With warmer weather right around the corner, I’ve found myself opening the barn door wider, keeping windows open at night and ultimately organizing every part of my little barn to best utilize the space. Having converted a non-traditional building into a barn, I discovered a few obstacles along the way – including where to fit things like blanket bags and saddles. Luckily, I had a great team to help me revamp the barn as well as great barn supplies from Big Dee’s for organizing!
The struggle with having a three stall barn with smaller dimensions, is finding the right place to tack up. The outside of my third stall serves as the “tacking-up area”. One of my absolute favorite and versatile pieces is the Portable Swivel Tack Rack – this little less-than-ten-dollars rack fits virtually anywhere, swivels both the top and bottom hooks, and is sturdy enough to hang bridles, grooming totes and more without issue. If I need more space, I can simply push the hooks to the side, or move them around as needed. My second favorite tool is the Adjustable Blanket Bar with Hooks – this cool little piece fits all sorts of odds and ends. The Blanket Bar is a great place to put my saddle pads, half pads and other tack pieces, like the lunge line and girth.
Where to Store the Halters and Fly Spray?
I liked the products mentioned above so much, that I got two more for a different part of my barn! The Blanket Bar also serves as a great place for topicals. I keep my coat conditioners, shines, fly sprays and spot-treatment sprays hanging across the bar. I can adjust the length to fit the season – in the spring and summer I have a lot more products, in the fall and winter, just a handful so I can shorten the bar and take up less space. The swivel tack rack makes for a fabulous halter, lead and other miscellaneous item organizer.
Tack Locker Organization
While my tack locker was build specifically for the space I had available, I am a bit of a tack collector (let’s be honest, who isn’t?) – so I needed some alternatives for using the space. I put up several Bridle Brackets to hang various bridles and headstalls on. I added the 10 Pocket Trailer Caddy to one of my doors, and it was a game-changer for storing my prized “matchy-matchy” boots and fly veils! The zip compartments fit several veils and the mesh holders fit the boots so well. Proof that you can make this Caddy tailored to your own needs. One of the latest additions was the Three Hook Tack Rack Case. When I ran out of space for bridles in my locker (oops!) I needed something sturdy, convenient and adjustable to put my extras in – and this fit the bill! It was pleasantly surprised how well it held up in my barn, and how easy it would be to move if needed.
Transitioning between seasons is made easier with the most versatile Utility Hook. I have a few of these in the larger size for hanging blankets, sheets and fly sheets. In the wet season, the hooks help drip-dry the blankets and sheets. In the summer, these help keep fly sheets, masks and fly boots out of the way.
No matter the space available, the size of the barn or the amount of horse tack you have – there is an option to fit your needs at Big Dee’s!
It’s our favorite time of year! The time of the season where horses have turned into shedding wildebeests and what was once known as a horse farm has turned into a mud farm.
Thankfully, the Big Dee’s Crew has come to the rescue to hand-select some of our favorite, must-have products to get us through mud season. Whether you’re dealing with issues like 5 layers of mud or ways to bring your horse’s dull winter coat to a shiny spring glow, we’ve got you covered!
Curry On a Stik’
Picked by Purchasing & Showroom Department Manager, Gail L.
Are you looking for a grooming tool that will lift caked-on mud after your horse has spent all day rolling in his favorite puddle? Look no further, the Curry On A Stik’ allows deep cleaning with its large rubber prongs and exfoliating bristles.
What makes this grooming tool out of this world isn’t just the fact it is Veterinarian tested and recommended, the unique handle design prevents hand fatigue – say goodbye to cramped fingers and “claw” hands! The dual-sided head provides a gentle massaging effect that horses crave, creating a bonding ritual your horse will look forward to.
“Finally, a round curry that is balanced and easy to hold! [Curry On a Stik’] will not make your hand cramp up. It’s great for getting out mud and shedding and there is a soft bristle side for finishing…” – Gail L.
E3Antibacterial / Anti-Fungal Shampoo
Picked by Operations Manager, Jess R.
Who says you have to sacrifice penetrating, deep-cleaning properties for a gentle, pleasant-smelling formula? Elite Equine Evolution’s Antibacterial & Antifungal Shampoo proves you can have the best of both worlds!
This pH-balanced medicated shampoo is the solution to ensure a clean coat, while its fortification of Nano Vitamins A, C, E, & F ensure maximum absorption and diffusion of the vitamins to prevent inflammation and promote rapid healing. The E3 Antibacterial Shampoo’s truly one of the most effective bathing items out there for controlling Hot Spots, Ring Worm, Rain Rot, mud-related skin disorders, and more. Plus, it’s safe for dogs!
“E3 Antibacterial/Antifungal shampoo is my top-pick to keep my horses skin clean and healthy year-round. While it can be used for all-over cleaning, I absolutely rely on this shampoo to care for my horses legs.
