9 Tips on Horse Bonding

Creating any kind of bond with a horse takes time, patience, understanding and love. I remember when I first got Tofino, it took me a while to get create a certain bond. So, I decided to write this post in order to help others get closer to their horse/s.

The following includes techniques that I personally use/d, and since I was not able to ride, these tips are mainly off saddle.

“You don’t break these animals, you come to an understanding with them” – Phil West

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We tend to forget that these beautiful creatures can hurt us at any second! Horses, whether green or “broken in” need to constantly feel safe as they are naturally prey animals. Thus, developing techniques in order to communicate and listen to horses is crucial whether you are an owner, rider, trainer, groom etc. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1.   Body Language: Horses can read you very easily as they communicate with one another through body language too. The way you stand, the way you hold yourself, the way you walk, your seating position on them. Therefore, standing straight and  upright is a sign of power. They will learn to respect you.  That being said, if you come aggressively towards a horse, they will most likely try to fight or flee. Take the time to also identify with your horse’s body language, from their ears, to their eyes, nostrils and tensions in their body.

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2.   Energy: After having gone through my operations, I remember the first time I could see Tofino again he could tell that I was injured, that I was hurt. He was so careful and gentle with me. Especially when I started to ride again. This proves that horses can really sense your inner energy, whether you are happy, sad, hurt, angry. So always try to approach your horse in a positive manner, which should keep him feeling safe, and visa versa.

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3.   Quality time: Many equestrians, unfortunately, simply hop on a horse, and hop off without taking the time to thank or care for them. Spending time with your horse is crucial if you wish to succeed together. Taking the time to groom, tack up and even sit in their stall or paddock is a good way to get them to trust and create a bond. This will also help you in understanding your horse and their behavior better.

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4.   Voice Lunging:  I started with using a lunge rein only and no whip as he was terrified from them. Using my voice and my body, I would as him to walk. With a little more enthusiasm in my voice, I would then click twice and ask him to trot. Then, with a different voice tone, I would ask for canter, and at the same time half lift my arm up to encourage the forwardness. This differs with every horse. Tofino learnt with the tone of the words. Some horses may only need you to make some gestures and click.

The purpose of voice lunging is to work with your horse strictly on voice and body language, thus, increasing communication skills between one another. You can simply practice and train them to listen to your voice commands no matter what age your horse is at.

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5.   Gentle Gestures:  When you halter your horse ask him to walk with you by clucking. Don’t ever pull on your horses head. Always ride with soft hands, use your legs and seat to steer your horse, the reins and bit are simply tools to keep your horse between your aids and for subtleness. Always treat your horse as you want to be treated. If you horse does something that requires discipline then get after him quickly and be done with it.  Allow him to recreate the situation to do it correctly and then praise him.

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6. Changing Routine:  Expose your horse to different situations rather than only riding in an arena. Go on hacks/trail rides to not only maintian a healthy mentalty for your horse, but also allow them to trust you in unknown places. If you do not have access to hacking grounds, then perhaps load the trailer and take your horse to a different yard to ride in their arena or use alternative facilities (cross country, hacking grounds..).

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7. Leading obstacle courses: You can try to create an obstacle course and lead your horse through it. This could include water ponds, small logs, carpet/rug on the floor, maneuvering through cones etc. Be creative! For spooky horses they may need you to go through it in-front of them so they follow rather than by their side. Eventually however, you should be able to do it side by side.


8. Bareback/Tackless rides: Only do this when you are experienced and balanced enough and with a safe horse. Riding bareback is an amazing sensation as you get to feel the horses movements inch by inch. Horses are born free, they were not meant to have saddles on their backs, or bits in their mouth, so tackless riding takes both courage and trust from the horse and the rider. Always remember to wear your helmet, no matter what stage of riding you are at.

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9. Horse Tricks: Training your horse to master tricks does not only break boredom but it also teaches them to act before they think, and to also strengthens the bond between you two as they look at you for direction and leadership. There are many tricks that a horse can do from bowing, smiling, giving a kiss, picking up objects, standing on pedestals, rearing on command, laying down on command etc.

An important reminder though would be to teach them to break the trick and make sure they do not do these tricks without your command as it can turn into a bad habit and could end up being dangerous (especially rearing and laying down).

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I have taught Tofino to stay laying still so i hop on him. And he also lifts his leg whenever he begs for treats. The leg he lifts is always the one that I’m on the side of.
You can click here to learn a few tricks for you and your horse.

