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Video: How we plan on living on the road; husband, wife, three kids and four horses.

I think the nomadic idea was secretly planted in my head by my husband. It also helped that we met other people, one family in particular, that moved around with their family performing at rodeos and equine events.

Our life has slowly morphed into travel because we can serve more people by moving around both at clinics and expos. By the time our youngest son was seven he had traveled to 40 states…each time returning to Mount Gilead, Ohio. It just seemed logical to try living on the road. We also like the idea of spending more time together as a family. And we can always go back!

Now that we are in a full blown motor home we are ready to take this show on the road. Some of the goals our family has, outside of work are:

  • see all 48 states (this lead to a discussion of Alaska & Hawaii)
  • live ‘off the grid’ for a week…in RV terms this means staying in a remote location without electric, water or sewer hook up
  • trail ride in the mountains…park the motor home and be able to ride from the camping site up into the mountains

If you were going to live in a motor home for a year…what would you hope to accomplish? What questions about our travel plans would you like us to answer?

 

 
16 Comments

Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Life, Stops with Stacy, Video

 

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Freestyle choreography: Reining, dressage, do it yourself or hire a pro

“I have recently thinking about trying freestyle reining. One of my stumbling blocks is the actual choreography of the routine. I know some of my dressage friends hire professional freestyle dressage choreographers. How do you choreograph your routines? Do you do it yourself? Do you hire someone to help?”-Janna L.

I have watched dressage freestyle and can see the benefit of having a professional choreographer. The routines are amazing and for most of the performance the maneuvers they execute are VERY timed with the music. In general the reining freestyles are not as precisely timed to the music. The reiners also tend to pick popular songs and dress to fit the music, often ‘acting’ out their interpretation of the song. Dressage riders are more likely to mix and create the music…but skip the costume.

I choreograph my own freestyles. All of the reiners I have talked to, as well as several of my friends, have choreographed their own with input and suggestions  from friends. I don’t know any professional freestyle reining choreographers, maybe if reining makes it into the Olympics this will become a profession.

Whether the routine is choreographed by a pro or by you, here are some common themes you will see among great freestyle.

  • the tempo of the song must match the horse- in dressage they match the music precisely to the step. In reining keep in mind that a horse with short strides will probably look out of time if the music is long and flowing.
  • strong maneuvers win-you are still being judged by the maneuvers you perform-keep them clean and precise. Something may sound fun to do but if it compromises the quality of the maneuver the judge will notice. Plan how to keep the maneuvers clean and add something special as well.
  • don’t over ride your horse-when the music is loud and the crowd is excited you will be able to feel the energy in the air-it will be tempting to ask your horse to go faster and try harder which can lead to over riding. An example of over-riding in reining would be asking a horse that can do a solid set of spins to go even faster, this often results in the spins getting worse instead of better, which is the definition of over-riding.

Keep in mind that this is your first freestyle, winning doesn’t have to be your main goal. Sure, winning is nice but remember to make it a learning experience for both you and your horse.  Enjoy the excitement and have fun!

Watch how the music and the horses movement are so well timed.

This is an example of a reining pattern ‘acting’ out the song. The first time I went to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and watched freestyle Randy Paul won with this routine. I love his addition of the handlebars…lol. That is one well trained pony!

 

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Members Question, Video

 

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What is the best kind of fence for a horse pasture?

“Please help, I need advice! I just bought a place in the country & it has no fences. I need to build fence for horses & don’t know what kind of fence would be the best! I’m not crazy about putting up barbwire. What would you suggest? I’m running out of time & need to get this done so I can move my horses. Any suggestions would be helpful!”-Vicki T.

I just commented to someone the other day that I have come to the conclusion that horses can injure themselves on any fencing out there. Having said that DOES NOT mean that all horse fencing is created equal. There are clearly fencing materials that are higher risk than others. All fencing materials have pros and cons. Another thing to consider is the size of the area being fenced.

Leave a comment with your experience or your idea of the perfect fencing material.

Leave a comment with your experience or your idea of the perfect fencing material.

When most people picture Kentucky pastures they see wooden board fence. When we picture Texas, barbed wire comes to mind. Most horse owners I know have some version of electric fence somewhere on their property…why the difference?

I have spent most of my life around places that never, never used barbed wire fencing for horses. Many of the very large ranches in the west have and still do use barbed wire. While visiting one of the ranches I directly asked one of the wranglers if he had seen any major injuries because of the fencing and why barbed wire was more widely used out west. He said that he had not seen anything more than some scratches caused by the fencing BUT he said the major difference he saw was that his pastures were huge, thousands of acres huge. He felt that if the pastures had been smaller that the fencing needs or issues would have changed.

Personally, I remember my mom rehabbing a horse from a serious barbed wire wound. The vet said it was a miracle that the horse was sound but he carried the scar tissue for the rest of his life. I have also seen horses seriously injured on a number of other fencing materials and heard stories about the rest. I once saw a horse with what looked like a perfect ‘T’ brand on his lower side of his butt…from embedding the top of a metal ‘T’ post into himself….yuck.