During the wet season I like to do a deep clean with E3 and a full dry out at least once a week to keep nasty mud related afflictions at bay. The other 6 months of the year I use it as an integral part of my post-foxhunting routine. This high-sudsing cleanser has a pleasant scent and leaves the hair soft and radiant. I truly believe that the E3 Antibacterial/Antifungal shampoo is the absolute best defense against minor cuts and scrapes from brush, brambles and wire.” – Jess R.
Epona Grooming Tools
Picked by Operations Manager, Jess R.
Epona has designed some of the leading grooming tools great for tackling dirt, dust, and debris on any horse, any time of the year. From brushes to curries and sponges galore, you’ll definitely want to stock up for your own grooming box
The Epona Ulta-Mitt is super effective for bathing and removing sweat marks from both clipped and unclipped horses. The gentle, cactus-like material helps lift dirt and debris free from the skin, then simply hose off and hang to dry! The April Power Shower Sponge with Tiger’s Tongue is one of Big Dee’s best-selling items, a two-sided and super absorbent sponge to scrub away dirt or use with your favorite coat conditioner to bring out a dazzling finish.
“The Epona April Power Shower Sponge with Tigers Tongue is a great dual-purpose sponge. This tool makes bucket baths quick and easy, the sponge holds lots of soap, while with a simple flip the tigers tongue makes quick work of tough stains. I also use it dry to power through crusted mud and sweat marks. Flip it over to the sponge side and give it a spritz with your favorite coat conditioner for a quick spot clean.
The Epona Ulta-Mitt is the one tool I think every equestrian should have in their bath bucket. The tightly woven loops help to create a rich lather while attaining a deep clean right down to their skin. The flexible fabric allows my hand to easily conform to my horses legs to make scrubbing easy and comfortable for my horse. I give the Epona Ulta-Mitt two thumbs up for quality and durability.” – Jess R.
EQyss Survivor Super Detangler & Shine
Picked by Purchasing Associate, Colleen C.
One of the most treasured grooming items in my tack box, I have been a big fan of the EQyss Survivor Super Detangler & Shine for everyday grooming and last-minute touch-ups before entering the show ring. I swear by this stuff and any person who wants to make a “wow” statement for their horse’s turnout needs this product. This heavenly-smelling gel slides easily through burrs, knots, and tangles without being sticky or greasy. A little goes a long way on this detangler – a nickel to quarter size drop is all I need!
Zarasyl is a Superman-like agent that does it all! This scientifically-designed barrier cream is used for a variety of preventative and treatment methods for most types of skin ailments. It’s steroid- and antibiotic-free, making it safe for any level of competition.
Its proprietary formula contains bio-available Silica for healthy connective tissue growth and enriched with Beeswax for gentle soothing and healing of abrasions while creating a protective barrier against harmful bacteria. Zarasyl also contains Tree Tree Oil for antibacterial properties, Zinc for cell growth and wound healing, and Lanolin for a moisturized skin barrier. Extremely easy to use and apply, the slightly sticky formula allows you to pinpoint exactly where you want the cream to go – no mess, no fuss.
“[With Zarasyl], a little goes a long way! Test-Free and I found it starts to heal up limestone/mud rash within a few days.” – Tish C.
Picked by Purchasing / Product Management, Christie F.
What started out as a non-toxic, sustainable, and Eco-friendly human skincare solution has turned into an international phenomenon for the effective cleaning, treatment, and management of a healthy skin and coat for horses.
This all-natural line of effective products is without harsh ingredients like chemical preservatives, synthetic detergents and fragrances – but don’t let that fool you – their topical skincare products pack a punch! The Coat Defense Powder & Paste can be used for a variety of common skin issues like rain rot, bug bites, sweet itch, various cuts and scrapes, and makes a FANTASTIC dry shampoo! Plus, its delicate Peppermint scent will keep you reaching for both of these fantastic products throughout the year.
“For many years I have battled mud fever until I found Coat Defense. Now using Coat Defense combined with a daily grooming routine we have had no mud fever episodes (yay!). I focus on the problem areas, legs, hocks and spine area cleaning off dirt and debris using the Epona Tigers Tongue, it easily removes dirt and debris from hard to reach areas because it so easily conforms to the body part you’re grooming. I follow up with a generous amount of Coat Defense powder making sure to rub it into the coat to get to the skin. During Spring and Winter months when the horses are wearing their blankets more frequently I will even put a little Coat Defense on prior to blanketing. Coat Defense is now my go-to product for Mud Fever prevention!” – Christie F.
What Will YOU Choose?