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Note: I am NOT encouraging you to be super soft with your horse. Be demanding in a GENTLE manner. If your horse misbehaves then reassure him that whatever he did is wrong by simply waving your hand, a gentle smack, a demanding “No” etc. but NEVER beating or starving them.

Happy bonding 🙂 !

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Veredus BioCare: Shampoo Sheen, Super Sheen, & Easy White REVIEW ft. eQuestri

I was lucky enough to meet with Jacky, the owner and creator of eQuestri, at the beginning of the year. She did contact me when my page was rather new and encouraged me to keep going with it and continue. I am so glad to hear that people really do read my posts, thank you!

She visited Tofino and I at the stables, and was kind enough to give us some products from the Veredus BioCare Line to review, which included the following:

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DISCLAIMER: Receiving these products from eQuestri in no way alters my opinion on them. This is a true and honest review. 

SHAMPOO SHEEN (65AED/18USD): 

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I have used many shampoos that claim to make your horse’s coat softer, brighter, shiny etc. But I haven’t come across one that genuinely does it all except for this Shampoo Sheen! Even though it does not include any antiseptic or a scent that drives flies away which a lot of shampoos nowadays do, I was surprised with the results as you can see below:

Before
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After
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Tofino is mostly clipped, so, it is always hard to to get some shine onto his short coat. You can see from the image below that his unclipped saddle area and even his body is glowing and not to mention super soft and smells really good!

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The Shampoo Sheen comes in a 500ml bottle which is very decent as you do not need too much in your bucket. The packaging is very straight forward except for the fact that it does not include the ingredients within the shampoo, and nor does it include an expiration date.

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Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Cleans amazingly! (even stains)
  • Smells good
  • Adds shine & brightness to the coat
  • Softens
  • No need for conditioner
  • Leaves horse smelling good
  • Good size (also comes in 3000ml too)

Cons:

  • No antiseptic/antibacterial
  • No ingredients listed
  • No expiration date listed

Verdict:This shampoo surprised me with how good it cleaned and made Tofino so soft! I love that it’s a 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner. HOWEVER, I like to use shampoos with natural antiseptics since it can clean any small cuts gone unseen and is also a preventative, THEREFORE, I would use this for shows, in order to make him look like a star! I would definitely recommend this purchase 🙂 !!

 

SUPER SHEEN  (100AED/27USD): 

  

I used this on Tofino’s tail as yo can see below, and I felt like it did not add a drastic amount of shine. It did however, detangle his tail very quickly and is such an easy application as it is a spray bottle.

                          Before                                                              After
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Post application, his tail was tangle free, nonetheless, it felt very sticky and somewhat rough. This could be due to the fact that it creates a protective layer on the surface of the hair to repel water, dust, bedding etc, which it really did! I was surprised by this factor. With that being said, the repelling did not last 15 days, more like 5 days which is still pretty good especially for 3 day competitions.

The packaging is a straight forward spray bottle with the product name and directions. It does not include expiration date, and nor does it include the ingredients which i found to be rather fishy. The spray does smell strong, as in chemical strong which does worry me!

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Pros:

  • Detangles
  • Lasts around 5 days
  • Efficient (less tail maintenance)
  • Repels dirt,  dust, shavings etc.
  • Waterproof
  • Easy application
  • Smells good

Cons:

  • Doesn’t add shine
  • Tail feels rough
  • Doesn’t last 15 days (as advertised)
  • No ingredients listed
  • No expiration date listed

Verdict:  The detangling lasts a a number of days, HOWEVER, it leaves the tail feels rough and doesn’t have fine, THEREFORE, I use it with the Ecolicious De-Stress Treatment to balance it out and make it shiny and soft. 

 

EASY WHITE (65AED/18USD): 

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I used this on a minor manure stain on Tofino’s body and it worked as expected. I sprayed it on the area, waited for about 15 seconds and wiped it with a sponge. I must admit that it smelt very strong (detergent), and the area did feel rough after using Easy White. I do believe this is due to the Hydrogren Peroxide as it is used as a detergent, but, it is known to dry out hair.

                 Before                                                 After
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Moreover, I am not sure why Veredus does not write the full ingredients or expiration date on their products. Consumers have a right to know what their items consist of.

