Category Archives: Owning a horse

Sweet success in the Show Ring without all the sugar

We all know that not all horseshow days are perfect – some days there are ribbons and some days there aren’t – and all riders need to hear the truth…that they, too, are not perfect. As parents/supporters , we need to recognize that our children will be more successful not just in the show ring but more importantly, in life, if we don’t always “sugar coat” our comments.

With a busy schedule of lessons, summer camps and horseshows, I rarely have time to catch up on my horse magazines/articles; however, last week, I finally got around to reading the 2019 Canadian Horse Annual issue published by Horse Media Group. With five more horseshow days to go for our 2019 Foxwood Farm Show Team, I came across a very timely article written by registered psychologist, April Clay, that I thought all parents should read.

“5 Tips for Horse Show Parents”

“Horse shows can be stressful enough – be sure that you aren’t adding to your young rider’s anxiety by following these helpful tips:

1. You might be tempted to shower your child with positive comments about their ability, but use caution. Comments and compliments should be sincere and straightforward. Children are perceptive and excessive praise for an easily-accomplished task (such as being on the correct posting diagonal) may convey negative information about the child’s competence. Or you just may get the eye roll if you go on and on, but for a different reason. I often hear kids remark “She has to say I’m great, she’s my Mom, but really she doesn’t know anything about riding so I don’t listen.”

2. Identify things that can lead to stress and worry or undermine confidence. Unrealistic expectations about winning ribbons or making someone else happy take away from the focus of fun. If you hear your kids making comments like “I have to have a perfect barrel run today” or “I have to win this class or my coach won’t like me as much”, nip that right away. Help your child develop new thoughts that will help rather than hurt them.

3. Go easy on the pep talks. Many parents forget that “pumping” their child up can tip them over the edge. Keep it short and encouraging, and watch your intensity level. It doesn’t take much for some kids to view these talks as pressure. (“If my Mom/Dad is so intense about this, it must be important. I have to do well.”)

4. Be respectful when dealing with an upset child. We might think it’s not a big deal, but to them it is and should be approached as such. Try to help your child process events and use open-ended questions. If a tearful child says, “I rode horribly today,” don’t brush it off and say “It will get better tomorrow.” Instead, try: “It sounds as though you’re upset, can you tell me what happened?” This acknowledges the child’s feelings and lets them know you’re willing to help them work it out.

5. Children who live with excessive worry about making mistakes are stressed and aren’t able to enjoy their sport. Create an atmosphere where mistakes are a normal part of learning and riding competitively. Let them know it’s okay to miss a distance to a fence, or even fall off. Tell them all athletes (even Olympic riders!) make errors and have bad days, and what’s most important is how they handle the challenge. Encourage your child to come up with their very own key word or phrase they can repeat to themselves when something goes wrong to help them get back on track – something like “shake it off” or “move on”. Have fun coming up with a cue and then encourage them to try it out when things go wrong in practice or in the show ring.”

So parents, remember, just a spoonful of sugar will do;)!

Until next time,

Sugar and spice and red ribbons are nice…but only a teaspoon will do!

About April Clay: April Clay is a Registered Psychologist with an independent practice focused in: counselling, consulting, and sport psychology. She draws from a wide variety of experiences working with many types of athletes and performers (from youth to elite) including: equestrian athletes, swimmers, wrestlers, golfers, competitive dancers, figure skaters, para equestrians, mixed martial artists (MMA),and more.

April is a member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). April also works as a service provider for the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary.

As an adjunct to her practice, April writes for several local and national magazines, and offers workshops on a variety of topics. As a sports consultant, she draws on some 15 years of experience as a competitive horse show-jumper.

Beating the barnyard bugs the natural way – how to make your own horse flyspray

There’s a fly in your eye…and many more on your horse! Spring has sprung and so have the bugs in the barn. There is nothing more annoying to a horse, whether while grooming or when riding, than having flies, mosquitoes and other annoying insects around.

I’d like to share a blog written by my good friend and fellow horse keeper, Michael Stuart Webb which gives us some homemade recipes for creating our own fly sprays:

“Much to our chagrin, and the dismay of our horses, fly season is once again upon us. At this time of year, many of us douse our beloved equine companions with ready-made, chemically based potions we pick-up at the tack shop. While many of these may work, they also introduce our horses to a myriad of toxic constituents that are oftentimes ingested and stockpiled in the soft tissues; awaiting opportunity to wreak havoc on our horse’s immune systems at a later date.

