By Fallon Taylor, with Danika Kent
Let’s face it. If I could wrap Babyflo in head-to-toe bubble wrap and keep her in a padded room until five minutes before a run, I would. She has it all! Hock wraps, compression wraps, polo wraps, squishy hoof boots, fly sheets, therapeutic blankets, vibration system, nebulizers, you name it. If I think it will help my mare, I will run out and get it, just like everyone else. But as I travel, I see things that have really put my obsession in check. I see horses kicking at hock boots, stumbling in their hoof boots, biting at their therapeutic blankets, etc.
I realized how many of the things I do for my horse are for me and not for her. Am I really listening to what she desires and what really helps her, or do I want to be seen with the newest stuff so everyone can see how well I care for my animal? Am I trying to keep up with the proverbial Joneses? At this level, don’t I really know what is helping my horse and what is not? In our world filled with gels, air, magnets, and more, are we looking at the bigger picture for our horses? What may work for your friend’s horse may not work for yours. Instead, you may be infringing on your horse’s personal space, and many times, space is really what he wants.
I have walked by stalls of horses wrapped up head to toe with the latest goodies to make them run on jet fuel, and others with empty water buckets, standing in stalls that haven’t been mucked in three days. Sometimes, we need to get back to our roots of tending for our animals based on our horse sense of what may really be happening. Maybe your horse is bleeding because there is too much protein in that new supplement or the stress of too much practice? Maybe your horse is abscessing because he doesn’t get along with that trendy shoer that claims to shoe all the big timers. Maybe your horse has ulcers because he is simply bored with his day-to-day routine and wants a little more turnout time while you’re busy at work.
I have been through the ringer with Babyflo. She didn’t like to eat on the road, fought the trailer, got rundown burns on all four legs with every single run, and the list goes on. I tried it all and finally figured out that some of the old school things that we did in the 90s for our horses, the things that were tried and true by the generations before us, really worked. But first, I tried every boot, feed, supplement and trick in the new age book! I love all the new products that we have available and use several of them, but I don’t have a recipe book in my barn that every horse gets this or that. I take a young horse with me and it takes me nearly a year to figure out what makes each one tick.
For instance, Babyflo was getting rundowns from overreach boots. She loathes them, walks funny in them, and hurt herself every run with them on. I couldn’t figure it out. You wouldn’t dare run a horse of her caliber without them! I finally decided to take them off, listen to the criticism with every picture I posted of her running without them about how dangerous it is, and go on protecting my horse the way she needed. It’s not something I recommend for you, however, the key lies in listening to your animal.
I am proud to endorse many products I believe in, have tried them inside and out and they may work great for your horse. But, make sure you are not overlooking the small things. Are you drilling and making runs for you instead of your horse? Is your routine stressing him out, or is he stressing about another horse in the barn? Babyflo likes to be the first horse in the barn, but I have some that like the privacy and closeness of the back of the barn. Some of my horses like to look outside, while others constantly call for the horses in the pasture and walk their stall if they can see others.
Make sure to run down this checklist of things that we can do for our horses. Be your barn’s Dr Phil and see what is really going on with your horse. Many of us barrel racers are women, and we have intuition on our side, so make a list and see what changes could be made in your barn to make for a happier horse and more successful year.
Here is Babyflo’s list:
*Shivers below 51 degrees: needs at least a sheet.
*Only drinks from a light-colored water bucket.
*Prefers warmer water to ice cold water.
*Eats constantly from a slow feeder hay bag, not loose on the ground.
*Needs to see a buddy, preferably in front of her, not next to her.
*Loads first in the trailer; likes to be next to the wall.
*Loves compression wraps before a run.
*Doesn’t like “stuff” on her after a run. Needs six to seven hours of alone time after or she gets really aggravated.
*Likes daily turnout, not tuning or riding. She is ridden or tuned on once a week.
*Prefers to stay in the trailer until it’s time to saddle. Absolutely hates parking lot distractions.
*Needs water from home until about a week on the road. Have to pack accordingly.
*Prefers grain in three to four servings, not huge portions twice daily.
This article was originally published in the June 2015 issue of BHN.