For the stall cleaning obsessed…

I posted yesterday about how I was taught to clean stalls when I was attending equine college (yes, I had cleaned stalls before this.)

I was pleasantly surprised to find that others out there;

stall chart for cleaning stall-Maritza K.

stall chart for cleaning stall made by Maritza K. for her family to use when cleaning stalls.

  1. find joy in stall cleaning
  2. are slightly obsessed with it:)

The one bedding mentioned that I have not tried was peat. I especially appreciated Maritza K. for posting about her family helping and how she had to figure out a way “to ensure we were all being equally thorough” which included her making a stall chart. I believe that this is probably why the university ‘taught’ us how to clean stalls.

I know it is the reason that I have used a clear teaching method with my boys, who are not as naturally obsessed with stall cleaning. If the stall needs to be stripped, that doesn’t take much training. But if the stall needs to be sorted through I found it was easier to teach them a method such as piling it all in the middle. I am actually going to try the more modern ‘throw it against the wall’ method the next time my horses are inside!

Cheryl H. shared this stall cleaning video; WARNING: If you are paying your kids to clean the stalls, don’t let them watch this video! My boys saw a demo of the ‘electric manure fork’ in the video below and it took MONTHS for them to stop asking for one every time they cleaned stalls! I’m guessing that the fork, at $54.95 is likely much less expensive than the European model below it.

If you are obsessed with stall cleaning…prepare to enjoy watching the following videos!




Posted by on July 22, 2014 in Life, Video


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$30,000 stall cleaning tip

Cleaning stalls is a never ending job. If your horse stays in…your going to have to muck stuff out.

stall cleaning techniques vary by bedding material used

stall cleaning techniques vary by bedding material used

How you clean will also depend on what you bed with. Sawdust, straw, shavings, newspaper, pellets? Each one has its own pros and cons. Location and availability will also play a part.

I try to keep my horses outside as much as possible but there are times that they end up in stalls. Over the years we have bedded with almost everything out there.

Cleaning a stall that has been bedded in straw vs one bedded in shavings is the same in one respect; we are removing all soiled bedding, but it does differ in technique. Metal pitch forks excel in straw and flop in shavings.

One thing that stays the same is that I like to make sure to rotate the bedding as much as possible. Many horses have one area that is dirtier than the rest and I start by removing that. Then I pick through the bedding that can be saved. If I am adding new bedding, I first pull the leftover bedding into the area that is normally bad because it is likely to be on the way out of the stall tomorrow. And the cycle continues.

When I attended the University of Findlay I returned home and joked that my tuition had largely been spent on teaching me how to clean stalls. During the equine class they really did do a ‘stall cleaning demo’ complete with the technique shown here to the right which involves moving all clean bedding into the middle. This technique works well on shavings, especially with the horses that tend to mix the manure in, making it difficult to separate. Just to be sure we mastered the school had us clean four stalls a day and yes, we even were tested and graded on it!

What do you bed with? Why?  Do you have a cleaning technique that makes stall cleaning easier? A special tool?



Posted by on July 21, 2014 in Life


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“Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”

Don't let yesterday use up too much of today. cherokee proverb

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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in Life


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What age do you start training? Will she become dangerous? She has an attitude with other horses.

“Hi Stacy, just wondering what age you start training horses. I have a foal who will turn 2 in January. I am trying to sort out a training plan and am wondering how many hours a day or week you would spend on training. Also what you would do regards to training a foal. A lot of people have told me to just leave her alone until she is 3 because she will be a dangerous horse if I start to early. She can be quite cheeky while in the paddock tending to the other horses while feeding out hay, but I just ignore that. Maybe I shouldn’t have her running with the other horses??? Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated.” -Brenda W

There are several things to consider when answering this question. The question of what age to start training is a bit tricky because it depends on what you consider ‘training’ to be.  With my own personal foals I raise I start the ‘training’ young but I don’t do physically hard training.  I wrote a blog that discussed this topic and you can click her to read it.

