Horses Want Fewer Gifts, Better Care

Check out our Annual Gift Guide for Horse Owners

Editor’s Note:

Dr. Sheryl King is professor emeritus of Southern Illinois University, a Fellow of the Equine Science Society, a Best Horse Practices Summit board member, and lifelong horsewoman. In this guest column, she writes about the range of benefits from working and owning horses.

By Dr. Sheryl King

How thoroughly amazing it is that two species so different– evolutionarily and by character – can often become, with a little effort, planning, and sensitivity, so connected to one another. How ironic that this attraction of opposites can often morph into a destructive relationship for the horse despite our best intentions.

When we misinterpret our relationship with our horse, when we move beyond the role of caring steward to treating the horse like an extension of ourselves and our family, we err to the detriment of the horse. We end up loving it badly.

Horses are horses. People are people. Try as we might, the two will never be the same, and as the saying goes, “Vive La Difference!

What am I getting at?

Some examples:

1. We all understand that the horse is strictly an herbivore. Humans, by nature, are not. As omnivores, we eat a variety of foods; variety keeps us healthy. As grazers, horses eat the same thing, day in, day out – grass or hay. They like it that way; indeed, they need it that way to stay healthy. When we love our horses to the point where we project our humanness on them, we tend to try to change their nature toward ours.

We give them variety.

We give them grain because we love to hear that nicker of appreciation.

We give them treats to show them how much we care for them.

We give them all kinds of supplements because companies convince us that we are better owners for doing so.

All of the above often compromises our horses’ digestive, metabolic, even skeletal health.

2. Horses evolved to live outdoors, in the open. They seek shelter only in the most extreme of weather. They have developed a most marvelous skin and hair coat to protect them from all that nature can dole out. Humans were not so blessed. We seek shelter most of the time and we need to artificially cover our bodies to deal with the elements and we project this habit to our horses.

We put our horses indoors; we sometimes even heat that indoor space.

We cover them with all manner of blankets, sheets, coolers or slinkies

These horses often suffer in myriad ways – behavioral problems, respiratory disease, digestive problems, skeletal, and hoof problems. The list goes on.

3. Horses evolved with a need to roam. Even in a pasture, most horses will cover 10 or more miles a day. It is their nature to wander and seek nourishment throughout most of their day. What modern humans consider strenuous exercise is just day-in-the-life movement to a horse.

They need to walk, run, roll, rear, kick. But we humans live in communities; most of us have limited land on which to keep our horses, and many of us want to control where a horse goes, when, and how. Idleness is bad for a horse’s mind and bad for its body. To a horse, W-O-R-K is not a four-letter word; the domesticated horse needs a job and they need to report to work daily.

4. Perhaps our worst disservice is to impose our own emotions and moral values on horses. Their code of ethics is not a human code of ethics. When we think of our horses as our four-footed “equine children,” we fall prey to the notion that horses deserve human rights. Conferring human rights on animals means that by owning them, we exploit them. Moreover, sliding into this way of thinking about gives power to groups who believe:

Horses are pets, not livestock, and are therefore subject to all the controls that we impose on pets

Horse jobs are forms of cruelty

Horses should not be owned by humans at all (i.e. owning pets is a form of slavery and should be banned).

When we allow horses to become pets or otherwise support an animal rights’ agenda, we risk ceding control of how we manage horses to the animal rights groups’ version of “humane.” These groups may advocate:

  • Taking away your horse’s job,
  • Keeping them only in an unnatural, controlled environment
  • Labeling as animal cruelty the keeping of a horse simply, as horses should be kept.

The Take-Home messages:

Recognize that horses are not humans.

Put the needs of the animal above those of the human.

The next time you catch yourself doing “something special” for your horse, stop. Think. Are you really doing this for your horse, or are you doing it for you? If it is really for you, is it also good for the horse?

Beware false prophets of equine welfare – what they preach may actually be bad for horse’s health.

Introducing the Dopamine Counter

No one’s doing a better job of connecting brain science with horsemanship in an innovative, easy-to-grasp, fashion than West Taylor.

