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Welcome to the first tips and suggestions column for The Right Lead. This column is loosely based on the reader-to-reader advice articles found in most of the nationally syndicated horse magazines. As an owner of three horses, a caretaker and exhibitor of a fourth, three cats, two dogs and an opossum (don't ask) with a full time job and 97.8 acres to keep up, I have very little time to read all the "self help" horse books! Besides with so many books out there and just as many articles with expert advice about horse care, which one do you buy? That's why I have often found the tips in these magazines an invaluable source. The ideas and suggestions come from real horse folks who have taken the time to share their experiences and the lessons they've learned through the equine school of hard knocks. The articles cut through the hype and have provided me with answers to questions about problems I had already encountered, alternative methods, and the suggestions have helped me head off potential problems before they arose. I keep these magazines on hand for future reference, but quite a few of the tips and suggestions and products discussed are region specific- mainly the East or West coast. Tips about which blanket works best in sub-zero temperatures are interesting but don't really light my fire and trying to order products that are readily available in Los Angeles by phone, and in some cases over the web, can be cost prohibitive.

This column is for you and me, the horse folk of the Southwestern region. Anyone, of any age, whether you own a horse or not, prefer Western saddle or English, ride competitively and have show horses or just for fun on the weekends and keep your equine buddy in the back yard. What we need from you to make this column successful are your questions, tips and suggestions on any area of horse life from budget and barn management to horse care, breeding, riding, showing, or grooming, etc. We also would like to hear your recommendations and critiques on products you've used or books you have read that are indigenous to our region or how they can be obtained without a Federal I.D. and a note from three living relatives in Tibet! Photos and illustrations would be appreciated, but we may not be able to return them to you so please keep this in mind and send only copies.

Each column will contain multiple questions, and as many tips, answers and suggestions as we can fit in for that month's issue. If we have a question printed in August's issue and you come up with an answer in November, go ahead and send it in and reference it to the question and the month's issue where it can be found. We'll keep each letter and if we can't get it in one month's issue, we'll get it into the next. Keep your replies as brief as possible and your first name, last initial and area you're from will be included unless you specifically ask to remain anonymous. I've been told the only stupid question is the one you didn't ask until after it's too late, so all questions will be given the utmost attention and sincere attempts will be made to provide answers.

So here we go!



Help! I have a QH gelding that fights the cross-ties! Every time I cross-tie him, he stretches his front legs out and leans down hard with his head until he breaks either the snap or the rope, he'll ground tie O.K. but this isn't always an option. How can I stop him without hurting or frightening him?! - Jo C. from Arkansas.

My show horses are kept in pasture when they aren't in the arena and their long manes wind up in wind snarls and full of stickers. They're Arabians and prized for their thick, full long manes- how can I work the snarls out without pulling out precious hairs and spending four hours on each one? - Amanda C. from Buda, TX.

I have recently had an opossum move into my barn and would really like to re-locate him in one piece without shooting him and cleaning up multiple pieces. Any ideas? Joy B. from Buda, TX


R: This is in reference to a question passed on to me by a friend. My three Arabian mares stay in pasture and often get wind snarls. I use Pantene ProV spray-in conditioner- this makes it easier to work out the kinks, and lets me work out subsequent knots and tangles much quicker with the added bonus of keeping the mane and tail healthy and shiny. Good Luck! - Lynn F. from Redwood, TX




Welcome back! Your response to the first column in the August 1998 edition has been amazing and encouraging, thank you! I look forward to receiving your cards and letters for future issues. This column is a work in progress and I will try to make each month's edition better than the last, so your ideas and comments on what improvements you would like to see would be appreciated. 



My wife and I just moved to Texas from Washington state and would like to know where the best places are to trail ride. We'd also like to find any trail riding clubs in the Austin/San Antonio area. - Mark F. from Del Valle, TX

What are the best mats to use in a four-horse trailer? I'm concerned about safety for the horses- my last mats slid all over the place and were useless. I'm also concerned about easy clean up and protecting the wood flooring.- Nancy B. from Temple, TX

I just bought a QH gelding that seems to be spoiled. He vetted out O.K. but fights the snaffle every time I try to go someplace he doesn't want to go- right or left doesn't make a difference unless it's towards the barn! Should I try a stronger bit? - Name withheld by request


