattle.
A Western saddle tends to contain strings for attaching equipment. The stirrups - the rings where a rider rests her feet - also tend to be larger to make it easier to mount and dismount.
By contrast, an English saddle is smaller and lighter, allowing for closer contact with the horse’s back and more freedom of movement for the horse. Both Western and English saddles come in a range of designs to suit different sports and disciplines.
Western riders often wear a more casual get-up, such as a cowboy hat, a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and Western-style boots. An English rider, meanwhile, may wear a hunt cap or helmet, a dark-coloured fitted jacket, pale breeches, and tall boots with a low heel.
Horses and Riding Style
Although most horses can perform either Western or English riding, some animals are more suited for one style over the other. The horses used for Western riding tend to be compact and able to travel at a steady pace over long distances, with the occasional burst of speed. Horses for English riding are often taller and able to move at various speeds.
Western riders hold both reins in one hand, leaving the other hand free for lassoing and other actions. An English rider, meanwhile, holds one rein in each hand.
In general, Western horses move more smoothly and consistently, while English horses are expected to have more variety in their gaits. Western horses often move at a jog, which is a smooth gait slightly faster than walking. During bouncier English trotting, the rider often posts, or rises up and down to match the rhythm of the horse.
When it comes to cantering, Western horses often stick to the lope, which is a slower canter. English horses, however, often need to perform various speeds of canter.
Western and English riding also have different disciplines associated with them, such as barrel racing and roping for Western and dressage and jumping for English. They’re too numerous to explore in detail now, but keep an eye out for a future post!
Is the distinction between Western and English riding clearer for you now? Let us know in the comments!
It’s not only humans that need to visit the doctor and dentist. In this post, we’ll walk you through horses’ needs when it comes to both day-to-day care and regular medical check-ups and other procedures.
General Horse Care
Like other animals, horses have certain basic requirements for food, water, and shelter. They need to receive enough nutritious food and have access to clean water and somewhere to escape the heat or rain.
Ideally, a horse enjoys the company of other horses and has enough space to walk and run around. As a minimum, it should receive daily exercise.
Horses also require daily grooming. Besides making sure that the horse looks its best, this process is a chance to check its skin for damage and remove dirt, which can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
Daily grooming should include picking the horse’s hooves to remove dirt and stones. During the winter and rainy periods, horses benefit from an antifungal solution every 1 to 2 weeks to prevent thrush.
Regular Medical Care
Horses should see a veterinarian for an exam at least once a year. If the animal is 20 years old or older, seeing a vet at least twice a year is a good idea.
Horses require regular vaccines for diseases like tetanus and also, potentially, shots specific to their situation or region. It’s best to let a veterinarian or other trained individual give the vaccines.
Interestingly, foals enjoy the benefits of their mother’s vaccinations for up to 6 months after birth. To obtain this protection against diseases, the foal must drink its mother’s antibody-rich colostrum milk within its first 6 hours of life.
Horses should receive a dental check-up at least once a year, or more often if they’re young, elderly, or eat grain. Their teeth tend to wear down unevenly, leaving sharp edges that become uncomfortable unless a vet trims them.
Other Routine Horse Care
It’s not just a horse’s teeth that need trimming. Have a farrier or vet trim its hooves approximately every 6 weeks. Horseshoes may be a good idea if the animal will be walking on hard surfaces or has tender feet or other hoof issues or is lame.
Horses, especially young ones, often have issues with intestinal parasites like worms that they pick up while grazing or licking their body. It’s important to apply a deworming paste to a horse every 4 to 8 weeks or give it daily dewormer in its feed.
Flies and ticks can also bother a horse and even cause infections. Checking for nuisance insects is part of routine horse care. Thankfully, a variety of lotions and sprays are on the market to protect horses against these pests.
Did you get a better sense of the necessary steps for looking after a horse? Let us know in the comments!
If you picture a horse, your mind probably calls up an image of an animal of a certain size with typical features like a flowing mane and perky ears. Although most horses conform to these standards, a few have wacky characteristics that make them stand out from the herd.
Join us as we explore unusual horse breeds. You may not find these types of horses at the ranch, but it’s always fascinating to learn about the diversity within the horse species, and this knowledge deepens your appreciation for these noble animals.