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Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Removes stains
  • Doesn’t need water
  • Works fast

Cons:

  • Strong smell
  • Contains Hydrogren Peroxide (drying detergent)
  • No ingredients listed
  • No expiration date listed

Verdict: I personally would not purchase this product as I believe there are other products out there that can do just as good of a job, without the harsh scent or the coat drying factor.

I would like to thank eQuestri greatly once again for sending through these products! This is just my personal opinion and experience with them, thus, your horse may react differently, so please do not hesitate to visit their website at:
www.eQuestri-online.com if you wish to purchase from the Veredus Biocare Care line 🙂 !!

FreeJump Soft’Up Pro Stirrups + Safety Stirrup Leather REVIEW

My first stirrups that I got were the Prestige Italia Stirrup Silk which come with rubber and cheese-grater grips that you can alternate with.

I honestly didn’t have an issue with these until i had the accident to my leg. After my surgeries i felt like these stirrups hurt my whole leg from ankle to hip. Therefore, i decided to sell them and look for something that can assist my injury.

I was torn between the Jin Kinko and the Freejump Soft’up Pro for the longest time!

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After trying them both, I did feel much safer in the FreeJump, not to mention that a friend of mine had broken her foot and ankle whilst using the Jin Kinko as her foot got stuck while her horse slipped!

That being said, what was I thinking debating the two? FreeJump is known to be safer, so SAFETY FIRST! I got my stirrups from schockemoehle.net. You can also find them here in the UAE at Tack N Track and at Gulf Rider.

I rode in my friends FreeJump (blue) for a while and fell more and more in love with them ❤

Note: Soft’up Pro and  Soft’up are completely different stirrups!whatcha want from us

Specifications of FreeJump Soft’up Pro:

  • Tempered spring steel single-branch with extra high mechanical resistance (1200MPa)
  • Elastollan® overmoulding
  • Open eye for fastening to the single strap
  • 45° angled eye for a perfect foot position
  • Patented flexible outer branch made of Elastollan® which helps free the foot in case of fall
  • Extra wide tread made of Ixef® 1022 (fibreglass loaded polyarylamide)
  • Elastomer grip
  • Screw fastened protetive cover
  • Branch situated at the front of the tread for a natural slope
  • Rectilinear bevelled rear leading edge for better lateral stability
  • Exclusive LOOK CYCLE® technology nonslip studded tread surface
  • Many different colours to choose from (black, chocolate, blue, red, vanilla, green, orange, pink) as shown below:

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Here is a video explaining the innovative technology: (it is in french but has subtitles)

FreeJump Soft’up Pro Evaluation:

Pros: Cons:
  Safe

•  Pain free

•  45° helps put your heel down

• Flexible yet sturdy

• Wide but not too wide that your foot falls through

• Many colour options

• Non-slip grip (never lost my stirrups since using them)

• Innovative

• Perfect weight

•   Expensive (one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive stirrups there are!)

•  Wearing down of rubber? (I am not so sure about this but mine seem to be much gripper than my friends and she has had it for longer so assume the rubber grip does wear down but you still have the screws)

•  Scratches saddle (you will need to store it in a specific way in order to avoid any scratches on your saddle from the screws)

 

Verdict:  I would definitely purchase these again and recommend them wholeheartedly  They really work amazingly for my leg and look so nice. I have had multiple surgeries on my leg from an accident and these are the only stirrups that I feel comfortable and less pain in. So if you have leg pain or leg surgery I would 100% tell you to get these NOW! 



Even though these stirrups work perfectly fine with normal stirrup leathers, I felt a great positive difference with the FreeJump Safety Stirrup Leathers. I got my stirrup leathers from Gulf Rider UAE and a discounted price in one of the nationals shows. I did get the Brown in the size Medium and I am 170cm with long lengths. For jumping, it is a perfect length, and for dressage, I end up using the 2nd/3rd longest hole.

Small (for riders under 5’5″/165cm)
Medium (for riders 5’5″/165cm – 5’9″/175cm)
Large (for riders over 5’9″/175cm)

Thanks to the open eyelet on the X’UP and SOFT’UP stirrups, the Freejump stirrup leathers can be fitted very quickly with a simple nylon loop, without having to take the stirrup leather off the saddle. Its single strap and extra wide design provides unbeatable riding comfort and the guarantee that the Freejump stirrup leather will not twist.

Note: The stirrup leathers are much lighter in real life. They are more of a cognac brown than a typical brown.