West Taylor works with challenging horse

Recently, Taylor released this video of his work with a challenging horse from Colorado. Even by horsemanship video standards, “Flagging on the Fence: Downregulating a Nervous Horse” is long and protracted. But if you’re interested in seeing how a horse can change over the course of 90 minutes and in learning through the narration of Taylor’s science-supported commentary, it’s time well spent.

The video introduces a fun, new learning tool: the Dopamine Counter.

Read more about the neurochemical dopamine here. 

At the beginning of the video, Taylor has the horse tied to a sturdy corral post with several feet of slack in the rope. The goal is to teach the mare to respond to his cue of tapping one side of her haunches or another, to move her hind end left or right.

West Taylor at the Best Horse Practices Summit

At first, it’s a struggle. Taylor taps her hind end repeatedly while clucking. Eventually and without much relaxation, she moves away from his pressure. Taylor responds by leaving her be and waiting. After several seconds, she lowers her head and licks and chews. Ding, ding, ding goes the Dopamine Counter.

If we were super nit-picky about the science, we could say the Dopamine Counter is a stretch. Of course, we don’t know that dopamine is being released in the brain at any precise moment. To do that, we’d have to have some pretty sophisticated equipment and serious expertise in that corral. But licking, chewing, and head lowering are generally associated with dopamine releases, says Dr. Steve Peters, a neuropsychologist at Intermountain Health and co-author of the book, Evidence-Based Horsemanship.

Taylor, owner of Wild West Mustang Ranch, has consulted extensively with Peters. Together, they have conducted Horse Brain Science Seminars. Typically, these offerings feature Peters’ academic presentations paired with Taylor’s work with horses in an arena.

We talked with Taylor about the mare’s progress through the video:

“At first, you can see that she’s barely finding the cue,” said Taylor. “She could barely complete my request, let alone calmly. I like to work toward a point where she is almost cueing herself. In the video, she’s headed there, for sure.”

Micah Fink, founder of Heroes and Horses

Taylor continues:

“Ultimately, what I want horses to do is relax within the cue (not just when the pressure is released). I like to work towards precision, without fear or too much energy. I want them to do something softly and confidently and to have calmness within the cue.”

Beginning next month, Taylor will start several mustangs for the Heroes and Horses. The Montana-based non-profit helps veterans reintegrate after their service by providing a free program in the Montana wilderness, teaching horsemanship, and optimizing the benefits of the horse-human connection.

The horses, all geldings, will come from the Bureau of Land Management facility in Axtel, Utah.

6 Roadblocks to Lightness, Part II

Amy Skinner

Editor’s Note: Amy Skinner is a regular guest columnist and has been a horse gal since age six. She works with owner/operator Jim Thomas as a trainer at Bar T Horsemanship where she rides and teaches English and Western. She has studied at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, Leslie Desmond, Brent Graef, and many others. Skinner sits on the Best Horse Practices Summit steering committee.

This is Part II of a two-part piece on identifying roadblocks to lightness.

Read Part I

By Amy Skinner

Here are additional areas that I’ve found can inhibit lightness with our horses:

Tacking up, mounting, and warming up:

As you go through your habitual grooming, tacking up, and warming up routine, take notice:

Do you do the same things in the same order each time?

Many of my students haven’t even noticed that they have a routine they follow until I bring it to their attention.

They always:

  • Start on the same side
  • Get on in the same place
  • Warm up to the left first, and so on.

If we are mindlessly going through the motions, it’s easy to be unaware of little slips here and there on our horse’s part.

Maybe they inched around while we saddled, or walked a few steps while we mounted.

Because we aren’t organized or in the moment, we cannot correct or head off these mistakes. Therefore, the horse gets into bad habits because of our bad habit of mindlessness.

I want my horse to be aware and responding to me as I go through getting him ready to ride.  I watch him carefully and ask him to watch me carefully.  I mount on both sides regularly, warm up in different ways and different places. I work toward the goal of having a responsive horse.  A responsive horse is only possible when we ourselves are aware and attentive enough to notice when our horses are checked out.

