Paragliders, Helicopters, Sueño…Oh My!

I climbed on to Sueño’s back, and we began to move forward together. I was getting on his back for a couple of weeks, and we would move around bareback together. He was fine with it, had a good mind, and I was so excited about the future. Then a shadow approached us. I looked up, and before I could respond, a paraglider was directly above us by maybe thirty feet. Not only was he above us, but he was going up and down as if he was on a rollercoaster.

I felt Sueño’s entire body tighten up. His head flew up, his back tightened and hollowed, and his breath stopped. Somehow, he didn’t blow up like most horses would. I hopped off and stood next to him and did what my grandmother would have done. I shook my fist at the paraglider saying a few choice words. I walked Sueño around until he started to breath normally again. I went and got the brush running it all over his body. I then scratched his ears and jaws; all of his favorite things. It was my feeble attempt to try and end on a good note and not let that paraglider affect his young, green mind.

The next day I went out, got on him, and he let me stay there. He didn’t try to buck me off, bolt, or anything like that. Instead, what he did actually seemed a bit worse. He wouldn’t take one step forward. His head dropped towards the ground as I listened to him grind his teeth. He grabbed hold of the reins and chewed and chewed. All signs that he was thoroughly stressed. I hopped off and loved on him until he calmed down.

The paragliders were becoming a major problem for my horses. They flew over them each day after the infamous crash, and I noticed that all of my horses were chewing their sides incessantly, which meant ulcers. I called and asked my neighbor to ask them to not fly over my horses again, I put my horses on Gut X and sucralfate, and they all got a month off. I then had my appendix removed, so they got a few more weeks off. After their teeth were done, I decided it was time for all of us to get back to work.

Sueño seemed to be back to normal. No more chewing or grinding his teeth. We moved through everything easily as we refreshed all that he learned before the incident. I thought it was time to bring out the mounting block after a few weeks to see how he felt about me getting on him. I never did get on him. I still haven’t.

Each time I was about to get on, his breathing would either stop or become rapid. His body tensed as his head flew up. He looked for the lead rope to chew on. This is not what I wanted to see at all. I put getting on his back on hold as we went back to other groundwork challenges. Meanwhile I kept trying to figure out other ways to work with him; a different approach that would help him relax.

The problem was that now he was afraid of me being higher than him. He associated it with the paraglider flying directly above him. Every different approach I tried did not ease his fear. Each time he held his breath. Yes, I could have gotten on him and rode him through it, but what would the ramifications of that be? Would he get ulcers again? Would I be bucked off? If you skip a step where there is tension, it always comes back to haunt you.

Lying in bed I remembered a documentary I watched years ago called Taming Wild by Elsa Sinclair. The documentary is about giving a wild mustang the choice as to whether or not to allow someone to ride on her back. In it, Elsa gets on the back of the mustang once, and the horse seems to completely accept her. However, the next day and many days and weeks after that, she said, “No way.” Sinclair realized that whenever she stood on a stump to get on her, the horse held her breath. Instead of getting on her, she stood next to her on the stump until she finally let out a sigh, and that would be the end of their work for the day. Each day it took less time before the horse sighed, and then finally one day she let Sinclair get on her again.

“This is it!” I exclaimed in the darkness.

The next day, without a lead rope or any way to stop Sueño from walking away, he followed me to the mounting block, and I slowly climbed up alongside him. I stood facing his head with my hand resting on his back. We stood together like that for a half hour. He never walked away, but he did hold his breath. Then he began breathing fast….held his breath….breathing fast….. began shaking his head….for 3o minutes. I stood still and let him work through it. Finally, I felt him rest his hindleg, and he let out a deep, long sigh. I scratched his entire back, hopped off the mounting block and scratched the area in front of his ears; his favorite. We have been doing this six days a week, and the amount of time is getting shorter and shorter.

Then today happened.

I gathered up Sueño to work with him, and we were successfully going through some of his suppling exercises. I was so happy at how things were going, and I even had the idea of possibly getting on his back today.

Across from my hay field, my neighbors planted rows and rows of corn. Today a helicopter came to spray the fields with fertilizer. In order to spray the neighbor’s field, the helicopter has to fly over a portion of our property when he turns around. He comes close to where the horses are.

