Creating Emergency Plan

Creating an emergency plan is crucial. With the unpredictable weather conditions across the nation and seeing the damage from Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey, breaks my heart. To see so many people with damaged homes and properties with no where to go is heartbreaking. On top of their homes and possessions damaged, they have to take care of their pets on top of that. After seeing this devastation, I think every household, and every horse farm especially, should have an emergency plan.

creating an emergency plan

It’s important to have a plan that quickly and safely moves animals and people out of the barns. Everyone in the barn should be aware of the emergency plan and if possible, practice the plan once a year. Here are some tips/things to consider when setting up your plan:

  • First thing to think about it how you will remove the horses from the barn. Do they each need to be indicidually lead or herded out? Where will you keep them once they are outside of the barn? Designate a pasture to put them in before you move them, or lock them outside in their turnout runs if possible. 
  • If there is a fire at your facility; plan a safe place away from the barn to put your horses. Be sure to consider if certain horses need to be separated from the others such as stallions or bullies in your horse barn. 
  • Keep spare halters and leads somewhere outside of your barn. You may need these in case of emergency.
  • If you have enough to transport your horses, do you have enough trailer space to move all of your horses? If you can’t transfer all of your horses, have a backup such as a friend or another horse barn with another trailer that can help transport. 
  • Have a safe place set up where you have spoken with the owner about bringing your horses there. If you don’t have a friend’s property to bring your horses to, try contacting local racetracks, fairgrounds, show grounds or stockyards. They may be willing to let you put your horses there temporarily. But set this up beforehand, don’t show up there with your horses and expect them to have stalls available. 
  • If you have time, be sure to identify your horses. You can either use washable paint on their skin, a sharpie and write on their hooves, or braid a luggage tag into their mane.

We all say to ourselves when we see disasters on TV; “oh that won’t happen here”. But instead of thinking that, at least get an emergency plan together in case something like that ever does happen to your facility so you can be ready for it, and not scrambling. That way both you and your beloved horses will be safe!

Introducing Children to Horses

Introducing children to horses is always and interesting topic!! I have a big family. I’ve met families much, much bigger than mine. With more than 50 close relatives that I see very often, I would consider my family to be very involved with one another. With a big family, comes lots of kids. When you are the only one in the family with horses, introducing the children to horses on your farm can be a challenge. Knowing you have horses will always make people want to come visit to see the horses or ask to ride. Let’s take a look at how I introduce children horses on my farm:

Most importantly, before you allow the introducing of children to horses, make sure you go over all horse safety rules. Any child, any age, must know the proper precautions to follow when around horses. Explain to him or her how large horses are and how they hurt us without even realizing it. Show them where they should or shouldn’t stand when approaching a horse. The horse cannot see them at all moments, and that is why it is so important to never walk behind the horse. Be sure to let the child know not to run around and yell and scream at the barn because it can scare the horses. It might be best to explain all of the safety rules before you get to the horse barn because the child may lose focus once in the barn from excitement.

Once you’ve explained the safety precautions to the child or children, bring the horse out and introduce him or her to the children in a soft and calm manner. I brought my horse out and had my cousin walk up slowly and let the horse sniff her. Of course I gave my cousin a little treat to give the horse, it makes him warm up to people very fast. Who doesn’t love treats??!!

After I introduced the children to horses, I brought my favorite horse in the barn and put him on cross ties. I went over all of the different grooming tools for the horse and how to use each one. She really enjoyed learning the different brushes and helping to groom my horse.

Now was the time to tack up, since the whole reason she was there was to ride my horse! I explained each step I was doing as I tacked my horse up. The names of all of the parts of the saddle were explained, bridle, etc. She had lots of questions so I took things slowly to help her understand everything. Before we brought my horse outside, I got her helmet snugged on her head. Always start the first ride with the child wearing a helmet, so that good helmet wearing habits are started at an early age.

For the first ride, I had a friend walk beside my cousin in the saddle and myself leading my horse. She was a little nervous but we both assured her she was doing great. She loved it and did not want to get off! After walking like this for a long time, we helped her to get off and had her help walk the horse back to the barn.

