Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's Tucker's Birthday!

Tucker at age 2 months on a Canadian PMU farm

Johnny's Showtime, Tucker's sire, 17.3 hand Percheron

Tucker at age 6 months, off of PMU truck

Tucker, age one year

Tucker, 2 years old

Tucker's first ride, age 3

Tucker and best friend Tyke

Tucker and me!

Tucker's first horse trial, barely stepping over the beginner novice jump!





Today, May 25, 2011, Tucker turns 8 years old! I cannot believe that I have owned him for seven and a half years! When he came off the PMU trailer, he was a gangly, gawky baby, covered with ringworm. He was taller than the other babies, and ornery! Everyone told me I would never be able to tame him! There were times that I believed that, like the time he went up and over the round pen panels...twice! But once he was halter broke, the rest came pretty easy to him. He is smart and wants to please. He is talented, athletic and a beautiful mover, with the personality of a Labrador..we just need to remind him that 2000 pound beasts do not belong in your lap! He loves going cross country, we both think that is the greatest sport on earth..galloping across the countryside, jumping insane fences, feeling the wind through mane and across your exhilaration! I cannot imagine that he was bred to be destined to be some one's dinner sad to think how many did meet that fate. I am glad he came into my life...even on those days that I have to repair a broken board or purchase an expensive piece of tack to fit the beast (trailer, saddle, bridle, halter, blankets, you name it, I've had to buy everything new for him!)


Thursday, May 5, 2011


Imp imitates Secretariat at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2004

Thirty eight years ago, the great Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby and was just a few short weeks ago from immortalizing himself in greatness.

Most of us remember where we were when we watched his amazing feats...I watched the last two legs at my grandparents farm in McMurray, Pennsylvania.

He is my horse hero! My most expensive and prized possesion is a sculpture that I bought of him, after winning several thousands of dollars at Church Hill Downs! It graces a shelf of my antique corner cupboard in my living room.

When Jen and I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Lexington farms, we instead called Claiborne Farms and got a personal and private tour, where we saw his grave and his stall (and Jen got to pet Unbridled and Go For Gin!)

Jen's former eventer, Bates, is a grandson of Secretariat and has the same golden chestnut coat.

I have his videos, dvds and books!

His death came the day before Jen was born, on October 4, 1989. His obituary is in her baby book. Probably the only infant who's baby book holds such an item!

For me, there will be no greater horse than Secretariat!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Irresponsible Horse Owners

(Tucker gives his opinion on ignorant horse owners!)

The movie Parenthood is a favorite of mine. Not only does it boast a great cast, but it was filmed here in Winter Park and Orlando. There is a great line in the movie, that to paraphrase, goes something along the lines that "unfortunately, they don't require parents to get licensed". In other words, anybody can be a parent. The same holds true with horse ownership (yes, I know, replace horse with any, cat, rabbit, etc...but this is an article about horses!). Unfortunately, as we all know, there are people who should not own horses. We encounter them all the time, I am sad to say.

For example, at a pony club rally...the last place on earth I would expect to see an example of poor horsemanship, a boy presented a skinny horse for the vet jog. This horse desperately needed some groceries. When questioned about the weight, giving him the benefit of the doubt, afterall, the horse was older (not that that justifies a skinny horse), the parents, who were watching the jog chimed in that they were trying to cut back on expenses! Seriously? You are cutting back expenses so you don't feed your horses as much? Yet you have the audacity to spend money to come to a rally? I was reeling all weekend over this.

I am always a little surprised when I encounter a clueless horse owner. Yes, even after being involved in horse rescues. Afterall, horses are expensive! They consume time and money. I do not take horse ownership lightly. I read all I can. I keep up to date with the latest news in my chosen discipline, in horse care, vet care, nutrition and more. I work solely to support my horses and I do not want to waste any money on unnecessary vet bills, feed, supplements, or tack, because I did not do my part to make sure I was knowledgeable.

For instance, based on latest research, did you know that you should not be deworming your horse every 8 weeks? Our dewormers are fast becoming ineffective and instead, we need to be relying on fecal counts and deworming only when necessary!

This is information that is not only in magazines like Equus, but it is available on line, at such sites as The Horse and the Chronicle of the Horse!

So I am always a bit baffled by horse owners who don't properly care for their horses. They don't feed them proper nutrition, subscribe to wacko training methods, purchase ill fitting tack, don't learn how to properly warm up and cool down, and so on and so on.

We all have stories of idiot horse owners. The owner who over bits their horse; jumps a 3' fence the first day back after the horse has been rehabbing for 6 weeks due to an injury; the owner who doesn't know how to properly apply polo wraps, leaving them sagging and twisting. And those examples are from the same owner and horse!