Helicopter after he turned around and headed back to spray the field

I am no fan of helicopters after a friend died in one, but I knew that this was a really good training opportunity. So, without a lead rope on, I took him over to the mounting block. I climbed up and stood alongside Sueño with my hand resting on his back. He leaned into me gently; not to push me off but to seek comfort I believe. He began moaning, and at the end of the moan, he blew out his nose. He did this three times. He has never done this before. I could have jumped off the block to comfort him, but I felt it was important to let him do it; let him work through it. Each time he blew out his nose and shook his head. I felt like he was releasing his fear of anything being above him, so I stood in that space with him.

What did I feel, I felt peaceful. I felt humbled by the fact that he leaned into me for support. I was in awe of his courage and willingness to stand with me, to trust me as this helicopter approached us over and over.

Then the helicopter looked like it was about to fall out of the sky on to a house not far from my hay field, but somehow he landed in the field across the street. Sueño took it all in stride. In fact, he rested his hindleg, was breathing normal, and finally let out a big sigh. I immediately hopped off and walked away from the mounting block. He followed me and buried his head into my arms where I held his head telling him how much I loved him.

I think we had a breakthrough, but I won’t know until tomorrow and the coming days. What I can say is when you have an opportunity like this, take it. I could have told myself to wait until the helicopter was gone. I knew it was a gift, so I accepted it. What I learned today is that sometimes it’s not about action and movement, but about standing there, breathing calmly with your horse, and providing your horse the space to work through an issue with you by their side.

Happy Boy after we finished our work today.

If you wish to learn more about Taming Wild, here is the trailer . If you want to stream it, you can visit her webpage at

Sueño’s Hooves

I am so excited that I decided to write a quick blog about Sueño’s hooves. Before I start, I want to say this…

Whenever I hear someone refer to the hooves of a thoroughbred as “typical,’ which means weak hoof walls, thin soles, underrun heels, and long toes it is like someone is running their fingernails down a chalkboard or worse….

Shoving peanut butter into my mouth.

When Sueño arrived, he had one very upright hoof, and one that was pancaked out. At first Ibthought he had a club foot, because it looked like one. When I lifted his hoof, I saw he had a 2.5 inch heel, which meant there was a lot of room for improvement. You want a horse’s heels to be around 3/4 of an inch to an inch tall. The right front had very short heels and flared quarters along with a toe that needed to be brought back.

That’s okay because I love rehabbing hooves especially on thoroughbreds. I love to show people that a thoroughbred can have really strong, healthy, barefoot hooves, and Sueño would be another opportunity to show this. When I saw Sueño’s hooves, I realized immediately I had a big challenge ahead of me, and he would be great teacher for myself and others.

First thing I did was put him on the diet recommended by Pete Ramey. Instead of me explaining it, here is his article explaining it.

I recommend this diet to people that want to shift to barefoot or keep their horses in shoes. If your horse is always throwing a shoe, you need to look at their diet. If your horse isn’t racing or doing endurance, they don’t need oats. All of my horses are on a low NSC diet. They do not get candy or anything high in sugar. That doesn’t mean they don’t get treats, but they are all very low in sugar. Farrier’s Formula is okay, but it really isn’t enough for horses. I wouldn’t be able to rehab my horses the way I have with Farrier’s Formula. California Trace works great to balance out my hay, so they get a balanced mineral diet.

Sueño does not get sugar treats, molasses, peppermint candies, or sweet feed. His hooves were so disconnected with huge rings that if I would have fed him any sugary feed, it would have continued, and we could have gone downhill with severe hoof issues. Several studies haven proven that sugar creates disconnected hoof wall. When a hoof wall disconnects from the structures underneath, the coffin bone sinks too far down into the hoof capsule. I knew without having to get an x-ray, that the coffin bone had sunk a bit too far into the hoof capsule.

Sugar, carbs, and high amounts of iron undermine the hoof creating a weak hoof. My friend Heather one day said something like, “Everyone says a good hoof is being bred out of the Thoroughbred when in reality it is being fed out of them.” She is so right. All of my Thoroughbreds have rock hard hoof walls. They never crack or chip. They also have nice, thick souls. I walk them over rock all the time, and they never get ouchy. I’ve gone on a couple of rides with Dulce barefoot, and not one little chips of the hoof wall occurred. Also, no stone bruises. When my horse Shandoka was in shoes, he always had stone bruises. When I took the shoes off and changed his diet, he never did again.