Bit fit: 

Is your bit hiked up to two or three wrinkles in your horses lip?

If your horse is smiling like the joker while your reins are completely loose, imagine the amount of pressure he feels in his mouth when there is no message being relayed to him.  It’s constant pressure with no meaning.

Later, when you need your rein to mean something, imagine how much more pressure you will need to apply in order to get his attention.  If the bit is kept lower, to where the horse has no wrinkles (but not so low that it bangs his teeth), he can hold it up himself without pressure.  When your rein needs to have meaning, he can feel a much quieter message in the corner of his lip.

Think of people you know who talk loudly and incessantly – for them to really make a point, they have to shout. Prospective listeners are so desensitized to the volume and frequency of their speaking, that these shouters’ words don’t carry much meaning. On the other hand, people tend to lean in and listen when someone speaks softly, meaningfully, and infrequently. This is how we want our hands to be to our horse.

Photo by Julie Kenney

Position mistakes: 

Are your legs constantly flapping against the horse’s sides

Are your hands coming back as you post?

Are your hips and legs tight, preventing your horse from getting loose?

Rider mistakes can create dullness as the horse sorts through which messages have meaning and which ones don’t.  Often students with “lazy” horses who won’t go forward really just have horses who have learned to ignore leg aids because they never end and rarely have meaning.

This might be more challenging than some of the other roadblocks to lightness. I suggest trying to find a reliable instructor who focuses on discovering and developing softness in your horse and who will help you develop a better seat for a lighter, softer horse.

Final thoughts:

Training might take up an hour a day.  Most of us don’t even ride that much.  Therefore, what makes up the rest of the horses’ day really matters.

How we handle them matters.

How they interact with their world at large matters.

How they perceive their role in our world matters.

Imagine the confusion horses feel as they live one way for 23 hours, and for the 24th hour they’re expected to suddenly adjust.  A horse who understands what’s expected of him can be a relaxed and happy horse, if his human is willing to be disciplined and attentive in his day-to-day interactions with him.

6 Roadblocks to Lightness

Amy Skinner

Editor’s Note: Amy Skinner is a regular guest columnist and has been a horse gal since age six. She works with owner/operator Jim Thomas as a trainer at Bar T Horsemanship where she rides and teaches English and Western. She has studied at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, Leslie Desmond, Brent Graef, and many others. Skinner sits on the Best Horse Practices Summit steering committee.

This is Part I of a two-part piece on identifying roadblocks to lightness.

Read Part II

By Amy Skinner

Years ago, I was struggling to get a school horse lighter.  He did his job carrying young riders well. But, in the process of training to be lighter, he became confused about how to respond to aids, as his day job involved ignoring many confusing or accidental messages.

My timing wasn’t great and his habit of hanging on the lead rope, for example, was well-established.  I had a teacher help me and I watched in awe as within a few minutes, this dull pony brightened up, became more aware and bright in his eye, and responded to her with total lightness.

She handed me the lead rope back and said, “he just wasn’t clear on a few things.”  I felt this sense of magic in my hands now, as if all our problems together were fixed and all I had to do was maintain that perfection she created.  Unfortunately, within minutes, he was back to hanging on the lead and I was back to being frustrated.

So what happens between those moments: when the skilled horseman or woman with good timing handles the horse and then hands it off to the student? I’ve put together a list of elements that can dull or confuse horses and added tips for how to encourage lightness in all areas of horse work.

Petting: 

How you pet your horse, believe it or not, makes a huge difference in how he understands interactions with you on the ground or in the saddle.

  • Is he pushing on you to get more scratches?  If your horse pushes on you, or worse, moves you while getting pets, then he may also push through your leg, your bridle, your lead rope.
  • Does your horse avoid your touch and leave?  You want to teach your horse to seek out your aids. Those aids can be anything from your touch with a hand to your leg or rein.  If the horse avoids these aids, he gets released without responding correctly. He learns to do the wrong thing.