With over 200 brands and thousands of items to select within our vast inventory, Big Dee’s is certain to have the products you need to bring out the best from your horse – both on the inside and the outside! Whether you’re battling caked on mud in a dirty tail, dealing with a shedding woolly mammoth, or brightening a coat that was left dull from the winter, our expert staff is here to ensure you have the grooming tools and bathing essentials to create a dazzling finish.
Last week I touched on the subject of Fly Prevention, and this week I’ll be covering two of the most important health care routines for your horse – deworming and vaccines.
Where To Start?
Dewormers can be overwhelming for both new and seasoned horse owners. Before even diving in, it should be known that dewormers work to remove parasite infestation within the horse. It is not going to prevent more parasites in the future, it only tackles removing the current amount within the horse. Some horses can have strong resistance, while others can be extremely susceptible. Getting a routine fecal check can help determine what kind of “shedder” your horse is. Heavy shedders are horses that shed a high level of parasite eggs and need to be dewormed more often. Moderate to light shedders don’t have as much of a parasite count and can be dewormed less often. You should always consult with your veterinarian when working on a deworming schedule for your horse.
What Are You Deworming Against?
Encrusted Small Strongyles The most susceptible are young and senior horses. Symptoms: Weight loss, colic, diarrhea and overall poor body condition
Large Strongyles (bloodworms) These worms can be dangerous to organs and can weaken abdominal artery walls. Symptoms: Diarrhea, weight loss and colic
Ascarids (roundworms) Dangerous to foals and horses under the age of two. Once ingested the larvae move through the veins into the liver, heart and lungs. Larvae in the lungs will eventually get swallowed and develop in the small intestine. Because the larvae migrate through the lungs a young horse could develop respiratory disease, have poor weight gain and colic. Symptoms: Colic, poor weight gain and potential to develop respiratory disease
Threadworms Dangerous to foals and young horses. Foals can become infected by nursing from a mare with the larvae. They live in the intestinal tract. Symptoms: Diarrhea and weakness
Bots In the summer months bot flies lay eggs (generally on the legs) on the horse, which are then consumed. Once inside the horse, they implant themselves in the mouth or intestines. Symptoms: Poor overall body condition and mild colic
Tapeworms Tapeworms reside in the horse’s intestines and don’t always cause noticeable problems. Symptoms: Mild colic and diarrhea
Pinworms Not as dangerous as the some of the other worms listed here, but can cause very visible problems with your horse Symptoms: Itching around the horse’s rectum and tail
What Product Should I Use (And When)?
How often you deworm can impact your horse’s health dramatically. Keep in mind over-deworming can lead to parasites building a resistance to dewormers. What product you use, and when, will help keep them healthy all year!
A general rule of thumb \ would be to use a Fenbendazole in the Spring (like Panacur), an Ivermectin/Praziquantel in the Summer and Winter (like Equimax) and a Pyrantel in the Fall (like Strongid). If problems persist with parasites, you can use a Moxidectin (like Quest) to clear out most remaining parasites. There are also daily dewormer options to help combat parasites.
What Else Can Be Done?
There are factors that can be attributed to how susceptible your horse is to parasites, including age, environment and climate. Make sure you clean up manure from your pastures and paddocks and routinely clean stalls and run-in sheds to maintain a clean environment for your horse. Keep in mind young and senior horses have weaker immune systems and may need additional assistance to thrive.
Where To Start?
Equine vaccines are designed to help prevent your horse from contracting known diseases. We often hear about West Nile or Rabies, but there is a full spectrum of debilitating diseases your horse could contract. The scary part is you never know when your horse could be exposed – it could be at a show, a new horse at the barn, a trail ride with friends – so it’s better to vaccinate and be prepared, rather than take a risk. Many shows now require a record of current vaccinations to participate. The core vaccines according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) are Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis, Rabies, Tetanus and West Nile Virus.
What Are Concerns In Ohio?