If you are on well water and your horse has weak walls, soft souls, and throws his or her shoes all the time, look into how much iron your horse is getting. Iron isn’t a bad thing, but if they are getting too much, it blocks the absorption of copper and zinc, which are vital for creating and growing strong hooves. If you are on a well, and your horse has weak walls, you can buy an RV water filter and put it on your hose. It will filter it out. They are inexpensive, and they can be found at Walmart.

If you don’t want to do that, you can add more copper and zinc to your horse’s feed to offset the iron intake, and if you do this, consult an equine nutritionist after getting your water tested. Also, those brown and red salt licks are filled with iron. Only put out a white salt lick. Check your feed to see how high the iron levels are. Tribute recently lowered the amount of iron in their feed and added more Vitamin E.

Try to cut out all extraneous sugars and carbs that you can. I do not feed my horses any oats. They don’t need them. If I were racing or doing endurance rides, I would feed them oats (then it would be naked oats if I could find them), but since they aren’t, they don’t need them. Oats can be very aggravating to the gut as well causing ulcers. I feed them ground flaxseed instead. The flaxseed has to be ground up before feeding. Manna Pro and Triple Crown sell ground flax. My horses have PLENTY of energy, and it is a very focused energy instead of a skittish, hot energy created by oats or corn.

When I began working on his right hoof, I brought his toe back, and I removed the quarter flares. He had hardly any heels, so I simply kept them balanced and rockered them to encourage him to walk and run heel toe. What is a rocker? I basically am creating a rocking chair effect. I don’t take any heel height off, but I file at a 35 degree angle with the inner structures of his hoof to create the rocking chair effect.

His left front as I mention was very upright. Trying to keep that one in a good place was not easy. Here is what I did trimming wise. Again, we have a bit of a ways to go, but in a month, this hoof is in a much better place.

During the winter, he barely grew any hoof except for heel on his left front. You have to be very careful when you lower tall heels, because it will lame your horse if you drop them down too fast. This happened with my horse Shandoka when he got his first trim from a farrier. He was lame for two months. Lowering the heels really affects the tendons and ligaments. When I began working on him in the winter, I would lower his heels a quarter inch, allow his legs to adjust. If he moved fine, I would lower them another quarter inch a week later, and so on and so on until I got his heels down to 3/4 of an inch. He moved great at this height, so I knew we were at the right spot for him. Even thought I did this, he still looked horribly upright.

In addition to the trimming, an important aspect is also stretching. I stretch out his front legs every day. He was not fond of it at first, but he is finally relaxing into it. His left shoulder fascia is really tight, and as of yesterday, I finally got that to release a bit more. Again, we are moving in the right direction.

While I did this on his left front, I worked on keeping his right front toe back and the quarters tight. As I did this, his heels began to grow. We were moving in the right direction on both hooves.

When summer hit, he began growing hoof wall out the yin yang. Before I knew it, another old, disconnected ring was hitting creating flares, which can cause the hoof wall further up to disconnect. I began filing on him every single week. Why?

His heels were out of control. I would bring them down to where they needed to be, and in two weeks they were as high as could be again. This is not good for the tendons and ligaments. They were being flung around like a yo yo. He also wore on the medial side and not on the lateral creating crooked hooves.

I utilized some of Jec Ballou’s exercises for straightness using polls and a bar ditch. Within two weeks, he was wearing his heels down equally. I was shocked how quick that changed, so no more crooked hooves. I also began filing on his heels each week to keep them in place and touching up his rocker each week. I also stayed on his quarters, which constantly flare out to a perfect circle. I keep bringing them back in. I also make sure when the rings at the toe hit the ground, they have a strong bevel on them, so they don’t become a lever creating more disconnection further up the hoof wall. As you can see in the picture below, his left front has much better angles in a month of weekly work. Since it is working so well, we will keep doing it throughout the summer, and we will see if he improves anymore. I believe his tendons and ligaments kept wanting to go back to their original position, so his heels grew like crazy to accommodate them. By doing this work, they are becoming more and more relaxed, and I believe his heels will grow normally one day. I am ridiculously excited.