Cross-tie Escape Artist (from August 1998):
R-1: Here is a suggestion for Jo C. and the Cross-tie Escape Artist in August's issue. Try cross-tying in a neck strap and gradually introduce the halter. Take lots of time and don't get in a hurry, retraining takes time but it's worth it. - Nanci F. from Lockhart, TX

R-2: Here's an idea for Jo C. in Arkansas that worked for me on my three-year-old QH gelding. Before you tie your horse, introduce him to a light crop or buggy whip to make sure he will tolerate being touched with one. If he's afraid of the crop take plenty of time gently stroking him with it all over his body until he'll stand quietly and is comfortable with being touched by it. Next take him to the cross tie area and ask him to stand, but don't tie him. If he stands quietly, praise him and walk him out of the area. Do this as many times as it takes until he'll just stand there quietly for several minutes. When he'll stand quietly untied go ahead and cross tie him. Stand at his shoulder, the instant he begins to lean, tap gently rhythmically just behind his front leg- stay out of his kick zone at all times! While tapping, the instant he stops the downward motion, stop tapping and praise him. If he stands quietly at this point go ahead and untie and walk him out. If he continues leaning, continue tapping until he stops, then lots of praise, untie him and lead him out. Keep the early sessions short and try to repeat them two or three times a day until he begins to understand what you want of him. Don't worry about making him stand for long periods of time at first, five minutes is a good start and build slowly from there. Take your time and enjoy the experience. - Good Luck! Joy B. from Buda, Texas.

Unwelcome Barn-mate (from August 1998):
R: A suggestion for getting rid of the opossum problem is borrow a Have-A-Heart, live trap. Bait the trap with fruit so you won't catch your barn cats and relocate your Unwelcome Barn-Mate to a distant pasture. Great Column! - Nanci F. from Lockhart, TX


When thinking about getting your child his/her first pony or horse, before you make the purchase, invest in at least six months of riding lessons. It'll be money and time well spent. - Dot F. from Cedar Creek, TX.

Tired of spilling the hydrogen peroxide all over yourself and your horse? How about getting more thrush treatment on the ground than on the hoof? Here's a tip for any messy liquid application. Save your sports drink bottles with the squirt caps, clean and rinse thoroughly then fill with the medicine/liquid you need. Remember to label the bottle and store according to the instructions on the product. PLEASE NOTE: Hydrogen peroxide needs to be kept in a dark bottle to protect it from light so you should store it in it's original container until needed. - Joy B. from Buda, TX





Q: Where to stick-er?
I have heard it's the law that ALL horse trailers over 5,000 lbs. G.V.W. have to display an inspection sticker. Where do you get a horse trailer inspected, and where do you put the sticker if you get one? - Lynn F. from Redwood, TX. (Ed. note: G.V.W. means Gross Vehicle Weight)

Q: Deadly Pasture Weed:
My vet just told me the funny plant with the pretty blue flowers growing all over my pasture is Silverleaf Nightshade, a highly toxic, and potentially deadly plant if enough is consumed. How do you get rid of it without hurting your horses? Right now, I'm pulling it by hand. - Susan H., from Manor, TX.

Q: Back to QH Roots:
What does "Foundation Bred" mean, and how do you find out if your horse qualifies? - Kathy P., from Leander, TX.


Unwelcome Barnmate (from August 1998):
R: If your barn cats and the live traps don't work, get a Jack Russell Terrier! They'll have EVERYTHING on the run in no time flat! Great column, can't wait for next month's issue!!! - M. & T.B. from Pflugerville, Texas.

New Paths (from September 1998):
R: I'm always looking for a new place to trail ride, but my favorite right now is the Hill Country State and Natural Area in Bandera, Texas. You can camp with your horses, or trailer them in for a day ride Thursday through Monday. For more information call (210) 796-4413.-Joy B. from Buda, TX.

Snaffle Snafu (from September 1998):
R: Not knowing how your horse was trained and ridden prior to your ownership makes if difficult to diagnose what his problem is, but there is obviously a failure to communicate. If it were me, I'd go back to the round pen (you will need help if you've never done this before and I recommend you check out Craig Cameron and Pat Parelli's video tapes) and make sure he understands what you're asking of him. Reinforce the basics, many horses are said to be well broke that are still only green broke at best. Also, have a friend or instructor work with you on your basics at the same time so you'll both be on the same page. Mainly, take your time and don't be in a rush. Trying to force him to behave will only build in resistance- make small goals, and take small steps. Good luck! - Joy B. from Buda, TX.