I love four board wood fence…maybe I watched the Kentucky Derby a few too many times as a kid. I have used electro-braid in the past and would use it again but here is the real question;

What have you used? What have you liked or disliked about it? What would you use for your perfect fence material?

Fencing materials that come to mind:

  • Wood
  • Welded pipe
  • Woven wire
  • Split rail
  • Electric
  • Wooden posts
  • Vinyl
  • Plastic
  • Metal posts
  • Wire
  • High tensile

Feel free to add to this list by leaving a comment as well as commenting on these materials…just because I listed them doesn’t mean I would use them.

 
47 Comments

Posted by on September 14, 2014 in Life, Members Question

 

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What should you look for in your first horse?

“How do you know what a horse is really suited for in the way of a discipline? I am new to riding and looking at a beautiful 8 year old palomino mare… walker…. She has not been worked in awhile but we connected immediately! These are naive questions, but can you train for barrels, reining, or what breeds are more suited for particular disciplines? She is really smart and special!!
Thanks so much” …. Rozanne

What should you look for in your first horse?

Buying a horse is a big deal, especially if you are new to riding. This generally means that you will have less experience and, like any other area of life, less experience means your direction is probably not as clear. It is good that you are asking questions like this one but at the same time it is possible that a year from now you will have a better idea of the direction you are headed.

I am going to answer your question from several different angles. First, many breeds can compete at lower levels in a variety of disciplines. When you look at the high levels in specific disciplines you will tend to see certain breeds that excel. Sometimes breeds are lumped into categories because they have similarities. For example, if someone says that the ‘stock breeds’ tend to excel in reining they are lumping Quarter Horses, Paints and Appaloosas together under one title. If you are looking at a walking horse it would be good to look at what areas they excel in and see if those appeal to you.

When considering what appeals to you think about what the majority of your time will be spent doing with your horse. If you will mostly trail ride but occasionally show then your needs will be different then if you mostly show and occasionally trail ride. If you have been taking lessons from someone then ask them to sit down and evaluate things with you. Get their professional opinion of your strengths and weaknesses as a rider.

Many people also go about this with a completely different approach, especially with their first horse. They often buy a horse while they have little experience and accept the idea that they have no real idea of where they are headed except out for a ride. In this case these people tend to look at the horse for direction; they own a walking horse so they pick events that the horse would excel at.

Even inside specific breeds looking to the horse is important. I own a horse, Popcorn, that I bought at the Road to the Horse. He is a Quarter Horse and they typically do well in reining but he isn’t bred strongly for it.  Although I trained him and showed him successfully in reining, it was not his strength so I changed gears. He is my favorite trail horse, I use him when training my young horses and he has won me several belt buckles in mounted shooting. Popcorn wasn’t bought to excel in one sport, he was bought to be my horse and we do what we like.

When I am competing in reining I select horses that are strongly bred for that discipline but I rode horses for close to fifteen years before I began to focus on reining.

My first horse.

My first horse.

I do remember the excitement of buying my first horse. I also remember thinking about all of the different options out there and I worried that I would choose wrong. Much like you I looked at horses and picked the one that I connected with…strange how that happens. We also had a professional evaluate the horse and we did a vet check. I played with many, many things over the years from trail riding to contesting, parades, swimming and jumping. I never regretted my choice.

Not everyone has that same first horse experience, but many do. One of the advantages that experience gives is that quite often things become more clear, because much learning takes place in our mistakes. I tried many things with my first horse but we didn’t excel at all of them…but we still had fun.

If I had one piece of advice, beyond getting hands on advice from a pro, it would be to remember to buy a horse you will enjoy being with. That includes both the appropriate training level and who the horse is at the core. Are you drawn to horses with a sweet temperament? Goofy? Serious? Many aspects of your horse can be trained and improved but their personality should be one you enjoy.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on September 13, 2014 in Members Question

 

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We ride horses for many, many reasons…

Anything missing or pretty much sums it up?

Anything missing or pretty much sums it up?

 
8 Comments

Posted by on September 12, 2014 in Life

 

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The first night in our new home…motor home that is!

Stacy Westfall shopping at Walmart

Stacy’s shopping trip…totes and chairs take up lots of room!

While moving out of our home in January I had to admit that I had a small problem with totes. Now, eight months later, as we moved into our Fleetwood, I somehow managed to convince my husband that I needed…more TOTES! I think he might remember my previous tote obsession because he tentatively asked ‘how many’ totes I wanted. I took this as a hint and started with two…for now:)

Although I am dreaming of camping with my horses later this month (maybe for my birthday-hint-hint-husband) I am currently camping in a parking lot. Although the view might not be ideal, the idea behind it is brilliant; educate, educate, educate. Today was all about getting to know the motor home with hands on training and tonight is a lesson in camping…in the parking lot. I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how necessary this was…until I tried to flush the toilet a bit ago and almost couldn’t figure it out, lol. Thankfully I didn’t need to call in help but it is nice to know that if I needed to, I could.