This is how Sueño’s left front looked when he got here. I actually thought he may be a club foot. Straight up and down all around. He was totally stood up.
The top picture is a month ago, and the bottom picture is today. We have a ways to go still, and I think he will improve. If this is where he stays, I will be grateful. It is 150% better than when he first got here.

On the right front, I make sure his toe doesn’t take off dragging his heels forward. His heels are staying in place and growing straight down. Horses with underrun heels look like they have no heels. Truth is they have a lot of heel, but it has grown towards the toe. When that happens, lots of times the toe is too long. The hoof is trying to find a way to balance itself out, so the toe drags the heels forward. Staying on that right toe allowed his heels to grow and keeps them in place. I still think his toe needs to come back a bit more, but his hoof isn’t quite ready for that. It has moved back a lot so far. My guess is we will see a change in the next few months. The great thing is that he has heels on his right hoof. Such a nice sight to see.

I thought I had a before picture of his right front, but I can’t find it. If you decide to, trust me, it is a much different hoof. If I ever find it, I will update the blog with it.

We have a ways to go, and I hope to post the changes in six months and a year. The last of his Florida hooves are now hitting the ground. Now we have to grow out this new hoof from when he moved here, which displays all of the changes he went through. The third hoof is going to be nice if nothing unforeseen happens. It all takes time, but it is worth it. Am I changing his confirmation? Yes, I am. It was a scary choice, but it was one that was needed. If I wouldn’t have tried to adjust his left heel, get those tendons and ligaments to relax, he would have had major issues as he got older. Like I said, he has a very tight left shoulder that is beginning to balance out more and more as I stretch him and help this hoof change.

This is why I love keeping my horse’s barefoot. If Sueño had shoes on, I’d never be able to create this kind of change. If you keep your horses in shoes, follow the diet on Pete’s page. It will help you out a lot. Feeding the hoof can make all the difference!

I highly recommend you get your hay tested, and that you balance out your minerals for your horses. If you are on a well, get your water tested for iron. Try to cut out as much sugar as possible, and find yourself a good barefoot trimmer. If you have a horse similar to Sueño that needs to be filed on in between trims, ask your barefoot trimmer to teach you. I also recommend that you read all of Pete’s articles at His videos are great as well, and they are a constant help to me.

For those of you that have OTTB’s, don’t buy into the idea that they will always have bad hooves; that there is even a typical TB hoof. You can change them for the better. I have done it over and over, and if I can do it, there is no reason why you can’t.

Feed Time

Harley, Dulce, Chaco and Mojo

So, I was asked by someone who follows my blog what I fed my horses, and what I do to take care of them. Another person asked me if I intend to rescue another horse. I will ask the last question in the next blog, but first I want to thank anyone that reads my blog.

Warning: This is boring, but I hope it answers questions.

First of all, I’m not a rescue, not a non-profit, but I do rescue horses to keep here for good. It’s a personal thing. I grew up in racing, and now I choose to be on this side of racing; giving them a home when they’re done racing. I do have an llc, but that is for my trimming, which I don’t charge for, and horse massage, which I rarely charge for. I obviously am a bad business person. I just wanted to make it clear that I don’t ever claim to be a rescue and rehoming organization. My goal is to give a thoroughbred a good, loving home one horse at a time.

So, I keep my horses on a low starch and sugar diet. I don’t feed any grains at all…no oats, corn, or sweetfeed. Molasses is banned from the property. Why? Bad for gut health and hoof health. They are no longer racing, so there is no need for them to be on that anymore. They also have white salt added to their feed. They also are only fed alfalfa as a supplement. In the summer they get a handful on their feed 2x a day. In the winter, they get a pound in the morning and evening. That’s it. Again, it is really high in sugars, and it can cause gut stones. I use it as a supplement to buffer their stomach acid.

Chaco and Dulce are fed beet pulp, timothy hay pellets, and Neutrena Safe Choice for Easy Keepers feed with a scoop of flax seed. I add vitamin E oil, flax oil, California Trace (a mineral supplement that balances out their mineral intake and is great for hooves and coat), Opti-zyme, and that handful of alfalfa. They both get individual supplements added, which I will detail below.