Slip 'n Slide Mats (from September 1998):
R: For the safety and comfort of your horse, you should consider the heavy-duty rubber tire mats for your trailer. They are strong, durable, provide excellent traction and airflow as well as insulation from the road heat. They are not cheap, but they are heavy and will probably outlast your trailer. I have had mine for eighteen years and they look the same now, as they did when I bought them. Most people do not realize the extreme heat generated by our Texas Highways and your horses will appreciate the combination of airflow and insulation. If you are hauling long distances, put wood shavings (hay will work also, but not as well) on top of the mats. If you cannot find these tire mats, call 800-362-1000 and ask them to send you their commercial matting catalog. - Jack S. from Austin, TX.


* Nutty Warning!
It's almost time for Fall which means the nuts are falling. Acorns are loaded with protein and some horses find them irresistible which puts them at risk for founder. The only protection I know of is to police the pasture and keep them raked up. Does anybody have any good uses for acorns? LOTS of acorns!? - Nancy A. from Creedmore, TX.

* Sad Tails:
If you have to wrap your horse's tail, make sure you don't use vet wrap or ace bandages as they tend to tighten. Use your polo wrap and keep it loose enough to be able to slip three fingers in easily (four if you have small hands) and don't leave it on for longer than about twenty minutes. I used vet wrap, I thought it was loose enough and I left it on for three hours. I got lucky, all my horse lost was his tail hairs. I've been told gangrene could have set in and he could have lost his entire tail! - Name withheld by request.


* I just found a really great web site I think you'll enjoy, its' focus is Foundation Quarter Horses, but it has information on researching pedigrees that's priceless for all breeds. The address is Premier Publishing's The Stallion Finder . Good Luck! - Joy B. from Buda, TX.

* A really great Internet site is The Hay Net at -Lynn F. from Redwood, TX.

* I'm reading a book right now, QUARTER HORSES: A STORY OF TWO CENTURIES, by Robert Moorman Denhardt, early founder of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) that is fascinating to me as a new QH breeder looking for the best cross for my foundation bred mare. I got my copy from Callahan's General Store on Old Bastrop Highway (183) in Austin. I believe anyone who loves American Quarter Horse bloodlines will enjoy this book! - Joy B. from Buda, TX.





Q: School Daze:
My pony and I are both bored with schooling and practicing! We go trail riding but it is in the same place so that's not even fun anymore. Any suggestions or books on things to do? I need something we can do at home on ten acres. Thanks to Lynn F. in the August issue for the tip on snarled manes! The Pantene ProV tip worked great on my pony's really thick mane. I didn’t have to roach him this Summer! - Julie T. from Lytton Springs, TX.

Q: Are Slant Loads Best?
My husband and I are looking to buy our first trailer and we can't agree on which is best: a three horse slant, or four horse front load. Bumper pull or gooseneck, what kind of trailer hitch/towing package and how important is a large tack area? The lighter aluminum trailers are attractive, but how sturdy are they and are ramps better than step ups? We have a (Ford) F-250 automatic and need to pull two, sometimes three, horses. We would appreciate any advice your readers can provide. - Penny C. from Dripping Springs, TX

Q: Simple Bookkeeping:
Can anyone suggest a computer bookkeeping program for a small horse farm? I'm using Windows 95 and a Pentium 90 computer. - Lizbeth, from Dripping Springs, TX



Back to QH Roots (from October 1998):
R: QH enthusiasts, in an attempt to preserve the traditional, multi-use, bulldog square (Steeldust type) horse known as the American Quarter Horse, have started at least two new associations. Loosely using the criteria of the National Foundation Quarter Horse Association (N.F.Q.H.A.), your horse must be registered with the American Quarter Horse Association (A.Q.H.A.). After the N.F.Q.H.A. has researched his pedigree, he must carry eighty percent QH blood, which means he can have no more than twenty percent Thoroughbred blood (Arabian, Morgan, Tennessee Walker, etc., are not acceptable for this type of breed registry). For more information, you can contact the N.F.Q.H.A. at (541) 426-4403 or through their web site at You will also want to contact the original foundation bred association, Foundation Quarter Horse Registry, F.Q.H.A., at (970) 522-7822 or through their site at A good book on this subject was listed in October 1998's issue under Cyber Pastures and Great Books. Good luck! - Joy B. from Buda, TX.

