It’s sometimes easy as parents to bear the burden of horse care and its intricacies. We’re used to scheduling the shoeing, calling the dentist, buying the dewormer and giving the vaccinations.
We’ve spent our lives learning the ins and outs of horse keeping, and, through a whole lot of experiences—good and bad—we’ve learned what keeps our horses healthy and happy.
But as my daughter gets older, and as I interact with other kids in the horse world, I am eager to pass on the mental load of horse care. Knowing each horse’s routine and normal condition is critical for the safety and health of the horses we care for, and for my daughter’s (and so many other kids’) growth as a horsewoman.
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So like most months, I tapped National Reined Cow Horse Association trainer (and junior-rodeo dad!) Casey Branquinho for his thoughts on the essential details we ought to be teaching our kids—early and often—to pay attention to in their horses.
1. How much water does your horse drink throughout the day?
“Kids—from a pretty young age—can be asked to pay attention to how much water their horse drinks throughout a given day,” Branquinho said. “That’s an essential detail, because, especially when traveling, if a horse doesn’t drink, he can colic from an impaction. Any change in a horse’s normal routine, like drinking way more or way less water than usual, can be a sign of trouble that a horseman can spot. It can be an easy fix, too, because maybe if you notice your horse hasn’t drank, you can just clean out his bucket and find that it’s dirty with manure or old hay, and you can save yourself a problem.”
2. How well does your horse clean up his feed every day?
“Some horses pick at their hay and grain throughout the day, while others gobble it up right away,” Branquinho said. “A change in that eating pattern can be cause of concern. Especially over the summer, when kids have more time to spend around their horses, this is something they can really pay attention to throughout the day.”
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3. What’s your horse’s general demeanor?
“Is your horse usually soft-eyed, with relaxed ears pointed forward? If he’s standing around with his ears pinned back on his head, and you can’t see anything immediately bothering him, you better check him over and keep an eye on him.”
4. How tight do you usually get your cinch?
“Knowing where the cinch’s d-ring usually sits on your horse’s side, and knowing how tight you usually ride your saddle, is another thing that a kid of just about any age can look for and pay attention to,” Branquinho said. “You can get in a bind if that cinch is too far one way or the other. And it can be a sign that your horse is bloated or sunk in if your cinch is suddenly out of place.”
5. What does your horse’s stool usually look like?
“Kids shouldn’t just be cleaning stalls as a punishment or a must-do chore,” Branquinho said. “It’s a time when they can get to know their horse’s stool, because it’s an important indicator of the horse’s health. Is it too loose? Too dry? What’s the normal amount of manure in the stall? These are things a kid can pick up on and pay attention to whether they’re the horse show or junior rodeo or at home. We’re dealing with horses that can’t tell us what’s going on, so we have to interpret what they’re telling us and what it means.” H&R