Harley is fed Teff hay pellets and some of the Safe Choice. He is an easy keeper, so he only gets this because of the supplements that I give him. Plus, he may climb the fence panels to get to their feed buckets if I don’t give him anything. Basically, he gets hay with a handful of the Safe Choice for taste.

They all get this in mash form.

Mojo was fed four small meals a day consisting of what I feed Dulce and Chaco. He also was on OptiZyme, an MOS prebiotic, butyrate, Total Gut Health, Nutrient Buffer, Equishure hindgut buffer and gastromend. He also got vitamin E and California Trace. He loved it all and cleaned his bucket each and every single day.

Chaco gets shots once a week of Glucosamine and Petosan to treat his chronic arthritis in his stifle. He was injured while racing, so when I brought him here, we ended up getting arthroscopic surgery to remove three chips. He also gets Hyaluronic acid, a joint supplement made up of natural herbs for his arthritis, and at times he gets turmeric with boswellia. I tried ProStride on him, but he really thrashed when the needle went into the joint. It was missed, and we ended up spending $800 for a week of comfort. This is why I don’t even consider IRAP. Because of this, he is on Pentosan and Glucosamine. He also receives a prebiotic in addition to the Opti-Zyme

Dulce had gut issues as noted in earlier blogs. I’m constantly trying to stay ahead of any issues keeping him nice and stable. He is on gastromend right now, but he will go off in a few months. He does not do well at all on any kind of buffer; stomach or hindgut. The handful of alfalfa is what works for him. He also is on Total Gut Health, which really helps him, hyaluronic acid, and when he goes off the gastromend, he goes on herbs for his gut. I find that fluctuating back and forth seems to really help him. I believe his gut, when I got him, was high in bad bacteria, and that is why he had such severe issues last summer.

Harley receives a glucosamine/omega oil supplement and a pre/probiotic in the morning and Optizyme in the afternoon. The main thing Harley needs is the California Trace and Vitamin E for his hooves.

They also have 250 gallons of water available to them 24/7. I change it out every other day scrubbing the troughs to prevent green algae from taking over. In the winter, their buckets are heated, and we haul out hot water to their buckets to encourage them to drunk and hopefully prevent impaction.

I trim all of their hooves, which I learned from Pete Ramey and my friend Heather Dwire. Chaco has a hard time with trims due to his stifle. I have to ice his stifle while I trim his front hooves on the first day, and I give him Buteless afterwards as well as his shots of Pentosan and Glucosamine. The next day I ice his stifle for 20 minutes before I trim his rear hooves. This is the trim that hurts him the most, because he has to stand on his injured leg the most while I trim his left hind hoof. Afterwards, I ice him again for twenty minutes, do some bodywork, give him Buteless, and I put him on the pasture. I doubt a farrier would want to come out two days in a row to trim him or give Chaco all the breaks he needs. Being able to trim my horses helps them out; especially Chaco. Harley has a negative palmar angle on his left front hoof from how he used to be shod before. Because of his age, I will never be able to fully reverse it, but with corrective trimming, it doesn’t get worse. He grows sooooooo much hoof that I need to trim him every two weeks. Dulce came here with hoof issues but his hooves are normal for now…..knock on wood!

Chaco’s hind hooves are booted whenever he is on hard ground with Easy Cloud boots to absorb the shock and protect his stifle. When we go on trail rides, all of the horses are booted with Easy Gloves.

I’ve studied horse massage and various styles over many years, so I do most of the bodywork on my guys. Dulce suffers from a tight TMJ, so I do a lot of release work on him. Chaco’s groin area is super tight and sore from overcompensation for his stifle. Because of that, his poll gets really tight, so Chaco gets a lot of work every couple of days. Harley tends to be very stiff in the poll, and he gets some discomfort in his back every now and then. He is not too fond of massage stuff, so we do active stretches, which he loves and benefits him quite well.

Chaco, Dulce and Harley

They are all worked in whatever way is appropriate for them 3x a week, but they also work out each other in their play time. The other day Chaco and Dulce were full on racing each other while Harley egged them on.

They do have stalls that they can go into whenever they want, but I never lock them in the stalls. I want them to be able to move around at will. Much better for their gut I believe. I put hay in piles all over to encourage them to walk all over as if they are on pasture to eat. This puts a lot of miles on their hooves, and again it is really good for their gut. If Chaco has to rest his leg, or any of them gets hurt, I have a small turn out area where they can still move, have shelter, but can never break out into a run or a trot easily.