When people send me horses for official ‘training’ they are usually two years old. This is a common age for Quarter Horses or stock breeds to be started under saddle. Having said that I will also tell you that I have sent home horses that seemed too physically immature at this age. Two of the horses we currently own were not started until they were closer to three. One that we own is over three years old and has less than 4 months of riding because she is tiny and we are taking our time.

I have not heard of the idea of a horse becoming dangerous if it is trained too early. I have seen horses of all ages that were trained to be dangerous because someone didn’t know they were making mistakes. It is more common for people to spoil young horses…which can lead to a dangerous horse, but this is again caused by poor training. Good training is good for the horse regardless of age. Young horses can greatly benefit from learning groundwork skills.

I love turning horses out together and watching them. Your observation that she can be ‘cheeky’ with the other horses would lead me to believe that she could have a more dominant personality. If I had her I would put her out with Popcorn because he is great at teaching young horses to have manners as you can see in the video below. With the information you provided I don’t see any benefit to keeping her from the other horses.

If I owned her I would be doing groundwork already. I teach them the basics of groundwork; lead, tie, rub with the stick n string, move front end, move hind end,  walk around me on a lead line, etc in the first few months. Then I do a ‘refresher’ course every 4-6 weeks until I start them under saddle.

Maybe she won’t be ‘cheeky’ with you. Maybe she will accept you as a leader without too much fuss. The way I view it is very similar to raising my children; I want their respect at 5 years old because if they have been allowed to have an attitude around me and then I decide to start correcting the attitude at 15 years old, it won’t be fun for either of us.

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Posted by on July 19, 2014 in Video


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How important is mounting from both sides when starting a young horse?

Liseanne R

Liseanne R. asks Stacy a question about her horse

“Hi Stacy!
I have been following the Jac series to help me with training my 3 y/o mare. I started in January and am so happy with how she’s been doing. I have just started mounting her today, but am actually having trouble mounting from both sides, it’s a bit awkward for me, and I didn’t think to practice on a broke horse first.

My question is do you think I should skip this part and just slowly move her head to the other side when I switch directions (stopping first), or should I wait and practice on a broke horse?

She is very quiet and I have sat on her a couple times last year without issue.

How important is mounting from both sides, and do you have an alternative method for switching sides at the beginning?”-Liseanne R.

I am so glad that the series has helped you and your horse!

Mounting from the ‘off’ side can be awkward. There have been times that I have gotten out of the habit of mounting from the ‘wrong’ side and I remember that it does take some time to get comfortable with it again. To prevent this I mix up the side that I mount and dismount from on all my horses; I might mount the right side and then dismount from the left, or mount and dismount once from the left and the next time from the right. You have already identified the best method for getting comfortable with it again, which is practicing on a broke horse first.

I am very thorough when I start my horses because I rarely skip steps. At times the steps almost seem pointless but generally I do them anyway because that is what I like to do. Having said that there are many people who do a lot less steps which means it is possible. At The Road to the Horse I did less than half of my normal steps but I was also gambling a bit. Keep two things in mind;

  1. why do I mount and dismount both sides
  2. are there other ways to handle this

I mount and dismount for a few reasons but, beyond keeping the horse balanced and exposed on both sides, the main reason is because a horse that is bending can’t buck as well as one that is straight. When I bend, mount and move the horse bent I am preventing bucking. Watch a bucking bronc and you will see the head is straight in front. This shows me that they buck best when straight. I mount and dismount for many reasons but bending to prevent bucking is a big one.

There are other ways to discourage bucking. Just last week a friend asked me to pony her while she rode her three year old filly. She had done all the groundwork but wanted to have the filly move out more. I rode her big gelding and lead, or ponied, her while she rode. As the person ponying I was in control of the speed and direction but even more importantly I could discourage bucking by controlling the fillies head. In essence I was preventing or discouraging bucking. This would be another example of a possible method. The fun thing about training horses is that there are so many choices and each horse is an individual.