American Bashkir Curly
As its name suggests, this breed has distinctive curly hair. Some of these horses only have a curly mane and tail, while others display curls on their whole body. These friendly, patient horses are also notable for being hypoallergenic, making them an excellent option for people who are allergic to horses.
Akhal Teke Horse
The national horse of Turkmenistan is famous for having hair with a metallic gleam, perhaps serving as a form of camouflage. It’s a strong, fast horse with long endurance, in addition to possessing delicate features. Its roots stretch back about 3000 years, but, today, this breed is endangered.
The unusual feature of the Marwari horse is that its ears curve inward, even meeting at the tips. This equine has been bred in India since the 12th century. Besides its ears that point toward each other, it’s known for its speed, stamina, and hardiness.
What strikes the eye immediately about the Gypsy Vanner is the feathering from its knees down to its hooves. These calm, friendly, strong horses have straight manes, tails, and feathers. Romanichal people in the United Kingdom have used them to pull their vardoes, or wagons.
This dun horse from Norway has an erect cream-coloured mane with a dark stripe down the middle. Owners normally keep the mane short to emphasize the contrast between the 2 colours. Fjord horses belong to one of the oldest horse breeds on the planet and are typically used on farms.
This miniature horse is one of the smallest breeds, only reaching up to about 80 centimetres at its withers. This long-lived breed started in Argentina in the mid-1800s. These horses are strong despite their size and are used to pull carts and give rides to tiny children, besides competing in shows and acting as guide animals.
This amazing breed, of Danish origin, has spots like a Dalmatian or leopard. In fact, its genes give it what is known as a leopard complex, which mainly affects its coat pattern. These horses vary in size, being sometimes as small as a pony, and in function, being suitable for dressage, show jumping, and general riding.
Did any of these unusual horse breeds surprise you? Let us know in the comments!
Although horses make some sounds to communicate, such as neighs, body language is their main way of getting their message across. As prey animals, it’s safest for them to be able to communicate without making any noise. In this post, we’ll teach you about horses’ movements and what they mean.
Horses’ ears can rotate nearly all the way around. Ears that point forward indicate alertness or interest, while those turned toward the back are listening to a noise from behind. Rapid swivelling means that the horse is frightened about a specific noise or overwhelmed by too many stimuli.
If a horse’s ears are fully pinned back, it’s angry and likely about to bite or kick. On the other hand, if its ears are turned toward the side, chances are it’s relaxing or taking a doze.
A horse’s gaze also lets you know its mood or the focus of its attention. Tense facial muscles or darting eyes can both indicate fear or stress. If the whites of a horse’s eyes are showing, the animal is alarmed and likely very upset.
A horse with a fixed stare may be feeling ill. If its eyes are half-closed, that could be a sign that it’s in a good mood.
A horse’s head movements give you more clues about its thoughts. While a lowered head suggests relaxation and a raised one tells you that the horse is focused on something interesting in the distance, a head swinging from side to side signals dissatisfaction or even aggression. Flared nostrils can also be a sign of nervousness.
On a more positive note, a drooping lip reveals that the horse is relaxed or asleep. Chewing when it has no food in its mouth, meanwhile, suggests a relaxed, pensive state.
If you think about a horse’s front legs, maybe you picture a stallion pawing at the ground. This behaviour means that the animal is bored, impatient, stressed, or angry. Raising a hind leg or stomping can also be a sign of irritation.
A cocked back leg, with the edge of the hoof resting on the ground, may be the stance of a relaxed horse, but shifting between legs could also indicate discomfort. Riders are often concerned that a horse will kick with its hind legs. Watch out for swinging hindquarters or other signs of anger.
Although a horse’s tail may seem nearly inanimate, this part of a horse is actually quite expressive. Especially among Arabians, a raised tail indicates excitement, while, among all breeds, a tail clamped between the legs tells you that the horse is nervous or stressed.
A slow swishing is nothing to be concerned about - the horse is likely trying to chase away flies. A rapidly swishing tail, however, can be an expression of irritation or anger.
Do you now have a better idea what a horse is trying to tell you when it swings its head or cocks its hind leg? Let us know in the comments!
Hello, My name is Shelby Gatti, and I am the owner of Shelby Ranch. I love being able to share my passion for animals with you and your family. At Shelby Ranch you can expect a ton of family adventure from horseback riding to mechanical bull riding & axe throwing.