Amy Skinner

Petting, to me, should be done in a way that encourages softness, relaxation, and respect.  I don’t take my hand away when a horse pushes or avoids, but I release my hand for the horse softening to my touch. When you pet and when you stop petting is important.

Feeding time: 

Again, if your horse is pushing on you to receive food, this will create problems in the saddle.  My horses don’t get grain until their ears are up and their faces are soft. I don’t reward grumpy faces or threatening ears.  They also don’t get to push me out of the way as I set their hay down.  I want calm, relaxed, and respectful horses at feeding time.  I will add that it isn’t fair to expect horses to be calm about feeding time if they’re waiting hours between feedings, especially if it’s cold.

Leading: 

We tend to absent-mindedly grab our horses and lead them to the barn without paying attention to the quality of our leading.  The way your horse leads is the way he will ride. Leading is a crucial part of my horses’ training.

  • Does the horse drag on the lead rope?
  • Does he rush ahead?

A horse that leads well will likely ride well.  Leading well doesn’t just mean he follows you, it means he responds to the lead rope, where and how it asks him to be.  He should be light on the rope, not rushing ahead or dragging behind. He should lead equally well from both sides.  He should respond to you asking him to step forward, stop, back up, or move to the side without interfering with the path you walk.  He should be focused on you.

Leslie Desmond once told me a halter broke horse is one who’s lead rope you can stick in your belt and go about your chores without him getting in your way.  This horse is a joy to handle.

Tying: 

This element relates to leading.

  • Does your horse pull slack out of his lead rope while he stands tied?
  • Does he peddle backward and hang on the rope?

These are symptoms of a poorly halter-broke horse, or one who is not clear on the meaning of the lead rope.  It’s also likely that this horse will not respond correctly to rein aids.  I don’t tie horses until they respond properly to the lead rope, and when I do tie them, I make sure they can’t take slack from the rope or worse, get away.

Read Part II.

Women in today’s world and the horse world

One of the silver linings of these contentious times is the intense, widespread examination of fairness in our culture and workplace – specifically, fairness as it relates to gender equality.

Perhaps like many of you, I entered the workplace as a teenager in the late 70’s and early 80’s and gravitated to jobs mostly done by men.

  • Construction work
  • Sports-related work
  • Outdoor work
  • Sport journalism
  • Investigative Reporting

Perhaps like many of you, I was often the only woman on the job. I tolerated sexual harassment and bias in a way that now seems unacceptable, even spineless. Back then, however, I felt I could dismiss bad behavior for the greater gain: a position in a “man’s world.” With progress, men’s attitudes and women’s tolerance of those attitudes, would surely co-evolve to better places.

Annie Custer, a US Congresswoman from New Hampshire and co-sponsor of the new “MeToo” bill, thought so, too.

“I thought that we were there to create change,” she said in a recent interview. “It never occurred to me that 40 years later my nieces, my son’s girlfriends would have to be worrying about this in the workplace.”

Over the last few weeks, I’ve heard impactful stories from colleagues and friends of their personal experiences of sexual harassment and discrimination (and worse). I’ve also read research that illustrates how women often perpetuate gender bias against women.

Dr. Sheryl King

Dr. Sheryl King, Best Horse Practices Summit board member, shared this anecdote:

“I worked with a longtime manager of a major horse event here in the Midwest. She was a woman.  Every year we’d have a series of conversations about headliner clinicians to invite.  When I repeatedly suggested a number of female clinicians, her response was that she did not feel that men in the audience would be receptive to a woman clinician. My response was twofold: we’ll never know unless we try and someone needs to take the initiative to change the paradigm – let it be us. 

I never won the debate. I feel that we need to educate the women as well as the men.”

How to move forward?

Interestingly, remarks I made at the debut of the Best Horse Practices Summit might apply to our current cultural state of affairs:

“Progress happens when we give ourselves time to listen, to observe, to absorb new information, and to experiment…”

I’d like to think there are parallels between improving our horsemanship and improving our standing as women. There are things we can do daily, on individual levels to change unsafe, unhealthy situations. There are small ways in which we can challenge ourselves and the status quo.