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) EEE is a fatal neurological disease in horses that is mostly contracted through mosquitoes. It effects the brain and nervous system causing the horse to lose coordination, lose the ability to stand and render it unable to have normal bodily functions. Find vaccine options here. Symptoms: Depression, moderate to high fever, lack of appetite, lethargy, neurological signs
Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE) WEE is very similar to EEE, being a neurological disease spread by mosquitoes – but it effects horses less severely than EEE. Find vaccine options here. Symptoms: Depression, moderate to high fever, lack of appetite, lethargy, neurological signs
West Nile Virus (WNV) West Nile Virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and effects the neurological system. It can be difficult to differentiate between EEE/WEE and WNV since the symptoms are quite similar. Find vaccine options here. Symptoms: Depression, mild low-grade fever, lack of appetite, lethargy, neurologic signs
Tetanus Tetanus is caused by the bacteria clostridium. Although it is commonly picked up from wounds, it is always present in the environment. Find vaccine options here. Symptoms: Body stiffness, spasms, sensitivity, difficulty eating (referred to as lockjaw), sweating, rapid breathing
Equine Herpesvirus – Rhinopneumonitis (Rhino) Type 1 (EHV-1) and type 4 (EHV-4) is a highly contagious, respiratory infection. EHV-1 is widely feared for causing mares to abort their foals. Rhino is also concern for younger horses who have not had a chance to build immunity. Find vaccine options here. Symptoms: Fever, lethargy, anorexia, nasal discharge and coughing
Equine Influenza The flu is another highly contagious respiratory infection. It impacts young horses and those with weak immune systems more often. It is easily contracted in high-traffic areas, like racetracks, show grounds and barns with horses coming and going regularly. Find vaccine options here. Symptoms: Fever, depression, muscle weakness, coughing, nasal discharge
Rabies Rabies is a neurological disease that is fatal. The only way to test for Rabies is to send the brain into a lab to confirm, making it difficult to diagnose. Rabies is contracted by the contact of bodily fluids, often seen in bite wounds from infected animals. Find vaccine options here. Symptoms: Colic, depression, lameness and agitation
Potomac Horse Fever Potomac Horse Fever is a bacterial infection from ingesting mayflies and aquatic insects. Though recovery is very possible, it is a very costly disease to treat. Find vaccine options here. Symptoms: Fever, diarrhea, laminitis, colic, and decreased abdominal sounds – pregnant mares may abort infected fetuses
Equine Botulism There are three syndromes of the botulism disease – wound botulism where the toxin contaminates a wound, shaker foal syndrome where the spores are ingested and forage poisoning where contaminated food is consumed. Find vaccine options here. Symptoms: Muscle paralysis, difficulty chewing/swallowing and overall weakness
As always, it is encouraged to work with your veterinarian to decide which vaccines are a good option for your horse. While the core vaccines are recommended for all horses, others are deemed risk-based depending on your geographical location. Factor in the age, condition and use of your horse – if it’s a well travelled show horse or race horse, it will have different needs than an occasional trail horse. Keeping records of your horse’s vaccination history, deworming schedule and other health related information is highly encouraged.
It’s almost that time again in Northeast Ohio – with the warming temperatures and shedding horses come the flies, gnats, mosquitoes and ticks. Nothing puts a damper on your good mood like swatting tiny gnats out of your face while grooming your horse. Or getting tail whipped in the eye by your trusty steed while saddling up. Luckily, there are ways to make the burden of bugs a lesser problem in the summer!
I’ll start with one of my favorites, and, one of the most important to start earlier in the season if you are utilizing feed thru benefits. There are two basic kinds of feed through supplements – one kind is meant to prevent flies from the inside out and the other kind helps break the cycle of fly populations. The goal of garlic based feed through supplements like Hilton Herbs Bye Bye Fly Garlic Granules and Equilite Herbals Fly Away Garlic is to deter flies from ever landing on your horse. This option may work better in boarding situations when not all horses are fed feed through fly prevention supplements.
The more complex feed through supplements like Farnam Simplifly with Larvastop and Solitude IGR don’t repel adult flies. They actually work by your horse consuming the product, which ends up in the manure and subsequently prevents the future larvae from ever reaching adulthood. This type of feed through takes the cooperation of an entire barn to truly work effectively. Every horse needs to be fed this to stop the fly population around the barn.
With both types of feed through supplements, it’s recommended to start feeding them in early spring, through summer and into fall.
The next type of bug prevention should be started early in the Spring as well since it will essentially create a barrier for your barn. I used the Spartan Mosquito Eradictor for the first time last year and was blown away by the results. I placed the canisters away from my barn early in the year and was able to prevent a large influx of mosquitoes around my barn and pasture. By keeping up with the directions, I was able to keep my property relatively mosquito-free all year. This year at Big Dee’s, we are introducing the Terry Bradshaw 4 Ring Protection Mosquito Free Zone, which works incredibly fast to make a space mosquito free.
Other tried and true methods include the sticky tape, fly bags and timed-spray control systems. I like hanging a few sticky tapes near my barn doorway to catch gnats and the straggler flies, and use a fly bag near the pasture gates (be prepared to change these often – they work VERY well, but get heavy and gross quickly).
Masks, Leg Wraps and Sheets
One of the best investments for bug prevention is a nice fly mask. They range in materials, with or without ears, with or without extended noses or fringe and so many color and pattern options! My go-to is the Cashel mask with ears. It has darts to keep the material off of their eyes, while having a forelock hole and double secure velcro – not to mention fun new patterns every year! I use fly veils when riding in my english tack, but have found the Cashel Quiet Ride to be essential while riding in my western tack.