Fret not my fellow horse lovers! Available to us are easy-to-make, safe, non-toxic, homemade tinctures that work just as well and are cheaper! Below are some recipes you might want to try:

Citrus Insect Repellant

▪ 2 cups light mineral oil
▪ 1/2 cup lemon juice
▪ 2 tsp. pure citronella oil
▪ 2 tsp. eucalyptus essential oil
▪ 2 tsp. lemon dish soap

The Quick and Easy Fly Spray

▪ 4-7 parts water
▪ 1 part citronella essential oil

Apple Cider Tinture

▪ 1 quart raw apple cider vinegar
▪ 1 teaspoon citronella essential oil

Eucalyptus Oil Fly Spray

▪ 2 cups white vinegar
▪ 1 tablespoon eucalyptus essential oil
▪ 1 cup water

Dr. Mary Brennan’s Fly Spray Recipe

▪ 1/2 teaspoon oil of myrrh
▪ 2 cups water
▪ 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
▪ 1/4 teaspoon of pure citronella essential oil

* An important note about the citronella oil! Never buy citronella oil from the hardware store for these applications. These are meant for use in devices that burn the product and so they are oftentimes petroleum based and highly flammable. Buy all of your essential oils from your local, and trusted, health food store.

When applying these remedies, I use a small pump-style sprayer similar to those used to spray plants and trees with. Always exercise extreme caution when spraying these, or any products, on your horses so as to avoid getting any overspray into their eyes. When applying products to your horse’s head, it is always best to apply it first to your hands and then gentle wipe the product off onto your horse. Just like people, some horses display allergic reactions to some compounds, natural or not. If you should notice any irritation to your horse’s skin, immediately discontinue use and bathe your horse to remove any remaining product.”

So, before you head out to go horsebackriding or to visit your horse, pick up some of the ingredients above and try making your own flyspray. You’ll be happier, but more importantly, so will your horse.

Until next time,

There's a fly in my eye!

There’s a fly in my eye!

Winter care for our Foxwood horses and ponies

4 more days…yes, I am counting down until the end of February. According to the local weather networks, this has been the coldest February on record and for those of you, like me, who have to work outside, we KNOW it is! Even though we have bundled up our horses and ponies this winter in warm blankets and bring most of them into a warm stall at night, they have also had enough of these temperatures! Some of our horses live outside 24/7, but with access to a run in shelter, they are able to get out of the elements.

I have been monitoring our horses and ponies very carefully this winter to make sure that they ARE staying warm and in good health. A good blanket is needed and it must not only be warm but waterproof as snow soaked blankets will only make a pony/horse colder. There are lots of blankets on the market but I have found that the more expensive brands like Rambo and Bucas, last longer and are better quality than others. If you wash and waterproof your blankets at the end of each season of use, this will also help prolong its’ life. It’s important to check blankets over daily for rips and any damage done to surcingles or leg straps. Leg straps should be checked before your horse/pony goes out in the morning and again, when it comes in at night. The same with the surcingles as often, horses and ponies love to roll so the blankets may shift slightly. Now that my horses and ponies have been wearing their blankets for many months, some of them have started to get some slight hair loss across the chest. Once the blankets are removed in early spring, generally, it doesn’t take long for their spring coats to grow in and repair the bald patch.

Another major issue to monitor in the winter is how much water your horse/pony is drinking. Some people assume that horses can eat snow to get their required intake ; however, this is definitely NOT the case. Horses will actually drink more water in the winter than at other times of the year because unlike spring/summer grass, hay is dry and they require more water to help digest and to avoid colic situations. To encourage my horses and ponies to drink more, I keep my outdoor water trough heated and I always have a salt and/or mineral block available. These blocks have vitamins and minerals that they do not get otherwise and the salt block makes them thirsty, which then sends them to the water. My current outdoor trough is 150 gallons and during the winter months, I will fill it up twice/day…that’s alot of drinking! For those horses that come in at night, they have water buckets in their stalls that get filled up several times over the course of the evening. If the buckets are completely frozen at night check, I will replace the bucket with a new one with fresh water. I have become very strong and skilled at using the rubber mallet this year to pound out ice;)

Some of our horses and ponies require a little extra feed over the winter as they may be old or just have trouble keeping up to the chubby ponies. Some of them get grain in the morning and at night – both times after they have had a feeding of hay which generates heat in their bodies. Without going into full detail about who eats what, every horse/pony has specific requirements so when introducing a new feed or when I get a new horse/pony, I always check with my local horse feed nutritionist to see what is best suited for that animal.