Jia Tolentino

Jia Tolentino recently wrote:

“For years – for centuries – the economic, physical, and cultural subjugation of women has registered as something like white noise. Lately, it appears we’re starting to hear the tune.…The increasing narrative clarity about male power does not always translate to progress. For women, it feels, all at once, shockingly possible, suddenly mandatory, and unusually frustrating to speak up.

“Being heard is one kind of power, and being free is another…Speech, right now, is just the flag that marks the battle.”

At BestHorsePractices, a site made better by scores of women guest columnists, we’d like to wave that flag.

Maddy Butcher and Amy Skinner

What are your stories?

How are you riding out the current tsunami of gender-bias news?

We’d love to hear from you if you have stories, reflections, observations you’d like to share. Contact us here.

Links for Junior Scientists & Curiosity Hogs

We’d like to think that BestHorsePractices can point you to better sources than, say, your average Facebook newsfeed.

Here are several interesting, science-related articles for your consideration. They are not necessarily horse-y, but if you’re a lifelong learner, constantly curious and gravitating to new insights, I think you’ll enjoy them.

Amy Skinner

Amy Skinner, an incoming member of the Best Horse Practices Summit steering committee, said recently:

“I’m currently taking all my beliefs out of their dusty boxes and shaking them out, seeing what’s valuable and examining why I kept them in the first place. I’m willing to toss out anything that is no longer true or doesn’t serve me. Or I may hold onto it while I decide if I know why I believed it in the first place.

I encourage all you to do the same. Don’t believe anything ‘just because.’ Figure out why. If it no longer belongs, toss it out. Don’t rush to fill it back up, but maybe leave it open for a while and watch the world. Imagine the difference in our interactions with others after we clean out.”

Happy reading!

Maddy Butcher, Director, Best Horse Practices Summit

Read this abstract in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science on dominance and leadership.

Jaime Jackson’s Paddock Paradise is based on his research of how horses live in the wild. Check out the concept here. 

Durango vet explores spiritual bonds of animals. A KSJD radio interview. 

Photo by Dr. Karlene Strange

Listen to Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellman on “Defending Science in a Post-Truth Era”

Sheep can recognize human faces. Research at the University of Cambridge.

New brain imaging technology could provide insight for everything from Alzheimer’s detection to mental health concerns. Check out the developments at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Exploring the fascinating inner lives of animals, starting with dogs. In an MRI machine. Really. Read the book review of “What It’s Like to be a Dog”

A quick, compelling bit on Yellowstone research on wolves, trees, and antelope. They’re all connected! From our friends at On Pasture, read more. 

Researcher in Yellowstone

Summit Welcome Video is Here!

The team at Soulfolle Creative has released the Welcome video for the Best Horse Practices Summit, with opening remarks by Director Maddy Butcher. Click on image below.

 

Horses Nurture Body and Soul

Editor’s Note:

Dr. Sheryl King is professor emeritus of Southern Illinois University, a Fellow of the Equine Science Society, a Best Horse Practices Summit board member, and lifelong horsewoman. In this guest column, she writes about the range of benefits from working and owning horses.

By Dr. Sheryl King:

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man”  Winston Churchill

It seems Churchill had it right in more ways than he imagined. Horses are indeed good for people. Not only do they labor on our behalf, horses stimulate our body and souls.

How does owning a horse make us healthier? Many of us are overweight and don’t get enough exercise. National guidelines call for thirty minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, five days a week. Riding a horse carries the equivalent calorie expenditure as a moderately brisk walk; trotting and galloping can increase that exercise level to the equivalent of jogging or swimming. Add to those pleasant activities, the effort of catching your horse at pasture, grooming, tacking, and hotwalking and you have yourself a workout.