Here are some pictures of my Black (as it can go with anything) FreeJump Soft’up Pro’s attached to the Safety Stirrup Leathers:

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Update: Freejump did make new stirrup leathers now, that are much more durable and evened out. You can tell the difference with the black reinforcement on the inside of the stirrup leather. This makes it tougher and last longer without stretching. The holes have also been adjusted so they are even on both left and right leg (old version wasn’t).

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Freejump Safety Stirrup Leather Evaluation:

Pros: Cons:
  Safe

•  Keep stirrups in place

•  Lay flat on the saddle

•  No pinching

•  Sturdy

•  Easy to take off stirrups through nylon loop 

•  Doesn’t mark the saddle

•  No twisting

•  Loop numbers are on the riders side (e.g when you adjust your stirrup leather, the numbers are facing you, making it easier to read)

•  Comes in 3 different sizes (S,M,L)

•  Cognac brown colour (will need to darken)

•  Expensive

• Not durable (not applicable to new version)

•  Stirrup holes are not punched evenly (not applicable to new version)

Verdict: Since the new version is a lot tougher and better made, I would definitely recommend these stirrup leathers. I love how sturdy they feel with the stirrup irons and they stay in one spot making it easier for you to put your foot in without having it being twisted constantly. That being said, they are not too durable, which is disappointing for the price you pay.

IMPORTANT: Horse Diarrhea + Checking Your Horses Vital Signs

A lot of people underestimate the seriousness of diarrhea in horses. It can happen to all horses whether foals or seniors and in all but the mildest cases, it is best to call a vet in order to start treatment promptly, as to eliminate it from getting worse.

Diarrhea is not a disease but a symptom of one. You can simple identify whether your hose has it by checking their feces consistency from runny to liquid feces. If they were turned out, or someone mucked the stall out, you can also check your horses tail and bum as well as their hind legs to check for any diarrhea stains.

There are certain instances in which a bit of diarrhea is normal, such as a sudden change of environment or feed, however, long bouts — those that persist more than a few days — or severe forms of diarrhea is not normal and require veterinary assistance.

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According to Josie Traub-Dargatz, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, a professor of equine medicine at Colorado State University,  By some estimates, a horse with diarrhea can lose as much as 10 gallons (40 liters) of water and salts per day. The resulting dehydration can be fatal, or it can lead to other serious problems, including electrolyte imbalances, weight loss, laminitis, and kidney failure. With certain causes of diarrhea, the causal agent may release or secrete toxins into the intestine, which may be absorbed into the blood, causing toxemia.” (Toxemia is blood poisoning caused by toxins–poisons produced by organisms such as bacteria.)

Now I am writing this as a precaution as Tofino has been hospitalized as of yesterday due to runny diarrhea which i do not have a picture of as i was too stressed trying to call the equine hospital. There are two situations that can happen when a horse has diarrhea:

  1. Loose stool but doesn’t lose much water and is still active and has a good appetite. (this can happen from minor stress or feed change and should go back to normal in less than 48 hours)
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  2. Very loose to runny stool and the horse experiences whole-body fluid loss, high temperature, lethargic mood, sounds in the gut, blood or mucus in feces, persistent more than 48 hrs, loss of appetite, increased pulse/heartrate, signs of laminitis . (this is when you should be worried and call a vet asap!)

Causes:

  • Parasites
  • Excessive ingestion of sand
  • Chronic Salmonella infection
  • Inflammatory or infiltrative bowel disease
  • Neoplasia (lymphosarcoma in the gut)
  • Salmonella infection
  • Clostridial infection
  • Potomac Horse Fever
  • Antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  • NSAID (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) toxicity
  • Assorted toxicities (i.e. arsenic, cantharidin, various plant toxicities)

Now for Tofino, he had on and off diarrhea for about two weeks i think then all of a sudden it got much worse and he spilled about 4 times in one hour and he looked very depressed! I called  Sharjah Equine Hospital straight away and told them about his situation and they told me to bring him in ASAP. The trailers at the yard were booked and I don’t own a trailer which made me stress even more.

Luckily, Sharjah Equine Hospital said they have a horse ambulance than can come pick us up and so they did in no time which i was very pleased with.