I have so many questions, dreams and thoughts that involve living on the road that I actually woke up every hour last night, I felt like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. I’m so excited about our next horse show and especially the Congress which is coming up fast. Every year I have said I wanted to trail ride more…maybe now that can happen. Maybe its time to update my website to include a form for hosting a clinic; must have RV parking and four stalls. The possibilities are almost limitless.

Tomorrow is another learning day and then we will head back to Ohio. We aren’t actually towing a trailer with the motor home…at least not yet…but we still have a horse with us!

Stacy Westfall's Fleetwood motor home with Roxy photo on it

Watch for Stacy on the road!

 

 

 
19 Comments

Posted by on September 11, 2014 in Life

 

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What is your opinion about hand feeding treats to horses? Jac Review Week

“Hi Stacy,  In the Jac videos- Episode 9-you talked about the youthful stallion drive toward dominance and biting.  What is your opinion about hand feeding treats to horses?  I’ve seen other opinions stating that one should never hand feed because it puts us submissive to the horses while others disagree.  I’ve got 9 horses whose ages range from 24 to yearlings.  Two of my three yearlings like to try to get in my bubble to get at the treats, so I’m working on this personal space issue.  Interestingly, the two are stallions while the third more respectful youngster is a mare.  What’s your opinion on treat feeding?  (PS  The other six in the herd take treats respectfully, although we have a special needs gelding who suffered brain damage due to an accident before we got him so care is needed feeding him because he’s simply uncoordinated, even with his mouth!)”-Joan J.

I am not opposed to feeding treats to horses but I do set rules and conditions. Over the years I have made some observations that I turned into general rules that I use with my horses.

#1- You can’t buy love…so don’t try to with treats.

I want my horses to engage with me, respect me and, yes, even love me but I don’t use treats to get this behavior. In fact, I don’t use treats at all until the horse is already respecting me. As a general rule I don’t give treats to a horse until they are pretty well trained both on the ground and under saddle. The age of the horse really isn’t the key here, but rather the amount of training time. Personally, it is rare for me to feed treats to a horse that I have had in training for less than a year. I make exceptions to this occasionally based on the horses previous experience and individual personality but I would rather delay giving treats than start too early.

#2- Treats can be a distraction and get in the way of the relationshipRoxy loved peppermints

One reason I wait to give treats is because it is possible for horses to become ‘all about the treats.’ If the horse becomes so focused on ‘do I get a treat, now? now? now?’ then it is a good sign that the treat is becoming a distraction. If relationship is what you are trying to build then you need to ask yourself if the horse is thinking about you…or the treat. If the answer is the treat then the relationship will suffer. Have you ever seen a child who was given more and more toys? Or expected a toy every time a parent returned home? The giver may have generated interest in the child through buying stuff…but usually with a cost to the relationship.

#3- The horses that demand treats…don’t get them.

If a horse is searching the human for treats then it is likely that treat giving has gone too far. Too many horses cross the line from curious to demanding. This is usually the stage where biting begins to occur. Not all horses that are given treats progress to this stage but some do. Other horses can eat treats for years and never become pushy or demanding while others seem to become a problem after a short time. This is because the issue isn’t really the treat…it is the individual nature of each horse coming out. The nature of the horse combined with the leadership of the handler is TESTED when treats are given.

#4-Treats can be used for a reward if respect is gained and not lost.

There are horses out there that benefit greatly from receiving treats. Ironically these horses often don’t want treats. I am specifically talking about horses that have been trained with methods that discourage the horse from expressing themselves. I wrote an entire article about retraining these ‘robotic’ horses (click here) but I didn’t go into detail about using treats. I use treats with these horses specifically because it breaks the structure of the way they have been handled by humans in the past. The treats give these horses the hope that humans may have more to offer them than work alone. In essence the treat is used to enhance the mood…a bit like the difference between a candlelight dinner vs florescent lighting.

When Roxy was on the Ellen show they bought her a bucket full of these treats...she was one happy pony! Just after the show went off air she dumped the entire bucket on the floor in the studio to the amusement of the entire audience:)

When Roxy was on the Ellen show they bought her a bucket full of these treats…she was one happy pony! Just after the show went off air she dumped the entire bucket on the floor in the studio to the amusement of the entire audience:)

If I had to sum up my strongest reason for using treats it would be that it can be fun for both the horse and the rider. I fed Roxy countless treats while hanging out or waiting around for our name to be called to show. I didn’t give her any treats early in training. I never used them directly as a reward for a specific maneuver; for example I DID NOT ask her to spin and then give her a treat. I DID use them as we were waiting to show, sometimes for an hour, to keep ourselves entertained. We had both worked hard and then we both enjoyed a peppermint while waiting.

To sum it all up and give you the short answer: I do feed treats to horses…but only if they are respectful.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Video

 

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