They do go on pasture bright and early in the morning, and are usually brought down around noon when the heat really begins to spike. Why? Sugars begin to rise in grass the moment the sun hits it, and as it gets hotter and hotter, the sugars go higher and higher. This is not good for the gut or the hoof. Some horses can adjust fine, but I figure why tempt fate? After six to seven hours of pasture time, they come off the pasture on their own. I rarely have to bring them down; it’s as if they know it isn’t good for them to eat that much sugar, and they head down usually when I go out to move them down.

During winter nights, I put blankets on them. I do remove them during the day unless an arctic cold front decides to come for a visit that is intolerable. During the summer, unless it is too hot, I put flysheets on them. I prefer to not put all of that pesticide on them if at all possible.

Finally, I grow my own hay. I hand pick all of the weeds all summer long, because again I don’t want to put herbicide through their gut. I know they say it doesn’t bother them, but as a former beekeeper, if you saw what I saw when herbicide is sprayed, you wouldn’t want to do it. My hives would start dying off within two weeks. My hay field was neglected by the former owner for many years, so I unfortunately have to pick A LOT of weeds.

I hope this explains what I do, answers any questions or doubts. I encourage you to ask any rescue what they do if they already aren’t posting it. I think it is a good thing to ask.

Forest Ride

Every now and then these two old timers like to stop to talk to me, or maybe I should say talk to each other in front of me. One was a rancher and the other did rodeo for a good portion of his life. They sometimes include me in their conversations, which start off something like, “How are your horses doing? You riding those thoroughbreds? They aren’t too much for you?” I try to answer before they start debating. The rodeo guy things thoroughbreds can pretty much do anything in an arena, and the ranching guy believes they spook at everything, they have bad minds, and they only belong on the track. They both agree that they can’t be ridden on the trail. I rarely get a word in.

This discussion I’ve heard so many times. Several people told me Shandoka would never amount to anything, and I should just take him to the sale. We proved them all wrong, and I endeavor to show everyone what thoroughbreds can do to hopefully convince someone out there to adopt one. It’s the reason why I write this blog and post the pictures.

Dulce is third OTTB I’ve trained for the trail. I wish I could pony him with another horse, but it never works out for me this way. Instead, I pony him. Before I get into the saddle, we go for walks, we explore things together, and I do everything I ask of him to do. I’ve done this with all three, and it pays off. Today I took Dulce for his first ride under saddle up in the forest.

Dulce is a horse that needs to be walked first in the beginning. His mind gets agitated with excitement, so I need to relax his mind first. If I got on him and go for it, we will do battle the entire time. My expectations will be defeated, and all he and I will do is get totally frustrated with one another. I can’t stress this enough….in the beginning, throw your expectations out the window and pay attention to what your horse is telling you he or she needs to feel more confident. How did I know he needed me to walk him first? He didn’t want me to get on him, and I saw the concerned look in his eye; so we walked. I let him walk until I saw him relax and feel comfortable. His head lowered and his eye relaxed.

I took Dulce and Harley back to the trailer, and I got on him. This time he stood perfectly. He was on the muscle a bit, and I kept saying, “Easy, easy,” and within a hundred feet, he mellowed. I’m asking a lot of him. Harley won’t pony him, so he must lead the way on his first ride into and through things he never experienced on the track. He needs to push through the brush first or walk buy weird looking downed trees first instead of following a seasoned horse that can show him it’s no big deal. Harley follows us and that does help, but it’s not the same.. This is a lot to ask of a newbie, but gosh dang he is so brave and smart. As you can see in the video, he didn’t jump, bolt, buck, rear…..nothing. He walked along calmly with his ears forward interested in everything. He eyed a few things but kept going. He had no problem with moving forward. He did so well that I was able to ride him one handed. I kept the ride short, because I wanted to release the pressure from him pretty quick to reward him, so we only did three miles today.