Leg wraps are another great tool if you have horses with sensitive skin, or in my case a grey gelding that gets bitten pretty badly if he goes out without anything. Fly sheets and scrims are fabulous for turnout and as an accessory for shows and trail rides. Fly sheets are breathable, lightweight and help keep biting insects from a large part of the body. Scrims are useful at shows to keep the bugs from pestering too badly while waiting for your classes.
When it comes to fly sprays, there are so many options. It can be a little overwhelming, but having knowledge on general terms can make the decisions easier. First, there are water and oil-based fly sprays. Each have their pros and cons. Water-based doesn’t attract dust like oil, but it also isn’t as sweat resistant and easily rinses off in rain. Oil-based can last a longer in the elements but can feel a little “heavier” and attract dust. I like having both options in the barn – for an oil based spray I like Pyranha Wipe N Spray and for water based I use Absorbine Ultrashield Ex.
An alternative to chemical-based are the all natural fly sprays. These tend to be environmentally friendly and non-toxic, and serve as a great option for those who want to go green. These products use natural oils like citronella and eucalyptus but need to be applied more regularly. For trail riding, I’ll use a natural-based like Equiderma Neem and Aloe so I can re-apply (lightly) as needed.
Another thing to consider is whether the fly spray is “ready-to-use” or a concentrate. Ready-to-use you can simply apply straight from the bottle, but concentrate needs to be diluted in a separate spray bottle. It’s best to test any product before using it on the entire body. Some horses are sensitive to different ingredients, and it’s better to find out in a small part of skin. Always read the labels carefully and apply as advised – too much can saturate and cause discomfort for the horse, while too little will be ineffective against the biting insects.
Spot Treatments and Balms
The final piece to the bug prevention puzzle are spot-treatment and topical options for the delicate areas of your horse. Roll-on is a popular choice because you can easily focus on areas of the face, like ears and muzzle. My personal favorite are Mug Balm and Belly Balm. I’ll use the Mug Balm on the white markings on my horse’s faces and the Belly Balm on their sheaths to protect from nasty bites. SWAT ointment is another option to protect delicate and difficult areas. Spot treatments like Equi-Spot are great alternative for horses who live in the pasture 24/7. By following the guidelines on each application point, you could help prevent ticks, flies and mosquitoes. The same advice applies for spot treatments, roll-ons and balms – test a small area first before applying like normal.
There are so many tips, tricks and trusted brands when it comes to finding the perfect bug prevention plan for your situation. Here at Big Dee’s, we can help because we have used so many of these products! Feel free to reach out to our team at 1-800-321-2142, through our chat feature on our website (www.bigdweb.com) or through social media!
Spring has sprung!
Finally, after what I would consider a mild winter here in Ohio, the
birds are chirping, flowers sprouting, and the wind is losing it cold chill.
And of course, the horses are shedding like mad!
Along with the Spring sunshine come the new collections of riding and casual apparel. Kastel has released their new 2020 line which includes new pastel colors. Their Signature Sun Shirts come in a variety of colors (traditional and pattered) and sleeve lengths to keep you comfortable and stylish while riding.
Ariat has come out with a great assortment of riding and casual wear for everyday use for both men and women. The new colors of this season for Ariat are a pastel blue, grey and light patterns in a variety of styles and clothing options. Along with their new Fatbaby colors, they have released their new patterns of their Cruiser pull on shoes which include some sunny yellow prints that I am in love with! To round out their Spring color collection, Ariat has new patterned and solid baseballs hats which are perfect to cover up that barn and helmet hair!
Kerrits’ 2020 Spring Collection as a matchy rider’s dream. They have new lines of colorful breeches and riding tights that perfectly coordinate with their Ice Fil short sleeved and long sleeved riding shirts. Their new colors of breeches and riding tights are in both ladies and girls sizes and have both full seat and knee patch options. Kerrits have also put out casual wear such as headbands, tee shirts and some cute riding tank tops to keep you cool this spring and summer!
Did I mention the coming shedding season? And you know what that means, here comes the flies! Big Dee’s has brought in Terry Bradshaw’s fly product line! He has developed a variety of fly relief products starting with limiting the amount of flies around your barn. The “4 Ring Protection Mosquito Free Zone” products come in a 2 day, 7 day and 15 day packs that deter the flies naturally away from your property. These are not only great for horse barns, but for family parties and cookouts as well! Terry has also made topical fly treatment formulas that range from repellent, no bite lotion and sunscreens that are safe for your pet friends and yourself!
Keep checking our “New Arrivals” section on our home page, as we are adding new Spring products all the time!
I have always been horse crazy – and I am incredibly fortunate to have family that supported (and continues to support) that passion; from my grandmother teaching me horse colors on my toys, to my parents who gave me every opportunity they could to be around horses. My “horse crazy” has never gone away. Through the years, I’ve had some incredible experiences that both inspired and humbled me in the equestrian world.