So, all of the key elements are covered at Foxwood to keep our ponies and horses happy in the winter: food, water and shelter…and of course lots of love! And let’s hope that all of the shedding we have been seeing while grooming our ponies and horses lately, is a sign that spring is just around the corner!

Until next time,
Keep warm!

Salty keeping warm in his blanket and eating LOTS of hay!

Salty keeping warm in his blanket and eating LOTS of hay!

Sharing the love of horses with Girls Inc.

Two years ago, I was introduced to a wonderful non-profit organization called Girls Incorporated, which focuses on developing confidence and building self -esteem in girls. Our “partnership” started off with a few one day workshops and grew to two full weeks of riding camp in the summer of 2013. Both the workshops and camps gave the opportunity to many girls who would never have the chance to be around horses. It was amazing for me to watch how they interacted with our ponies/horses: at first, a bit timid, not knowing how the animal would react to them. As they became more comfortable, just by grooming and being around the horses, many of the quiet girls began to talk more, not only amongst themselves but to their assigned horse or pony. The real excitement was watching them ride, many for the first time and to see the smiles on their faces!

In September 2013, the Girls Inc. Equine Sponsorship Program at Foxwood Farm was created. Eight girls were selected by Girls Inc. to participate in 2 – 6 month sessions: riding weekly in a lesson and also, caring for “their” horse – grooming, blanketing, farrier and veterinarian care, etc.

To help assist the program, they have also run fundraising pizza and bake sales at some of our Foxwood schooling shows and this month, on Saturday, September 20th, they are hosting a Fundraising Yard Sale at Foxwood from 8am until 1 pm. We are currently looking for donation items and 100% of the proceeds from the sale will be put into the Equine Sponsorship Program. If you have anything to donate, please call the farm at 905-775-0155 and we can make arrangements to pick up any items. If you are looking to shop, we can’t wait to see you on September 20th!

Until next time,

Moving on…searching for that special connection

I miss him.  Becks, my beloved horse who I said goodbye to on December 12, 2013.  Some people may think, “it was just a horse”, but to me, having gone through a few difficult years in my personal life, he was more than that.  He was my riding partner, he was my pet, but most of all, he was a shining light on some very dark days.  Saying goodbye to him was THE most difficult thing I have had to do since having my own horses since the age of 15.  When I lost him, I needed to take a break from riding – not from teaching or being around horses – but out of the saddle.

The first month was painful.  Walking past his empty stall, opening up my locker and seeing his things: his favourite brush, the special saddle pad with his name embroidered on it, the new bridle I had purchased in November, in anticipation of showing him this show season.  I kept everything as it was when he was here.  I didn’t move his cooler or blankets off his stall, nor did I erase his name off his stall sign.

As one month moved to two, I started to miss riding (even though it was February and I am really not a fan of cold weather riding;).  With the encouragement from two supportive horsey friends, Cindy and Debra, I dusted off my saddle and tacked up Sera, my 16 year old Quarterhorse who I have had since she was 2.  When I got “back in the saddle”, all I could think about was riding Becks, with his comfortable trot, smooth canter and all of the great rides we shared together.  With tears streaming down my face, I gave Sera a pat, thanked her for the ride and hopped off.  As much as I have always enjoyed riding Sera, we didn’t have that special bond.

A few months ago, in April, my friend, Sue, offered me the ride on her gelding, Disco.  I had always dreamed of having a big, gorgeous Warmblood to ride and now was my chance.  The only problem was that I had no connection to him even though I tried.  I would groom him, give him treats, ride him…but it wasn’t there.   I sent him back to Sue in June and at that time, I thought that maybe I would be taking a longer break from riding than I originally thought.

I have had a very busy summer – running Foxwood summer riding camp as well as coaching my students in lessons and at horseshows – and I have had time to reflect on WHY I ride.  Yes, I love galloping across the newly cut hay field beside my house just as much as I enjoy jumping in my large, grass outdoor riding ring…but not just on any horse.  It has to be on THAT horse.  The one I feel connected to.  The one who understands when I am having a bad day and won’t spook at the paperbag blowing across the ring as we ride.  The one who I can just bring into the barn and groom, and talk to.  The one who understands me as much as I understand him/her.

Becks has been gone now for 8 months and as much as I miss him, I also miss riding.  My tack needs be cleaned and oiled and my boots need to be shined up because I am ready to ride again:)!   It might not happen right away but I hope to find a new horse to connect with.  I know s/he can never replace Becks but it will be nice to have a new one to love.

Until next time,


P.S. – I’m going to look at “Toby” tomorrow.  Another Thoroughbred off the track…because that’s what I seem to connect with.  Wish me luck!