Dulce rode over rocks, along the rim of a steep canyon, pushed through oak brush taller than me in the saddle, rode through some dense forest, and he dealt with some smells that made him a bit nervous. We wound around pine trees, and we climbed up and rode down a hill. Riding in the forest is so different than riding out in the BLM down below. It can be so claustrophobic, and you never know what is around the next corner. A rabbit ran out in front of us, and he stopped to watch it never spooking. He did everything I could have hoped for.

The great thing about trail riding a horse is that it is a nice break from arena work, they love it and it lifts their spirits, and it teaches them to put all of that arena work to use out on the trail. It also helps them learn to use their hind-end naturally, because each time you do hills, they naturally need to shift back on to that hind end. It also strengthens them physically and mentally in different ways that arena work can’t do.

I always want to say something: Ignore a horse’s pedigree. Focus on the horse that is right in front of you. Don’t let people put ideas in your head on how your horse is going to act because of the sires in his or her line. If I listened to that, I never would have attempted this due to who one of his sires is through his dam. If you have preconceived ideas about how your horse will act, you will create a horse that acts like those ideas. Thoroughbreds love the trail. They absolutely love it, and if you take your time with your horse, you too can have a great trail horse.

I can’t wait to get back out there with him. It felt so good to be out there again on such a brave, smart horse. Gosh, he takes my breath away.

Getting Our Butterflies in Formation

I was watching an online class by Tik Maynard, and he talked about getting butterflies during competitions, I guess a well known jumper once said, “The difference between my butterflies and your butterflies, is that I get mine moving in formation.” Dulce is such a smart horse. He is kind, he is powerful, he is brave, he is curious, he is playful, he is caring, and he is really good at causing butterflies to scatter.

The moment he knows we are going anywhere, he does what he can to cause butterflies or situations to scatter with the wind making it hard for me to stay collected. I’ve learned though. I learned how to help him, which I detailed in my last blog about Dulce, and I’ve learned other ways to help us.

For instance, when I feed in the morning, I unplug everything all of the extension cords that run to the cameras, and then I walk away. He knows that something is up, but he stays relaxed. I hook up the trailer the night before….these simple steps reduce his anxiety about leaving Chaco and his home. He moved around a lot before he came here, and he gets separation anxiety.

Best laid plans with him though always seem to scatter with the wind, and the day of our first trail ride was no different. Everything I thought I had perfectly planned, was not. I couldn’t find a darn thing, and each time I came up short, he got a bit hotter. I thought it was a sign that I should let it all pass and try again another day. However, I was determined to get Dulce out there. Despite all of the obstacles, I got him loaded with Harley, and off we went.

My plan was to ride Harley and pony Dulce. Immediately, that fell apart. Harley began spinning the moment he realized he was to be the lead horse despite our practicing it several times at home and in the arena. I hopped off, put a saddle on Dulce, and said a prayer. This is not the ideal way to take a horse out for his first trail ride. Usually, you pony him and give him a chance to figure things out without a rider on his back. However, I’ve never done it the ideal way. Shandoka’s and Chaco’s first trail rides were with me riding them; not ponying them. Why should this be any different?

What is so cool about this video is that there is some solid, white, flat rock in the ground. Usually, horses will try to avoid this if they’ve never come across it. They’ll walk around it. He had no problem walking on it at all.

I got on Dulce, and he immediately acted up. He thought it was time to be turned out on pasture, and was ready to take off at a full run. I did a one reined stop, hopped off again, and decided to walk him alongside Harley for a few hundred feet to see what would happen.

Within a couple of minutes, his excitement level dropped from a five to a three. Much more manageable. I hopped back on, and it was as if he knew exactly what to do. My only goal at this point was to remain present with him and help him. I slowed down my breathing, relaxed my back, and I softened my hands. His ears were forward, and he moved forward at a good clip. One thing about Dulce is that he takes care of me when I get on him. He may act up for the first few minutes, but not out of malicious intent, but because he feels so good. He immediately settles down and focuses on the work in front of him. He is a real honest horse.

Poor Harley was none too thrilled. Harley, likes to stop and smell the grass, eating along the way whenever possible. Now he was trotting alongside Dulce to keep up.

There is something so amazing about that first ride; when all of your work and time with your horse comes together in a beautiful moment. He didn’t fight me, struggle or spook, but stayed as present with me as I was with him. Not one word needed to be said between us, because we both knew what the other one was feeling. To feel such a powerful being beneath you willing to work with you instead of overtake you is a blissful, blessing that is beyond words.