Wizard’s Baby Doll “Roxy”
Like most great stories of “I knew someone, who knew another person”, that’s how I not only got to meet Roxy and her owner, but also was allowed a very brief ride.
I used to work my 4H horses every day, and a kind neighbor who enjoyed watching me ride reached out to me about a “famous horse”. She offered to take me to meet this horse because the owner was a family member – and she was willing to share this privilege with me! Of course I jumped on the opportunity, and not long after, I got to meet the legend that is, Wizards Baby Doll. Roxy accomplished so much in her lifetime with trainer Stacy Westfall, but the most known was her win in 2006 at the All American Quarter Horse Congress for Freestyle Reining.
Her owner was incredibly kind to not only take time out of his day to let me fangirl over Roxy, but to also let me hop on. She was a kind, calm mare that really just wanted to graze but allowed me shuffle around a bit and smile for a picture. Those few moments with her felt timeless, and really gave me a push towards wanting to learn more, experience more and go outside of my comfort zone..
Afternoon Deelites/Popcorn Deelites
Through my years of riding, making barn friends and drooling over beautiful horses – I found myself “owned” by a scrappy senior Off-Track Thoroughbred. I discovered his sire, Afternoon Deelites, a Graded Stakes winner with earnings over one million in his race career, was at Old Friends in Kentucky! Bonus, another relation, Popcorn Deelites, one of the horses that portrayed Seabiscuit in the movie, was also there!
I can’t emphasize enough how incredible Old Friends and our fabulous tour guide was. When I mentioned I would love to meet both Afternoon Deelites and Popcorn Deelites, her eyes lit up and she went on to give us more than the standard tour. It turns out that Afternoon Deelites has the same charismatic and playful personality as his son. They could have also been twins!
Popcorn Deelites was far more easy going but just as handsome. Popcorn was used for the breaking from gate and race scenes in the Seabiscuit movie since he was a natural sprinter. The visit to Old Friends was remarkable on it’s own, but meeting two horses that held a sort of sentimental value to me made it that much more special. To be in the presence of a superior race horse and a movie star made me appreciate all that off-track horses have to offer us.
While I never got to meet the “Cinderella Horse “, better known as Snowman, I did get to meet Harry de Leyer. I have never been a Show Jumper, my riding career has mostly been rooted in Dressage, but I knew there was something to learn from Harry. In all honesty, I just listened to him tell his stories. I didn’t know the full Snowman story until I read the book, but hearing the memories recounted in person was fascinating and truly humbling to be sharing the same space with Harry. I wish I could have listened for hours, but we unfortunately had to part ways. He left an inspiring note that I like to look back on when I’m having a hard day – whether it be a hitch in progress for my goals or a bad ride.
Over the twenty plus years I’ve been around horses, I’ve realized one really important thing – there is always room to learn more, you never know everything. Roxy encouraged me to take lessons to improve my riding ability, Afternoon Deelites and Popcorn Deelites proved to me that racehorses are capable of so many great things after their racing careers and Harry taught me the patience to listen, absorb, and learn. Those little moments with each role model helped shape me into the equestrian I am today.
Who have you met (horse or equestrian) that inspired you?
I started riding when I was 10 years old. My parents, albeit supportive of my “obsessed” tendencies of wanting to learn to ride, were not accustomed to the world that is equestrianism. I was lucky to attend weekly lessons and had big dreams of showing, clearing massive oxers, leaping over 10-foot Liverpools, and galloping around Spruce Meadows or the Washington International.
However, all those dreams (my parents quickly realized) cost money. How much? Well, considering I calculated how much weekly lessons cost for a year alone and maybe one or two shows a year – then promptly burned the piece of paper with the number on it – I can’t say I blamed them for firmly stating, “NO,” when I would beg to lease or buy the pony of my dreams.
Over the course of 14 years, until I made the insane decision of purchasing
a horse of my own, I had to learn to adjust – and appreciate – the value of
being the obsessed horse kid that didn’t have one of her own.
In order to get my “fix,” to earn as much saddle time as possible, I would wake my mom up at 6 AM (on a Saturday) to have her drop me off at the barn. From there I would muck stalls, groom horses for lessons, learn how to show prep horses with clipping and bathing, and learned the ins and outs of what working a full-scale show barn was like. It was a ton of fun getting to play with ponies all day, and even if I was covered in Lord-knows-what and smelled to high heaven, I felt so accomplished with my days’ work and the chance to earn an extra lesson or work off my haul-in fee for a weekend schooling show.
Eventually, I got my license (much to my mother’s delight), and began assisting in managing the barn I grew up riding in – waking up at 4 AM to do morning feed and turnouts, muck a few stalls – while balancing a Honor’s course load and after-school activities. I won’t ever say that it was easy, or I didn’t feel overwhelmed, or that I was “missing out” sometimes unlike my other 984 classmates in high school; however I was so proud of my efforts and was fortunate enough to show some amazing horses at some incredible venues that it was all worth it to me.