These are the steps that we went through at Sharjah Equine Hospital:

  • Checked his heart rate + respiration (which were high!)
  • Checked temperature (was high!)
  • Took blood test
  • Took fecal sample for testing
  • Ultrasound the intestine/gut (to check movements + inflammation) 
  • Pain relief injection
  • Probiotics (to assist stomach function)
  • Stabled in quarantine (just incase)
  • Fluid therapy (due to dehydration) 
  • All day access to ONLY hay and water (low starch, no cereals/grains/pellets)
  • Additional medication daily (pro-bio + biosponge)
  • Hand walked 4x/day

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I am super happy that our wonderful Vet, Dr Mieke De Rijck who is also the Hospital Director, took super good care of my boy and talked me through everything in detail. He is staying at the hospital for 3 days until his temperature and heart rate lowers and passes normal feces. All the nurses and assistance are super friendly and great with the horses.

Knowing the horses vital signs range: Adult Horse (resting values):

  • Temperature: 37.2-38.3°C  (99-101°F)
  • Pulse: 28-42 beats per minute
  • Respiration (breathing rate): 8-16 breaths per minute
  • Mucous membranes (gums): Moist, healthy pink color

Here is a video on how to take your own horse’s vital signs:
Note: Many vets DO NOT recommend using a mercury thermometer as it can break and is very toxic.

The fecal sample results take time and we should get them by next week to know the cause of his diarrhea. In the meantime though, i did go visit him this morning and he seemed to be more aware and less in the corner depressed which is good as any sign of progress means we are going in the right direction.

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On a final note, my Dr Meike and I discussed Tofino’s diet and since he is turning 15, he should be on feed that is dedicated to Adult horses, and that is low in starch.

The problem of having your horse in a riding yard is that all the horses get the same feed, when technically, every single horse must have its own diet sorted out for them depending on their age, workload, discipline, weight etc.

Therefore, I have decided to purchase my own feed from Cavalos UAE who supply Reverdy Feed and good quality hay, after reading this complimentary Reverdy book and better understanding what Tofino really needs.

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One should never cut costs where your horses wellbeing and health lays.

Equine Osteopathy, Stretches & Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to my followers! Thank you so much for your support ❤ It goes without saying that I have gotten this far in my blog due to the number of hits I get on it, which keeps me motivated to continue and do more for you 🙂 Thanks again!!


For the first post this year, as promised on my instagram (@TofinoDuLys), I mentioned that I will upload a post on Equine Osteopathy, and here it finally is!

Osteopathy differs from physiotherapy (musculoskeletal) and a chiropracty (structural). Osteopathy uses both physical techniques and structural alterations to remove tension and restrictions to the whole body.

Just like regular athletes, horses also need to be looked after in terms of their muscles and structure.

  

A couple of months ago, the well known Equine Osteopath, Herve Baldassari, came to the UAE to work on some horses. Herve works as part of EquiCare, which is based in France. So we were very lucky to have him come to the UAE, and hopefully, with more visits to come in the future as any form of physical treatment, whether for human or horse, always needs a followup.

Tofino has had a number of osteopaths take a look at him but I never found it super beneficial, until Herve Baldassari came along. He dedicates a full 45 minutes to each horse and checks them head to toe which i was super pleased about! He is able to diagnose your horse of issues from tummy aches to stifle problems.

Benefits of Osteopathy:

  • Improves performance
  • Improves flexibility (increase range of motion)
  • Improves behavior (kicking, bucking etc.)
  • Improves horses wellbeing
  • Reduces pain
  • Relieves tension
  • Maintains mobility
  • Assists in rehabilitation
  • Diagnoses troubled areas

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Here is a quick video for an insight of an osteopathy session (watch in HD):

Generally, horses are very relaxed by the end of the session as they can feel the tension being relieved. They will most likely be sore after and require 2-3 days loose work before getting back to your usual activities. This however, varies between horses as some may be able to get back to work straight away, while others may need to be off for 2 weeks. Your osteopath will provide you with specific exercises that you will need to commit to in order to help your horse as much as possible after the session.

In my experience, the more frequently your horse sees an osteopath, the healthier and stronger they become as athletes. With that being said, make sure your osteopath is qualified and takes his time with your horse, as it can do irreversible damage if done incorrectly. If you cannot afford to pay for an Equine Osteopath, perhaps ask them beforehand and hopefully they can make a deal with you of some sort.

You can also take a look at some stretches you can do  in order to help your horse keep loose. I would suggest doing this whether your horse sees an osteopath or not:

Whether they are simply school horses or hardcore competition horses, I believe it is necessary to get them done/checked at least twice a year.