My new barn neighbors are not only clueless, but downright dangerous. They have a 2 year old colt. Of course, he lives with a mare, who is now in foal. The property is small, and of course, they turn them out in a small paddock, which shares my fence line. I have put up hot wire 8 feet in from my fence line, so there is 9 feet between the horses. Of course, the owner tells me that her colt is so sweet and well behaved! It's ok that you have a mare. He won't mind! Of course, the first night that mine are turned out in the adjoining pasture, her sweet colt paces the fence line the entire time. A few days ago, a new horse joins her two. She has the smaller paddock divided from the bigger (now their property is maybe an acre, so we are talking small parcels) paddock by round panel fencing, that she has reinforced with posts in the ground. Which I totally don't get. I mean, if you are going to put posts in the ground, why not put up fence boards, that cost about $7-8? Why spend about $40-50 per panel? I just don't get it. The first night, her colt and mare are in the small paddock... of course, why not put the colt next to my mare? Soon, he starts attacking the round panel fencing, trying to get to the new horse. Then, he starts charging my fence line. Soon, I realize why the sudden aggressiveness. The new horse is also a colt! My guess, is he is about a year-year and a half. The older colt is so upset and out of control, that we move my horses to the other pasture. This is an accident waiting to happen, and I don't want my horses to be blamed for having any part. Sure enough, the next morning, half of the round panels are half down, despite having posts in the ground for support! I don't know how her horses fared, but the poor colt must have spent all night and all his energy trying to attack the new colt. By that evening, the fence panels were put back up and the horses were returned to their former turnouts.

I have left my horses in the other field!

In todays age of technology, there is no excuse not to expand your knowledge base and learn what is best for your horse. Magazine subscriptions and riding lessons are expensive, but there is so much free information out there on the web...of course, alot of it falls under the ludicrous category and we have to be smart enough to decipher it and use our common sense. Go to big competitions. Watch the pros warm up their horses. Watch how they care for their horses afterwards. Talk to the the eventing world, just about everybody is approachable and they love to help out one another. Ask about nutrition. Talk to your vet. Talk to your farrier. Talk to your feed store owner. Become an educated and informed horse owner! There really is no excuse for ignorance.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Disaster Planning

Barn damage after Hurricane Charlie, 2004

Horses still wearing their ID's on their sides!

Make sure that horses cannot escape to roadways or downed power lines.

Note ID around ankles.

With the recent devastating events across the southeast, not to mention the wildfires in Texas and floods in the midwest, as well as the upcoming Hurricane season for Florida, I thought it would be a good time to address your disaster plan for your horses.

Don't have one? Well, you should. No matter where you live, you may sooner or later be faced with a natural disaster. At least in Florida, we have the luxury of advanced warning, although as the 2004 hurricanes showed us, that warning may come just 6 hours before landstrike. Unfortunately, in the event of tornadoes and fires, you do not have much, if any forewarning. Nobody could have predicted how horrific these string of tornadoes last week would be and no amount of preparedness could have done any good. You have to place your faith in God or Mother Nature or whomever you believe will save you, and hope for the best.

Have a Plan!

To paraphrase the Clash, " should I stay or should I go?" should be the first order of your disaster planning.

In the event of hurricanes, you will have several days to decide this. As Hurricane Charlie in 2004 proved however, hurricanes can change their paths at the last moment and therefore, any chances of evacuating are gone. So if you decide to evacuate, leave days beforehand to avoid traffic snarls, long line at gas stations and the risk of becoming stuck on the highway as a hurricane strikes. It is better to evacuate for no reason, then to wait until it is too late.

If you evacuate, know alternate routes. Make sure your truck is gassed up.

And of course, if you are evacuating, take your animals with you!

That is the reason for evacuating, right? If you leave animals behind, there is no telling how long it may be until you can return. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see the photos of animals left behind in the radioactive zone of Japan, including horses. Those animals which are stalled or locked indoors, are dying a cruel and slow death of starvation.

  • When evacuating, take enough feed, hay and water for at least 3 days.

  • Now is the time to make sure your horses are up to date on coggins and vaccinations. In the event of emergencies, the state will not require health certificates.

  • Now is the time to locate potential evacuation sites. Contact now to find out requirements.

  • Make sure you take your equine emergency kit with you (listed below).

Remember that if you evacuate, there is a good chance that the storm will follow you! Unless you head north and then turn west towards Tennessee or Kentucky, there is a very good chance you will at some point find yourself stuck in the storm. So ask yourself if you want to risk being stuck in a strange location when a storm hits. In 2004, horses that were evacuated to Central Florida from south Florida actually endured more of Charlie's wrath than if they had stayed at home. Barns were damaged, and while there were reports of trapped horses, there were no reported fatalities. And farms that evacuated to Georgia, also ended up bearing the blunt of the storm after it passed over Florida. Sometimes, staying home and keeping your horses in their familiar surroundings is better.