What made me really happy was that he loves being out there. It is so good for the horse’s mind to go out on trail rides. It not only heals the rider’s soul, but it heals the horses mind. It brings their soul back to their nature despite the human on their back. We ask them to do so many things, and to me this is one of the best ways to give back to them; let them travel over the ground and see new things….be out in the open country.

This is the third Thoroughbred that I’ve trained to ride on the trail. Lots of people tell me it can’t be done, because they are too spooky and dangerous. I’m hoping that Shandoka, Chaco and now Dulce (and one day Mojo) will convince any doubter out there that a Thoroughbred can do anything. They are as versatile as any horse out there.

Dulce is an incredible being, and we have a long way to go until he isn’t a neon green trail horse. Riding him now two times on the trail, I can feel how he knows who he is, and he doesn’t let me forget it. With that said, somehow he and I both got our butterflies in formation, and it feels so good.

Dulce is a Human Whisperer

My sweet horse and ride Dulce

I’ve been going through a few things with Dulce that I’ve been trying to work out. I’m no horse whisperer, but my horses are human whisperers. Usually, they’re really good at getting through to me, but if I don’t hear them, it’s a full on scream. Dulce started screaming.

Despite several successful rides, Dulce started going downhill with no explanation. He got worse in the trailer stress wise. To say that he rocked the trailer would be an understatement, and it got to the point that Harley wasn’t too thrilled about getting in there with him. He suddenly got very gassy again, and often kicked at his tummy. He would poop at least 15 times, and I began to worry that I would cause him to colic. I needed to solve these puzzles, or I decided I would retire him. He comes first.

One thing is that when I start to get ready to go, Dulce gets Harley and Chaco running all over the place. If I catch Chaco, he tries to separate us. I decided he needed to be round penned before I load him in the trailer to blow off steam. My grandpa once told me when we were watching a racehorse act up before a race, that you need to let certain horses express their nervous energy before they’ll concentrate. Dulce is that horse.

I love doing round pen work, because it creates a dance between you and your horse. It opens up a whole new dialogue with your horse, and when they’re having issues, sometimes this is the best place to return to. He runs in circles with you standing in the middle. You direct his feet asking him to change directions and gaits. He may come at you, but you try your best to not move and again direct his feet away from you. You get him to change directions, so he knows that you are deciding where he goes like the alpha in a herd would. This creates respect, and then comes that moment. The circles that they trot around you get smaller, they’re keeping their eye and ear on you, they’re licking their lips, and then you turn your back to the horse and wait hoping that he will stop and walk towards you. When they do, it is exciting. It never gets boring. They then will walk with you in whatever pattern you walk. Dulce did this, and he loaded into the trailer more calmly afterwards. One problem fixed.

The gas, as you remember if you’ve read my blog, Dulce struggled with last summer. He had bad gas and would get colicy every single day until I put him on Ramard’s Total Gut Health, which he is still on today. I think he gets so excited and hot right before we leave that a lot of stomach acid starts circulating in his tummy causing excess gas. I’ve tried all sorts of pastes, and whenever I give him a paste, he gets extremely agitated. I decided to take a different route. An hour before we go, I mix up one scoop of the TGH in 4 oz of Aloe Vera Gel, not juice. with a tablespoon of honey. Honey is very soothing for upset stomachs. I mix it up thoroughly, pour it over a little bit of food with some alfalfa pellets that are softened with warm water. He loves it, laps it up, and no more kicking at his tummy. Second problem fixed.

Even though he loads calmly into the trailer, he doesn’t stand there calmly at all. He paws at the ground, rocks the trailer, and tries to get out by going through the window. I realized he thinks he’s in the starting gate at the track, and he’s itching to bust out. I closed the window, and oila, he totally calmed down and now stands perfectly calm. Harley no longer hesitates to load with him in there. Third problem fixed.

The pooping issue was easily solved. I give him Yea Sacc, which is a yeast culture, an hour before we go on a ride. It is designed to reduce digestive upsets or disturbances caused by stress. Since I started giving it to him before each ride, he now only poops twice. Huge change. Fourth problem fixed.

With these problems fixed let’s go ride. Next blog is about Dulce’s first trail ride! Woohoo!