Once on the cross ties, I started to take off my horse’s tack, and again explain all of the parts and pieces. I explained to her that we have to groom the horse before and after the ride. And of course finished with her giving my horse a treat before we brought him back out to his pasture.

Following these same steps are great ways to introduce a child to your horse. If the child continues to show interest in horses, that may be the time to look into lessons. Ask around where others have brought their children for lessons and if they would recommend it. Or bring your child to a horse show to show them what it’s all about. Introducing kids to horses is so much fun, and it opens the next generation to the love that we have for our horses.

Extend Life of Arena

Everyone wants to extend the life of their arena. There are many ways to extend life of arena, to get the most out of it, for as long as you can. The want to spend money up front, and not have to spend money again on the arena for years to come, although it sounds nice, is not realistic.

Grooming your footing is one way to extend life of arena: Routinely grooming your footing can significantly extend the life of your arena. Almost all horse show organizations now have rules to groom between so many riders. Grooming every 4-7 riders, breaks up the footing and can considerably reduce the injuries to a horse and rider in an arena. If there are clumps, or deep and shallow spots in the arena, it can cause injury to the horse for the inconsistency in the footing. Dragging prevents ruts against the wall and the surface compacting in the corner. Continuing to regulate your grooming is a great way to keep your footing looking great, and performing great!

Picking up organic material is another way to extend life of arena: I have been to barns where horses are constantly turned out both in indoor arenas and outdoor arenas. Although this space is nice to let a horse run around, horses shouldn’t be kept in this space for long periods of time by themselves. Manure and urine lead to a decline in your footing. Once manure gets into your footing and breaks down, this creates organic material in your footing, which then creates airborne dust. Manure should be picked up before it can be worked into the footing, and horses should not be left in an arena for long periods of time. In addition to manure in the footing, horses should never be fed hay in the arenas. Hay also can easily get broken down in the footing, which again creates dust.

Premium footing is an investment for all equestrian facilities. TruStride™LiteStride™5K Ranch™, and Equi-Blend™ are the only footings on the market, which use recycled components and require no more than regular maintenance. Regular maintenance includes arena grooming and most importantly following the rule of picking up after your horses and not turning them in your arena. Keeping these simple rules in mind when concerning your arena can significantly extend life of arena footing and the base.

Get Your Outdoor Arena Ready for Spring

It’s a gorgeous day here in Upstate NY as it seems like Spring is finally hitting us! Do you know what spring time means? More horse riding time outside! Now is the time to get your outdoor arena ready for spring and summer riding! Let’s take a walk to your outdoor arena and assess any current issues.

What do you see?

The arena looks great! Awesome! Don’t worry about doing any maintenance and go for a ride!

A lumpy arena. Take your drag and drag your arena good. Make sure you break up the lumpy surface and fluff the top inch. Be sure that you don’t push the footing outwards when you groom, you will build up the edge and possibly lose footing out the side of the arena.

Thin areas in the arena. You may have some areas of your arena that are thinner than others. Try to drag the arena so that you are pushing the extra sand towards the thinner areas of the arena. If needed, fill up some buckets in the thicker areas and dump them in the thinner. We often use yardsticks that have the proper arena depth painted on one end, and go around the arena and check them depth in each area. Move or groom the footing accordingly.

A wet corner. Not good. You do not have proper drainage in your arena. You may be able to fix it by adding some drainage in the form of perforated drains dug 6 inches down on the outside of the arena and give them a place to drain. If you notice that that corner is still wet, you may need to add drainage directly in the base of the arena. Be sure to consult a professional arena contractor to do the work for you.

Broken Fences. Maybe the winter was a little too harsh on your fence posts. Easy fix! Grab your screw drivers and screw gun and fix the broken fence posts, replace boards that may be broken and go around and tighten all screws. Maybe even repaint them to add a fresh new look to your arena!

Switching to our dust-free arena surfaces could eliminate many of the potential issues that arise from using traditional sand. By choosing our TruStride or LiteStride for your outdoor arena, you will be spending significantly less time maintaining your arena. The footing will wick water right off of the surface because of the wax component, so you no longer have to worry about wet spots. Our footing will not create lumpy spots in the footing and the groomer that is used only fluffs the top inch of the footing. Get your outdoor arena ready for Spring faster by choosing our footing for your outdoor arena!