Activity guidelines also include muscle-strengthening exercise on two or more days a week that works all major muscle groups. Horse barns are the equivalent of weight-training gyms! If you care for your horse yourself, you are likely indulging in weight training as well as aerobic exercise. Horses produce about fifty pounds of manure a day, add sodden bedding to the equation and you have a regular mini weightlifting session in the form of stall cleaning.

Lifting, hauling, dumping, raking, and rebedding are good for the horse and good for the heart. A typical five-gallon water bucket weighs about forty pounds – many horse owners schlep a few of those around each day. Add hauling hay bales, grain sacks, hammering, digging, and fixing up after your horse’s mischief, and you have likely met your weekly exercise quota without even counting the muscular rigors of riding.

I once had an argument with my daughter’s grade-school gym teacher: Weekly exercise outside of school time was required as part of the class grade. This teacher refused to consider riding a form of exercise. “The horse does all the work,” she said. “Spoken like someone who has never ridden a horse,” was my reply.

Anyone who has ridden a horse for the first time, or after a long hiatus from the activity can testify to the unique muscles that are (ouch) stimulated by this activity.

Indeed, horseback riding is a well-documented and widely accepted mode of delivering physical therapy. Former US press secretary, James Brady, famously complained about his hippotherapy rehabilitation (he called his physical therapy “physical terrorism”). Horses helped him regain some of his function following the head wound he sustained during the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.

NARHA (North American Riding for the Handicapped Association) is a global organization that has revolutionized the delivery of physical therapy for children and adults with physical, mental and emotional challenges. Horses are officially rehabbing our military veterans.

Freedom Stables/Harmony Horsemanship in Deerfield, WI . Michael Sears, Journal Sentinel

Horsemen know the profound effect these animals can have on our psyche. We can testify to horses’ stress-reducing effect on us. But horses have also proven their value in reaching humans as no other therapy can. Horse-assisted psychotherapy has succeeded in helping people with profound mental problems, such as autism, eating disorders, PTSD, and anger management. Horses connect with us at a most primal level, and although psychic healing is more difficult to document than physical rehabilitation assisted through horses, it is nonetheless increasingly recognized.

EAGALA – Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association – is an international program devoted to the notion of horses assisting with social, emotional and mental healing. At the equine science program I directed, we hosted a similar program where I had the privilege of witnessing the transformative power of the horse on children with autism, ADHD, victims of unspeakable abuse and those faced with other mental, behavioral and social challenges.

So, the next time you are breaking a sweat at the barn or enjoying a companionable moment with your mount, thank your horse for keeping you healthy – body and soul.

Fred Holcomb: Equine Science as an Action Verb

Editor’s Note:

Holcomb introduces Dr. Sheryl King at the BHPS.

Fred Holcomb is a horseman, BHPS steering committee member, and farrier currently living in Bozeman, Montana. He completed equine research at a Wyoming ranch and Davidson College.

In this guest column, he reflects on our need to understand equine research as a process, not a be all, end all.

Read more about his research here.

Watch the BHP Summit introductory video here.

By Fred Holcomb

I am a nerd. I get jazzed about equine biomechanics and watch slow motion videos of my roping to improve technique. I enjoy knowledge and appreciate healthy skepticism. Think of me as Bill Nye, the Science Guy with a cowboy hat.

I recently attended and worked at the first Best Horse Practices Summit in Durango, Colorado. As you might guess, it was an intellectual playground for a horse nerd like me; it was a fantastic venue for horse people of varied experience levels and disciplines to come together, corroborate findings and seek knowledge.

One of the more important discussions I had that weekend was with the BHPS director Maddy Butcher.

Holcomb watches Summit arena presentation with horsemen Martin Black and DeLaws Lindsay

Before her opening remarks, we were discussing what we hoped this conference could provide for its attendees. My simple answer was that I hoped it would help attendees see science as more of a verb than a noun. You can’t say something that broad to Maddy without being pressured for clarification.

So I further explained:

A pitfall in the world of clinicians and trainers is for name, reputation or even mannerism to supersede ability. Plenty of well-intentioned riders who hope to improve their horse work fall prey to the marketing and fanfare surrounding one trainer or another.