It sounds like you have done your groundwork well and that you know your horse. Part of all that groundwork was so that you could gather information for future decision making. Think back to her worst reaction to a new thing and compare that, making an educated guess, to this new question.

It sounds like you are a thinking rider; you have identified the potential problem, you know what would remedy it and you have considered alternatives. This leads me to believe that you will make a good decision and no matter what happens you will learn from the outcome. Great job!



Posted by on July 18, 2014 in Members Question, Training


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Lights out at summer camp…

Miracle Mountain Ranch

The Westfall’s visit Miracle Mountain Ranch during summer camp!

A bell just rang signaling ‘lights out’…councilors are making their rounds…

We left Ohio this morning after spending three weeks and we arrived this evening for a three week stay in Pennsylvania…at a summer camp!

More on this tomorrow…I think I hear a councilor coming…gotta go!


Posted by on July 17, 2014 in Life


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How do I deal with a horse that has learned to bolt through my hands on the lounge line? Jac Review Week

“Stacy-How do I deal with a horse that has learned to bolt through my hands on the lounge line?”-Stephanie P.

Horses that pull away from the handler generally come in two categories;

  1. They don’t know any better and are impulsively just leaving
  2. They have learned they can get away with it

A horse that doesn’t know any better can quickly become a horse who learns to get away with it –  if they have a chance to practice.

The good news is that the ‘fix’ or answer to the problem is the same in both cases. Lets first look at the horse that doesn’t know any better. Jac in Episodes 2 and Episode 3 was a great example of this.

Jac didn’t know how to properly respond to the pressure on the rope and without the proper handling he could have quickly figured out the big secret; he is bigger and stronger than me. I say this is a ‘secret’ because horses really are bigger, but with proper training the horse doesn’t need to view us this way.

Whether you are training a green horse, like Jac, or working with an older ‘problem’ horse the key is to get the horse to ‘mentally’ connect with you. They are bigger and stronger, that is a fact. Instead of looking at how to physically over come this, it is important to look at how to mentally get the horse on your team.

The beauty of the Jac series is that you can watch multiple episodes to see how I achieved this connection.  There were physical things that I did. For example when Jac applied pressure by trying to leave in Episode 3, even pulling me out of the camera, I didn’t release until he slightly turned back to me. I was beginning to teach Jac the idea of disengaging his hip even if it doesn’t look like the traditional ‘tap on his hip’ method which I did later in Episode 8. I was confident in my ability to correctly time my release of pressure even when Jac was pulling on me. If you are less confident of this then I would recommend being inside a round pen. For a less experienced handler it is often easier to properly time the release of pressure when the horse stops pulling because he has reached the wall.

The key is getting the horse to view turning and facing you as a reward. Re-watch Episode 2-5 and specifically look for how I slightly annoyed Jac with gentle taps and released when he moves the direction I want. If I had applied large amounts of pressure I would have physically caused a bigger reaction and mentally I may have offended Jac.

Mentally they need to see that you are the leader and that you have something to offer. Most of the time, unless the horse is acting from pure fear, horses that will drag people tend have strong personalities. They require strong leaders who have a plan and who also have their interest in mind. A common mistake I see with these horses is a handler who becomes frustrated and then becomes the strong leader the horse needs. On the surface this works fine but often this becomes a game with the horse. Once the handler isn’t frustrated they slip back into being less of a leader and the horse slowly begins to take the role again…until the rider eventually ends up frustrated enough to step up again. These horses are often the toughest to work with not because they have a chronic problem but rather because they have become experts at manipulating people.

You will not be able to out pull a horse but if you can get him to mentally engage with you, you will not have to. Another great example of continuing to build this mental connection can be found in Episode 14 where I show the beginning of what is considered ‘liberty’ work or working without any attachment to the horse. Learning to control a horses movements when you have only body language to communicate is often eye opening for the human. Once you have learned how to read the horses body language and control the horses direction, speed and focus at liberty it will change the way you view your horse…and how your horse views you.



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