Snaffle Snafu (from September 1998):
R-1: You have to go back to the basics and get him on the aids. Don't go out into the pasture until he's under control in the round pen and/or small paddock or arena. You do not necessarily need to change bits- in my experience, shank bits and curbs could make a horse fight and toss his head if he doesn't understand your cues. Once you have him under control and you feel confident, find a friend with an older, well mannered horse to ride with. Monty Roberts book, THE MAN WHO LISTENS TO HORSES, has a good description of horse signs that you can use as a tool to learn your horse's language. Study this and study your horse and you'll begin to recognize and anticipate his bad behavior before you get into trouble. John Lyons' tapes are also full of good suggestions. - Sean F. from Austin, TX.

R-2: A suggestion for Snaffle Snafoo is to try a Tom Thumb snaffle bit until they can get their horse under control. Make sure all your tack fits your horse, a pinching saddle could account for his behavior. With a new horse, I spend at least two weeks getting to know him in an arena with basic schooling before I trust him in the open. A Tom Thumb has worked for me with horses like you described, it is still a kind bit, but has a mild shank with a curb (use leather, not chain!) that gives you a little more control. You should be able to find them at any tack store and they usually run from twenty-five to thirty-five dollars. - Jennifer W., from Austin, TX.



* Mind Your Peas!
A quick and simple ice pack is a bag of generic frozen peas or whole colonel corn. The bags are easily molded into the shape of the leg and can be held in place with an ace bandage, VetWrap, or Polo Wrap. A gallon size Zip Lock bag is ideal for large wounds, but the one pound bag is easier to handle. Also, clean up is minimal as you can simply toss it when you're through. - Leslie M., from Austin, TX.

* Sad Tails x2:
I recently found Gryphon's (Heza Boy Native) tail wrapped and tangled in a hidden strand of barbed wire out in his pasture. To keep from having to cut off the hair, I was using Show Sheen to make the hairs slick but ran out. I got a can of WD-40 and used it to finish the job. Gryphon only lost a handful of hair. Another tip, if you use WD-40 as a detangler, be sure to wash it out with a mild soap- don't leave it in as it has petroleum products that aren't good for the skin or hair shaft. - Joy B., from Buda, TX.


* If you're tired of all the Horse Whisperer hype, try reading A GOOD HORSE IS NEVER A BAD COLOR, by Mark Rashid. This is a book by a real horseman with real, sound, advice delivered through a wonderful story. There isn't one single "My way is the only way" or "You have to do this" phrase in the entire book. It's a good read for all ages, and if you don't laugh out loud, cry, say, "Ah Ha" or grin, you've never been loved, or owned, by a horse! - Joy B. from Buda, TX.





Q: Hair Today Not Gone Tomorrow?
My old pony didn't really shed this Summer and now she's putting on her Winter coat, too and looks awful! I have a new pony and didn't really pay that much attention to Susie this Summer and I really feel bad. Should we shave her so the new hair can grow in? - Emily D., from San Marcos, TX.

Q: Gate Crasher:
My horse has suddenly begun charging to get through his stall door. He doesn't act barn sour and is fine until we get to his stall, then he starts getting antsy and rushes past me as soon as I open the gate. I don't get it, he's never done anything like this before. - Susan M., from Austin, TX.

Q: Necessary Shots:
I'm going to try to show this year and need to know what shots my horse needs to have. Also, do I have to take the original copy of my Coggins paper or are copies, O.K.? - Anonymous from Austin, TX.

Q: Expecting to be Expecting:
What do I need to do to get my mare ready for breeding season? She's a four year old maiden mare and all her shots are current, but how long before I take her to the breeder do I need to get her boosters? Can anyone advise us on the best books for breeding? Thanks for the great column, we've already tried and adopted some of the tips and suggestions! - Mark and Laura P., from Taylor, TX. (Ed. note: See STABLE CUES tip from Shelly of Lampasas, TX, below.)


Rostafarian Dreadknot Dilemma (from August 1998):
R: To enhance a good coat at the show, we use Pepi non-aerosol spray. Baby oil will help tame the short hairs at the top of the dock of the tail. Cowboy Magic, available at D and D in Seguin, Texas, is a good detangler for manes and tails and leaves both sparkling with a unique glow. While bathing, you can use the laundry stain remover, Spray and Wash, which also comes in a non-aerosol form and helps whiten colored and white tails. Hope this information makes your horses sparkle in the show ring! - Judith B., from Buda, TX. (Ed. note: You can also find Cowboy Magic at Callahan's General Store in Austin, TX.)