Fast-forward after high-school graduation and heading toward my collegiate career at Lake Erie College. I was ecstatic to have my schedule full of facility management, equine business, and course-design classes. Plus, I got to ride ALL THE TIME. Between helping at IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association ) shows, riding for IDA (Intercollegiate Dressage Association) under the tutelage of Barb Soukup and showing my leased OTTB, Tego, I was in heaven.
Don’t get me wrong, it got frustrating at times, seeing all these other people around me with their beautiful horses they’ve owned over the years or even brought to school with them! However, I was able to enjoy other aspects of my college career without having to handle the responsibility of taking care of my own horse.
There are so many ways to enjoy horses, even if you can’t own one of your own. Plus, you get the biggest benefit of not having to handle the financial burden of owning a horse! Ultimately, I learned bravery and tenacity because I would hop on anything for the chance to learn or ride something new. Offering to help at the barn gives you the advantage of learning a new skill and to absorb information like a sponge someone otherwise might not have gotten. Same thing applies to grooming at shows – you become so well-connected to your local community and watching other riders.
Attending clinics by either riding in them or auditing gives you another avenue for “pony time.” Same thing applies to traveling to fun equine-related events such as tack swaps, Equine Affaire, spectating shows and more. Plus, you have so much time to educate yourself further, whether it be books on riding, grooming, or even reading stories of famous horses from previous years. You can even try something you normally wouldn’t, like a new discipline such as saddle seat, driving, or even polo!
So, if you happen to be “horseless,” try not to feel discouraged. Take comfort in the fact that the all-consuming love and passion you have for horses is a gift. That can’t be taken away from you. Whether you own, lease, take lessons, or tack up for the occasional trail ride, you’re living the dream of having horses in your life. There are an endless opportunities to being around these incredible animals, and like my mom told me – “If something matters enough to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen.”
As a horse girl – my answer would always be a famous horse! I’ve been lucky and had the chance to meet Cass-Ole’ or as you may know him – The Black Stallion!
Picture it – 1980, Peace Bridge, New York.
I’m seven years old and on my way to the Canadian Arabian Nationals in Toronto with my family. We are stuck at the Peace Bridge waiting for all of the horses’ papers to be checked so that we can cross. Some of you may know, it takes a LONG time to get across the border. Each horse marking needs to be checked off, coggins looked at, etc. At seven years old, even 15 minutes can seem like a lifetime. While waiting, a trailer pulls up next to us. Always curious, I check out the horses. Low and behold, it is the Black Stallion himself!
I had been to the single movie theater in town recently to see the amazing movie of the Black Arabian Stallion, and I was in awe.
The owners allowed my brother and I to climb up onto the
fender of the trailer and pet the magnificent horse. Time actually sped up at
that point. I didn’t have nearly enough time to talk to him.
He was going onto the Canadian Arabian Nationals as well. He
had been shown quite a bit before the movie. With a National Championship in
Arabian Western Pleasure, Reserve Champion in Side Saddle and U.S. Top Ten in
English Pleasure. Over his show career he had won 50 Championships and 20
I was able to catch glimpses of him at the Nationals but
wasn’t able to get close to him again.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet other greats in my life at
shows – Charlie Watts (the drummer from the Rolling Stones) and Patrick Swayze.
Wayne Newton called me honey once. But, none of these greats will ever compare
to the time that I was able to meet the Black Stallion!
“Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.” – Roger A. Caras
I remember the day I got my first dog, a little Lhasa Apso we named Dixie. She was a present for my sixteenth birthday. Soon after began the roller coaster of extreme joy coupled with daily frustrations of the responsibility that goes with raising and training a puppy. After watching commercials for dog foods boasting their high quality, I selected a brand I believed to be premium.
After a couple years, Dixie began itching uncontrollably to the point that her skin would crawl when you touched her. Mortified that she was so miserable, I sought a veterinarian’s help. I was given a list of things that she felt may be the cause – one of which was dog food. After a month or so on Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream, Dixie was back to normal!
When I got my second dog, a Rottweiler Labrador mix named Foose, I chose a line of dog food that was extremely popular among breeders at that time. Vet appointments soon became a regular thing due to recurring ear infections. One vet told me to clean his ears more, and the next told me I was cleaning them too much. Finally, one veterinarian suggested a change of food. After switching his diet to the one that had provided so much success prior, I impatiently waited for results, but to no avail. I eventually found relief with one of the Blue Buffalo lines.
