Monday, January 18, 2010

Emergency Instructions for My Horses

In just under 3 weeks we are planning on heading south to our condo in Puerto Vallarta for a few weeks of vacation in the sun. I’ve been busy lining things up and planning what to pack. A very important part of my planning is the care of my animals. It isn’t just a case of who will feed them, but what should the people in charge do in case of an emergency.

My neighbor will be in charge of the horses I have here at the house; he knows how to run the tractor to put out the round hay bales, he’ll check on the horses daily and make sure the automatic waterer keeps working. He’s familiar with horses and knows how to handle them, knows who to call if the waterer quits working and has the name and phone number of our veterinarian.

Two more of my horses are boarded at a barn not far away. I don’t worry about their care as they are wonderfully looked after, but my vet’s number is also handy for them to have.

But I will be out of the country and won't be easy to get hold of in case of an emergency. What then? I need to leave a list of instructions so that it is totally clear as to what I would like done in case of an emergency. I have left my friend, Max, in charge of all decisions, but I have given her a list of my preferences for each horse. I’ve had to make some hard choices about what I would like done, and how much money should be spent for each horse. I have an old, retired horse with arthritis, one with a life-limiting health problem, one who is a great riding horse but needs an expensive drug each riding season, and 2 more horses that are wonderful riding horses and have many years left in them.

So with each person who has the care of my horses I have left a list of the following: vet’s name and number; Max’s name and number; and each horse’s information (name, age, sex and health conditions). With my vet, with Max, and with the owner of the barn where I have two of my horses, I have left instructions as to what I would like done and how much money should be spent in the case of an emergency. It is also important that I line up with everyone how the bills should be paid until I arrive home.

And last, but not least, what if the unthinkable happens – we have an accident and don’t ever arrive home? I would like to know that all of my animals, including the dog and barn cat, are taken care of, that they go to good homes. In that case, I have a letter describing what I would like done with each of them, signed and put in with our wills. It isn’t a pleasant thought, but I wouldn’t want them just hauled off to an auction.

*Addendum: read more about why it's a good idea to have this type of plan laid out before vacation here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I came across an old picture the other day of something that made me cringe. The picture was taken almost 30 years ago at the start of my “horse career,” and at the time I thought nothing of it. I have learned a lot in the ensuing years and now as I look at the picture I realize how the fit of the hackamore is all wrong. Do you see?

There are a few different types of hackamores – bosal, sidepull, jumping cavesson and the mechanical hackamore. All of these are designed to act on the nose and jaw of the horse, rather than the tongue and bars of the mouth as with a bit.

The bosal comes in varying sizes and weights and is used many times to start a young horse. It consists of a noseband with a large knot to which is attached a mecate – a long, braided rope that when tied on correctly has a closed loop rein and a leadrope. Some bosals may also have a throatlatch piece, called a fiador.

The sidepull has a noseband that fits tighter and has rings to attach reins. As the name suggests, this type of hackamore is used for lateral movements of the head.

A jumping cavesson is similar to a sidepull but is usually attached to an English bridle and the noseband is an even tighter fit than the sidepull, giving it more subtle control.

A mechanical hackamore is not really a true “hackamore” as it has shanks and a curb chain, giving it quite a bit of leverage and can be very harsh in a rider with rough hands. It doesn’t have a lot of ease in turning a horse, unless the horse is trained to neck rein, but it does have considerable stopping power.

With all of the above hackamores - as with any bridle - the fit is all-important. The nose band should ride on the bone of the nose, not on the soft tissue below the nose bone as pressure there can cut off the wind of the horse, or can break the tip of the nose bone if it is sitting just on the edge of that bone.

So do you see why I cringed at the picture? With a strong pull, how would this horse be able to breath?

Scrapbook of Memories

I have a very good friend and horse riding buddy, Jan, whose 76th birthday will be in the spring. She is no longer riding so her daughter, who is also a very good friend and riding buddy of mine, has an idea for her mother.

We have been going through our photo albums, gathering pictures of Jan, her horses and all the good times we’ve had on horseback. We’ve also been writing down stories and memories that we’ve laughed about all these years with the idea of making a scrapbook – a memory book of Jan’s riding days. What a wonderful idea!

Not only will this give Jan something to go back to and laugh over for a long time, it also gives us the opportunity to reminisce and enjoy again all those times. We plan on getting together at Jan’s house sometime this month – it’s too cold to ride anyway! – to compile the scrapbook. Among the three of us we will come up with many, many stories and pictures and I have a feeling that this book will be very large.

I plan on riding for many years to come, but maybe it would be a good idea to start my scrapbook now.

Mother & Daughter in Field with Horse