How Often Should You Groom or “Drag” Your Arena?

As I’ve mentioned before, I get arena questions all day long. “What should my footing depth be?”, “What is the best footing for me?”, or “What’s the difference between the TruStride and LiteStride ”. The most common question I’ve been getting lately is “How often should I groom my arena?”

Grooming an arena is a maintenance that cannot be ignored. Neglecting your arena maintenance can cause serious, and expensive issues down the road. The problem with the common question that I get, is that there is no equation for how often you need to groom your arena.

An arena should be dragged as soon as ruts, or holes appear anywhere in the arena. But the frequency really depends on the traffic in the arena. If you’re grand prix style jumping, with 15 horses a day on the footing, you will be grooming much more often than a private arena just doing ground work. A busy lesson barn could be dragging the ring multiple times a day, while a private barn can get away with dragging once every week or two.

The footing also plays a big role in how often you drag. Some sands can compact hard when they’re ridden on and need to be dragged to loosen the material up. Some sands are fine granules and move very easily, so the arena develops ruts quickly.

When purchasing footing for your arena, it is important to take maintenance into consideration. When ordering a traditional sand arena, you should find out the angles of the sand as well as granule size and research how that typically performs in an arena. Our dust-free footings are composed of pure silica sand, wax and synthetic fibers. The combination of these components creates a footing that does not compact, and does not move as freely as traditional sand. We get a lot of feedback from customers stating that they do not have to groom their arena as often as they did with traditional sand. Our footing is much more stable, so it takes longer to create ruts when riding. By purchasing our footing, you will significantly cut down on your grooming time!

In addition to our footing, we often suggest to purchase a PARMA Groomer to groom the arenas. PARMA Groomers are a less aggressive groomer so that the fibers in the footing as not pulled out. These groomers are very lightweight and can be pulled with anything from a tractor to a golf cart!

Attached Arenas Create Dust in Barn

Building or renovating a barn can be fun, but also very time consuming. You’ll want to design a barn that promotes good health for both humans and horses in the barn! Attached arenas can create arena dust which could potentially be harmful!!

Although building your barn with an attached arena sounds like an ideal situation, it could severely affect your horses’ health. An article from The HORSE takes a look at Indoor Arena Dust and the damage it causes to horse and rider. The air quality was tested in four different indoor arenas, each with a different barn layout. They noted that the dust levels were highest in the arena that was in the same building as the stalls.

The arena dust can easily migrate to the stalls, as the dust from the stall bedding as well as hay, can increase the dust levels. Many local barns have been building arenas, with stalls lining the inside of the arenas. This can be the worst combination if the traditional sand is used. With the stalls being located in the arena, the horses in the stalls are breathing as much dust in as the horse doing the riding. Dust is not only harmful to your horses but to you too. It can cause many bronchitis issues as well as sinus infection.

Instead of worrying about dust from your arena migrating into your barn, install a footing that is completely dust-free. Our dust-free footing products will relieve the headache of dust levels being high all over your barn. Not only will you never have to water your arena again, but you’re also providing your horse with the best product for them to train on that will properly cushion their every hoof fall.

Spring Cleaning the Tack Trunk

Some parts of the country are having crazy weather, including our location here in Upstate NY. One day it’s 65 degrees, and the next is 30 and snowing. But the warmer weather is giving me spring fever. And all I want to do with spring fever is… clean! My first project: my messy tack trunk. Spring cleaning the tack trunk is always the first big project!Spring cleaning the tack trunk

Over the past year, many items have found their way into my tax box; from extra socks to a few scarves to at least ten dirty horse brushes to tons of horsehair and dirt. I cringe a bit every time I open my trunk. Here are the steps I took when cleaning out my tack trunk:

  • I pulled everything out of the tack trunk and shop-Vacced all of the dirt and hair out of the trunk. I also have a grooming caddy that I shop-vacced.
  • After I pulled everything out, I filled a bucket full of hot water and dish detergent and put all of my synthetic brushes, curry combs, shedding blades, and hoof picks in the bucket and let these soak for a few minutes
  • While the grooming supplies were soaking, I got another bucket with warm water and a tiny bit of soap and started to scrub my trunk in and out to make sure I got rid of all of the grime. After I was done with my trunk, I scrubbed my grooming caddy too.
  • After I washed out the trunk, I went back to my grooming supplies and started rubbing the bristles of the brushes against each other to clean them down to the base of the bristles. I made sure to bang out any debris that was in them. Once they were good and soapy, I transferred them to a clean bucket of water and continued to brush them all together and rinse the soap out. I had to get a second clean bucket of water because the first one ended up being too soapy. Once these were clean, I put them out on a towel to let them dry in the sun.
  • After I finished cleaning the brushes, I went back to my tack trunk contents and started to organize. I got a plastic milk crate, and put all of my bottles of fly spray, tack cleaner, thrush remedies, and liniment into the crate. This works out great because I can pull the crate out to look through my things instead of just pushing them around in the bottom of my trunk.
  • I got a good size Tupperware container to put all of my human and horse emergency kit supplies into. I labeled the container as an emergency first aid kit as well so that it was clearly displayed.
  • I looked up great containers for horse treats and an old coffee cans was one of the first containers listed. Which was great because I had an extra one at home. I thoroughly cleaned this out and dumped in my treats I have. Now I don’t have to open and close that annoying ziplock bag they come in!
  • I went through all of the extra tack that I had in my trunk and sorted them by how often I use them. This was a great time to clean each of them before I decided where their new home was going to be. I had to get a bridle bag to put all of the extra brides and reins I had deep in my trunk. All of my extra spurs and spur straps, I put into another Tupperware container! I also got a small contained to put my winter riding gear in, such as my fuzzy helmet cover that goes over my ears, a few fleece headbands, and riding gloves. 
  • While I was in the spring cleaning mood, I took the extra time to clean my saddle too (which I hadn’t done for awhile).

Once I finished cleaning out my trunk and cleaning all of my tack, I felt like we had a brand new barn! Spring cleaning the tack trunk was successful and I now had everything nice and organized! Now I just have to make sure I continue to keep it clean and organized… I may have to revisit this post mid summer for another clean-out. We’ll see how I do!

Training Your Dogs Around Horses

My black lab puppy!

Dogs around Horses can be the best of friends or the worst of enemies!! I just moved my horse to a new private barn that has only two horses. It is a quiet barn with miles of trails, which is exactly what I want! Riding trails weave in and out of the woods and across fields. With such nice landscapes, I’ve also been thinking about bringing my year old Labrador retriever on trail rides too; especially since my horse is great with dogs. The problem? My dog has never been around horses.

Dogs around horses that are trail riding partners have a few requirements. They need to be physically fit in order to go on long trail rides and they need the mental soundness enough to follow your commands. Some dogs are more independent than others and will run ahead, but they should listen when you ask them to come back to you, or wait for you to catch up. My dog loves to go on long walks. She is very independent and she is the type that will run ahead on walks through the woods to follow a scent. Even though she sometimes goes very far on a scent, she will come back as soon as I call her. Although dependent dogs might be easier to take on trail rides because they will stay close to you, a well-trained independent dog can also be a good trail companion.

Once I decided that I wanted to bring my dogs around horses, I started looking up ways to train and teach my dogs around horses. Before you introduce your dog to the barn, or your horse, your dog should be well trained. They should be able to understand simple commands such as sit, stay, and down, both on and off the leash. The first thing I did in training my dog, was to bring them to the barn on a leash. I closed the barn off so she wouldn’t see the horses outside and let her sniff around inside the barn. After a bit of smelling on the leash, I let her run around inside while I mucked stalls, so that she could get familiar to different sites and smells. When I finished doing my chores around the barn, I pulled down one of my saddle pads that has my horse’s scent on it and let my dog sniff that for a bit to get used to the smell of the horse.

I brought my dog to the barn, and let her smell my horses scent a few times before introducing her to my horse. When she was relaxed enough around the barn, I decided it was time to introduce her to my horse.  I asked another person to be there, who had enough horse experience to hold my horse while I introduced the puppy to my horse. My dog was on a leash and my horse was on a lead. My horse of course has seen dogs before so was not too concerned about the dog. Observe your dog as you bring her closer to your horse. Does she show signs of aggression or fear? If she is showing aggression firmly say no and sit her down. Praise her once she relaxes and move a bit more closer to the horse. Once you’ve made it to the horse, make sure both the horse and dog are comfortable and let the dog sniff your horse, your horse may also sniff the dog because he has never met this particular dog. The whole interaction could take days or weeks to get to the point where both your dog and horse are comfortable together.