Within certain groups, a conversation becomes more about who said it than what was said. My fear was that the Summit could for some become the next unquestionably “true” movement instead of an event that inspired questions, debate, and critical thinking.

I was worried that “science” could become the next object for a cult following within the horse world. Instead of, “I know I am right because Cowboy Bob does that” it could become “This is true because Science says so.”

It’s more complicated.

Yes, objective research should inform what we do. But replacing the trendy clinician with a lab coat-wearing PhD does nothing to improve the process if either message is consumed as infallible truth.

My hope, I explained, it that people better understand the importance of the scientific process.

Holcomb with horsemen West Taylor and Jim Thomas

Science is mode of examination, not just a body of knowledge. Merriam-Webster defines science as, “knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation.”

Guess what?

Science is wrong all the time. There have been times in our history when top scientists thought that the world was flat and that bloodletting could cure everything. There have and will continue to be plenty of times when our “knowledge of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation” is not what is actually going on.

But it’s the process of careful, continued study that allows us to synthesize information and more accurately observe our natural world.

Understanding the process allows us to engage with a research methodology, to question or accept findings, and build informed opinions. That’s precisely what I wanted to enjoy at the Summit with my fellow attendees. I hoped that the Summit would create a bunch of scientists, not a bunch of blind consumers of science.

There are a lot of opinions out there on how to deal with your horse. Some opinions come from experienced and capable horse people and researchers who are trying to share their best answers to today’s problems. Other opinions come from figureheads and pseudoscientists who are trying to validate their beliefs or make a sale.

It’s up to you, the skeptical horse owner, to “experiment and observe” as you establish or alter your handling practices. What is true today could be completely false tomorrow in the eyes of the most current research. But understanding how to use science – the process – to question and validate will ensure that you are doing your best to house, feed, and handle your horse.

Science isn’t the answer. It’s your way of finding today’s best guess.

After the BHP Summit Storm

A note from BHPS Director Maddy Butcher:

Maddy Butcher and Amy Skinner

It’s been 23 days since the first Best Horse Practices Summit wrapped up with a boisterous Farewell Reception in Durango’s historic Strater Hotel.

Attendees, presenters, board members, and volunteers have all been able to let their hair down and get back to “real life.”

Real life for this rookie director came in the form of getting horseback, visiting with friends, and cleaning up (we hosted seven Summiteers at our house) and catching up on sleep. I spent three blissful days camping with my horses in the backcountry of the San Juan National Forest, sleeping 10 hour nights and riding 10 miles a day.

San Juan National Forest — ahh!

Real life is also continuing what we started with this exciting new event. In the last few weeks, the board and steering committee have been working diligently to frame our future and secure a strong foundation for moving forward.

I’m thrilled to say, “yes!” There will be a 2nd annual Best Horse Practices Summit. We’ll share details with you as soon as we can.

Again, a HUGE thanks goes out to the incoming and outgoing board and steering committee members as well as our sponsors and volunteer team. Y’all rock.

Check out this Thank You flyer here.

Next week, we will share a Best Horse Practices Summit trailer, developed by our audio/video team at Soulfolle Creative.

As I was dropping off our last Summit house guest, I got a big chuckle out of what looked to be a rock, set on the curb at the Durango airport. It was a Redmond equine salt rock! I can only imagine that a Summit attendee – wanting very much to take the salt back home to her horse –  had to sadly set it aside because her bag was over the weight limit.

We heard from Jacky Davies about it: That lump of rock salt wasn’t mine… But it could have been!  When we were at the airport and my luggage weighed over the limit,  so I had to remove my rock.

The lady at security asked “I hope you don’t mind me asking, what was that rock? I have seen quite a few come through today.” We laughed and we explained what it was and where it came from. She had not heard that the Summit was happening, but she was very interested to hear all about it.

Was it you who left the rock?

If so, contact us here, tell us your story, and we’ll mail you another one.

Happy trails and stay in touch!

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