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Horse sense

Before the festivities of the New Year and thoughts of good resolutions for 2004 begin to fade, horse owners should take at least a few minutes to ponder what resolutions would be worthwhile for both them and their horses this year.

Horse care is a big one, because if your horse isn’t able to do much, neither are you. Record keeping can be a hassle, but if you become organized – each horse with its own file – you’ll know at a glance when there should be an appointment with the farrier.

And then, how about keeping on schedule with worming every two months, rotating products, if possible? Resolution: Write down when and what you gave them. And then, are they needing a first shot or update for West Nile Virus? Remember, too, that vaccinations for rabies, tetanus, flu and sleeping sickness are needed annually. Make arrangements ahead of time with your vet.



A good feeding program is as important to horses as our meals and nutrition are to us. Horses do better with a routine for when to eat and what to eat. All hay available now has been in storage since late summer, but new crops will be cut in about four months.

Plan ahead with your feed dealer to purchase good quality hay in as large a quantity as you can afford. Since it saves money and time to buy this way, a resolution might be to make a large, long-term investment, such as a feed storage building.




Winter is always a great time to do research and plan for your tack and equipment needs. Check through your tack – cleaning it and discarding or sending out for repair worn or broken parts. For new tack, it’s smart to shop around locally, as well as to check catalogues and the Internet.

Heading for spring and summer riding with dangerous or poor fitting equipment is the last thing you should do. And then, perhaps this is the year you plan to actually do endurance riding or compete in horse trials or shows. Do you have the right clothing and equipment?

There are many of us who own young horses who have had little training. That limits our activities with them and can compromise safety, too. Training at home requires some expertise and a real time commitment. Sending the horse to a trainer involves expense and time that should be planned for carefully.

Professional trainers usually board the horse, work with it several days a week, and need at least 90 days to feel they have begun significant progress. An average cost would be $400 stall board plus $400 training, so figure more than $2,500 by the time you add shoeing, veterinary needs, and transportation for those initial three months.

It’s expensive, but you have added value and use to a horse that would otherwise just be a “hay burner.” It makes good sense, but one needs to resolve to make up a budget that includes horse care and feed, replacements or additions to tack and equipment, and whatever training is needed.

Add to that plans for travel and competition, lessons, and clinics. A wise horse owner will spend more than a few minutes deciding on priorities and planning ahead for predicted expenses.

Now, assuming you and your horse are physically fit, have good equipment, that you know how to ride and the horse knows how to care for its rider, other great goals and resolutions can be made.

The first would be to get out and ride at least three times a week, and enjoy each other and our wonderful Nevada County!

Then you really will clean your tack at least once a week, thus prolonging its useful life and making both man and beast more comfortable. Of course, you will not oversleep on weekends or come in too late in the evenings for regular feeding time, and your horse will love you for that.

Some extra time will be allotted to shampoo and brush out your horse’s mane and tail, condition its hooves, and get those white markings sparkling white!

Perhaps your schedule can include working on your horse’s ground manners for easier handling, loading into a trailer and understanding your cues.

Other great resolutions, which cost little or nothing, may be to find a new riding companion and ride somewhere new. Read your new and old horse magazines and spend a little time researching other media on horse-related sports events or information. It’s amazing how many opportunities we miss.

For serious riders, one of the most important resolutions is to make up a calendar of events early in the year. Then decide on priorities for participation as a spectator or competitor.

Time is needed to prepare for success for most events, and a detailed plan of conditioning and learning is paramount for both horse and rider. Your calendar will change as new things come up, or you may not be ready for something you wanted to do, so keep it up to date and above all, participate.

Felicia Schaps Tracy is owner of Emigrant Springs Horsemanship, co-founding instructor of Northern Mines Pony Club, and member of the Certified Horsemanship Association and the American Riding Instructors Association. Write her c/o The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, CA 95945.


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