As you bring your dog to the barn more often she will easily become more relaxed. The next step is to keep your dog on a leash and allow your horse to run around in the pasture. Walk your dog on the leash around the pasture while the horse moves about.  Praise your dog when she does not show any signs of fear or aggression. Move closer and closer to the horse as you make your way around the arena.

Continue to teach your dog to respect your horse and his space. It could take months before your dog is calm enough to go on a trail ride with you. The important things are to take baby steps and be patient. This could be a long process! Good luck and wish me luck in the rest of my trail partner training journey!

Horse Owners Preparing for Hurricane Matthew

Graphic Via
Graphic Via

Hurricane Matthew is bringing huge amounts of rain and high winds to the South Eastern part of the United States. Millions of Americans have to evacuate their homes in advance of the storm hitting their area. While people are busy preparing for Hurricane Matthew, so are horse owners.

Horse owners around the country are offering their help to horses located in the affected zone. Transportation services are offering free rides to haul some horses further inland, while barns further from the coast are offering up their extra stalls to keep horses in. There are even established evacuation centers and databases to keep your horses in during the storm.

It’s easy to pack up your dog and cat and throw them in the car to evacuate, but a horse is a different story. It’s dangerous to keep a horse in the path of a major storm. Structures could crumble and fences could blow down. It is highly recommended that you move your horse and not leave them in the path of the storm.

Some tips are recommended for horses that could potentially become loose:

  • Braid a luggage tag or dog tag with the horse’s information as well as the owners contact number.
  • Write the owners name and phone number directly on the horse’s hooves with a permanent marker and then go over it with a clear nail polish. This will make the marker last long.
  • Write directly on the horse’s body with a permanent marker. Again, write the owners name and contact number. This will not hurt your horse in any way.

If you would like more information on disaster plans for your horses. This is a great resource!

Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by Hurricane Matthew!

Introducing Non-Horse Friends to Your Equestrian Partner

When you’re a “horse girl” most of your friends are also “horse girls”. But maybe you find a friend who has never been around horses; what do you do to introduce this non-horsey friend to your horse? I recently just introduced a close friend to the beauty of horses; here is my experience with it!

My horse, Red!

My friend had never been around a horse before. The first thing she said was “I don’t think I’ve ever been this close to a horse.” The first thing I did was introduce her to the four horses in the barn, explained their personalities a bit, and had her say hello to each of them. When it was time to pull my horse out of the stall to groom him, I went over a few safety precautions about being around horses. To horse-people, they come as second nature, but to someone who has never been around horses, you should teach them how to be safe around horses. Before we even went to the barn I told her she needed to have jeans and boots on. My horse is very gentle, but he’s also clumsy and can easily misplace a foot. I then taught her that horses have many blind spots. I showed her to talk to him as you’re moving around him, and keep a hand on his body so he always knows where you are.

Grooming is always my favorite horse activity, and teaching a friend how to properly groom was fun too! I explained to her that although my horse is very laid back, there are other horses in the barn that when you groom them you need to move slowly and not be loud around them or they’ll spook. As I was saddling my horse up, I was explaining what each piece of equipment is and what the purpose of it was.

Once in the arena, I hopped on and rode around the arena a few times to show her the different gaits and how to move him off of your leg, etc. Then it was time for her to try. She was a little nervous before she got on but I explained that he was a very gentle horse and nothing would happen. I lead her around the arena a few times just walking until she got used to what it feels like to be on the horse. After about 20 minutes I asked if she wanted to walk around the arena by herself and she did!

I really had a blast showing a friend of mine a bit of what owning a horse is like. If you have a friend that you can introduce your horse to, I encourage you to do it! Loving horses is easy, sharing that love with other non-horse people is easy too!


Let IGK Equestrian know how your experience went when introducing a friend to your equestrian partner!!