After years of researching nutrition, attending seminars, and working with veterinarians (as an undergrad pursuing veterinary medicine), I was able to use my experience to assist customers find a diet best suited for their four legged family member. For the average dog, a diet without corn, wheat, or soy was commonly recommended. Switching between the different lines such as chicken, lamb, beef, and fish was also encouraged (gradual transition to reduce the chance of digestive upset).
For those with allergies or sensitivities, grain free or limited ingredient diets with salmon as the main protein, was the preferred choice. Finding a diet for these situations is extremely difficult and typically a long process. Everyone thinks that because grain free is commonly recommended that it WILL fixthe issue. But keep this in mind – if your child is allergic to peanuts and you cut out all egg in their diet, your child will still have an allergic reaction when consuming peanuts.
Every dog is different; they are not all allergic to the same thing.
Since allergy tests are commonly inaccurate in relation to food allergies, an elimination diet trial is still the most accurate method. Make sure you give the new food some time to see if it helps – it can take over a month to see results. Treats should also be eliminated, because that will have an impact as well. Once you see results, you can then make small changes to see if there are any issues. Other health conditions can occur that could affect your food trial (conditions that require medications), so it is important to work with your veterinarian in these situations.
Does this mean that diet issues are the only reason to recommend higher quality pet food? Not at all! When you look at a bag, always look at the recommended feeding guide. One thing you will notice is that on cheaper quality dog food, you need to feed a lot more of it. Therefore, that cheap bag is not as economical as you think. That coupled with the potential recurring visits at veterinarian offices should help motivate you to feed something better.
Here at Big Dee’s, we have a large selection of high quality pet food to meet your needs. All of our lines are free of corn, wheat, and soy. We have a vast array of grain free options as well. If there is something that you want that we do not carry, reach out to us by phone or message us on Facebook and we can see if we can get it.
Finding a diet for your pet can be stressful – we are here to help!
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, if you’re reading this you’re either a) Someone who is dating/married to an equestrian or b) a Horse Girl and feel like this “manual” will help those wayward individuals that don’t quite understand the “rules” to dating someone involved with horses.
If you fall into the category of a non-horse person who is now dating a horse girl – congrats. You have superior taste, and this guide will help make your dating relationship a success! These helpful hints will give some insight to the Horse Crazy Brain and how to win her heart (and hooves) over.
Understand that the horse will ALWAYS come first. Horses were her first love, and nothing is going to replace that. Don’t take it personally – it’s not to say she doesn’t love you dearly, it’s just a little less. Horse Girls spend a lot of their time with horses. If a Horse Girl has chosen to involve you in her hectic schedule, you can rest assured with the fact she knows you’re worth it.
Learn your way around baling twine and duct tape. Horse girls appreciate the gift of resourcefulness. We can and will reattach the same pitchfork head five times instead of buying a new one.
Horse Girls are known for their signature…. aroma. Don’t be surprised if we show up for a date covered in dewormer paste, have hay in our hair, and sit down to eat without washing our hands. We consider Effax or Leather Balsam to be a nice rub-on perfume.
The Horse Girl is easy to shop for. You do not need to go all out for a seafood dinner or trip to Paris to impress the Horse Girl. Simply provide a bag of treats or a gift card to Big Dee’s and she will be thrilled.
If you attend a horse show with a Horse Girl, do NOT ask how long it will be till you go home. Unless the Horse Girl has a set ride time for her Dressage or Cross-Country test, prepare for a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. This will be an exercise in strengthening your patience. Use this opportunity to ask the Horse Girl how to polish boots.
The same rules apply for asking a Horse Girl how long she will be at the barn. Time is a foreign concept to us. Unless you have set dinner reservations at 7, expect that we will show up at least 2 hours after we said we would be there.
I’ll just say it – horses are ungodly expensive. Between lessons, boarding, feeding, shoeing, showing, vet bills, and more, the Horse Girl will have no qualms in spending thousands of dollars on Fluffy. If you are dating a Horse Girl, understand that these costs will never diminish. It’s best not to argue with her about the cost of a new custom saddle or show coat. There is no such thing as too many saddles pads. Chances are she already bought it and was considerate enough to tell you.
Expect to have your phone on you at all times. More than likely, the Horse Girl has an Instagram page set up for Fluffy and requires a constant feed of new content to post of her riding or grazing Fluffy. This designates your job as the on-call photographer.
Do NOT tell us that horseback riding isn’t a sport. Or that it’s easy. It’s in the Olympics and classified as an NCAA Division-1 athletic. You will lose that debate every time.
If the Horse Girl ever has a bad day, suggest a date night at the barn. It will mean the world to her that you want to support her and watch her ride. Ask questions, be attentive, and show interest. A little goes a long way.
Horse girls are a rare breed. Are we crazy? Sure. Are we hardworking, passionate, and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty? You bet. Are we worth it? 100% percent.
Enjoy the ride, Colleen
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