Where to Stick-er (from October 1998):
R: Homer Cleckler, Field Supervisor Vehicle Inspection Division, Texas Highway Department, Austin, Texas, relayed this following information to me. If you are a rancher or a farmer and have farm plates on your trailer, you are exempt from inspection. If you have regular trailer plates (i.e., commercial horse hauler, or someone other than a rancher of farmer) you have to have an inspection sticker unless your trailer's G.V.W. is less than 4,000 lbs., in which case you are exempt. The fee for the inspection is $10.50 and the sticker goes on the lower left front corner of the trailer. Not all inspection stations are able to inspect trailers so call before you haul. If you are unable to locate an inspection station near you, call your local office of the Highway Department for the nearest inspector. In Austin, you can contact Homer Cleckler at (512) 873-3140. Good luck! - Joy B. from Buda, TX.

Hair Today Not Gone Tomorrow (from December 1998):
R: Emily, your pony's problem sounds like it could be more than a grooming issue so I felt you needed to be answered in this month's issue. Susie's not shedding last year's winter coat sounds like a syndrome where older horses, in particular older ponies, lose the ability to shed. This syndrome is called Cushing's Disease and is treatable and most definitely not your fault! There is nothing you can do to prevent it, but you need to have your parents get your Vet out as quickly as you can for a diagnosis. Do not shave your pony until you've consulted your Vet.

As for not spending enough time with Susie, see what you can do to budget more time for her. Susie's been your friend and probably misses the fun times you shared. Ask your parents if you can have a younger brother or sister or even a friend who might want to learn to ride, help you. Try to work something out so you get help caring for her, someone gets the gift of riding, and Susie gets the attention she needs to keep her healthy and happy. Keep us posted on Susie's condition and good luck with both your ponies. - Joy B. from Buda, TX.

* Time Saver Tip:
To cut your feeding time in half, try saving your Strongid C 2X buckets and preparing both morning and evening feeds with the necessary supplements the day before. Be sure to mark each bucket's lid with the horse's name and either A.M. or P.M. so there won't be any confusion. This really comes in handy at horse shows and, to save space in the trailer, switch the buckets for gallon size Zip Lock storage bags. Have fun! - Joy B. from Buda, TX.

* Know Before You Go:
Call the breeding farm and find out in advance what paperwork is needed and what shots are required before you load your mare to go. If you can have all your paperwork together and your mare checked out a month before you're ready to have her bred, you can take care of any potential problems in plenty of time, saving you costly delays. Ask questions, go prepared. - Shelly B. from Lampasas, TX.

* Buddy Treats:
A great stocking stuffer for your horse is Mrs. Pastures horse treats. They look like cookies and they smell great! My horses love them! I get mine from Callahan's General Store in Austin, but can find Mrs. Pastures at most tack and feed stores. Merry Christmas!!! - Annette from Austin, TX.

* Dr. David Ramey, DVM, author of HORSEFEATHERS, gives advice and answers questions at the . Good Luck! - Joy B. from Buda, TX. (Ed. note: this site is no longer in operation. 18 Mar 2001.)

* One of my favorite Arabian sites is the web site for Step by Step Farm, home of Haqiqah Arabians at Enjoy - Joy B. from Buda, TX.


* I'd like to recommend three books by Debra E. Ruben for your horse lovers Christmas stocking. HORSE TRIVIA: A HIPPOPHILE'S DELIGHT is a fun read and HIDDEN HORSES and HIDDEN HORSES II are puzzle books with games for all ages, but the author advised that children under eight might need help. The publisher assured me you can find them at most tack stores, but just in case, you can order direct from Half Halt Press at (800) 822-9635 (or click on the highlighted titles to order on-line). Happy Holidays! - Joy B. from Buda, TX.


* To receive a free sample of Rio Vista's product, Tail and Mane, as well as a complete list of their current product line and prices, call toll free (800) 248-6428. - Joy B. from Buda, TX.

* A new leather care product is out that is touted to help prevent mold and mildew, while restoring and conditioning your leather. You can find Leather Therapy at The Leading Rein in Austin, TX, or call (800) 711-8225 for a free sample and to find a dealer near you. - Joy B. from Buda, TX.


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