My personal plan is to stay put, unless it is a category 3 or higher and the storm is coming in around the Melbourne/Cocoa Beach area. Being less than 50 miles from Cocoa Beach, I feel that devastation from such a storm would be catestrophic.

So you decide to stay! What should you do to prepare?

  • Secure all loose and potential flying objects. Knock jumps over and pick up jump cups that are lying on the ground.

  • Fill every bucket and trash can with water. After Charlie, the barn that I was at was without power for over a week. Thankfully, we had filled every bucket and trash can and we also had access to a swimming pool, which we used to rinse off sweaty horses. The day the power came on was the day we were about to start hauling water in. A tiny amount of bleach added to water will keep it purified.

  • Stock up on hay and feed. Make sure it is high off the ground and covered. Even throw a tarp over the hay inside, in case of roof damage.

  • During the storm, leave halters on the horse. ID them with at least 2 methods (see below).

  • Take the following into consideration if you are staying: elevation, flood zone, type of building construction and category of storm.

To leave in or leave out, that is the question

This is a hotly debated subject. It is a personal decision and sometimes there is no right or wrong answer. In last weeks tornado, one farm that had horses both inside and out, lost all of the horses that were outside. Only one horse inside died, despite the barn being destroyed.
If you leave your horses inside, you risk subjecting them to collapsing roofs and walls. If you have runs off the stalls, it is a good idea to leave the doors open, so that in the event of a collapse, the horses have an escape route.
Horses that are left outside will be subjected to flying shrapnel. The smallest of objects become flying missles. Don't kid yourself...horses left outside cannot outrun a tornado! Tornadoes are moving much faster than a horse can run, follow an erratic path, and may be too wide for a horse to avoid its path. Downed fences make for escapes, so if you turn out, make sure that you do so in an area that is contained by at least 2 fence lines. Many horses that survived Hurricane Andrew in 1992, were killed when they escaped through broken fences. They were either hit by emergency vehicles in the middle of the night, or electrocuted by downed power lines.

Types of ID for horses

  • Microchips

  • Freeze markings

  • Tattoos

  • Front and side view photos of your horse. Have at least one shot with you in the picture. This is to prove ownership.

  • Bill of sale. Again, to prove ownership.

    Emergency ID's:

  • Painting info on hooves

  • Body marking with livestock crayons. Include phone # and address. Make sure phone # belongs to a friend or relative out of the area. Many times, cell phones and land lines don't work immediately after a disaster.

  • Neck banding.

  • ID tags on halters.

  • Braid ID tag into mane or tail. Use a small baggie to include emergency info. Luggage tags are also good to use.

  • Tape or velcro strips around ankles with information.

Do not include your coggins anywhere on your horse! Somebody who finds a horse that with its coggins, can remove this horse from the area and sell it.

Also, use more than one method of identifying your horse!

Equine Emergency Kit:

  • 3-7 days supply of feed

  • Bandanas (blindfolds)

  • Batteries for flashlight and radio

  • Blankets

  • Copies of vet records and proof of ownership

  • Duct tape and hay string

  • Emergency contact list

  • First aid kit

  • Flash light

  • Fly spray

  • Heavy gloves

  • Hoof instuments

  • Instructions for feeding and medications

  • Knife

  • Leg wraps and bandages

  • Maps

  • Medications (might be good to include Ace or other sedative as well as Banamine)

  • Non-nylon halter and cotton leads

  • Paper towels, rags

  • Plastic trash cans with lids (to store water, feed)

  • Radio

  • Rope

  • Shovel

  • Tarps

  • Trash bags

  • Twitch

  • Water and feed buckets

  • Wire cutters

  • Water purifier (bleach)


Nothing scares me more than fire, because all it takes is for one careless idiot to throw their cigarette out their car window to start a fire. If wildfires are prevelent in your area, leave your horse trailer hooked up to the trailer and have the trailer loaded and ready to go at a moments notice. If you have to work, leave contact numbers for your neighbors, as well as displayed visably for firefighters. A recent dramatic rescue played out recently on the internet, as firemen rushed to a farm to save a horse and a herd of goats in Colorado. Filmed by a news crew in a helicopter, the firemen bravely battled the approaching fast moving flames, saving the animals. A followup news story revealed that the owners were at work and rescue crews would not allow them to go home and save their animals. This is why it is a good idea to evacuate ahead of time. Better to be safe than to have to risk the aforementioned scenario.

In addition:

  • Keep tranquilizers on hand. A friend of mine was in a situation where she tried to load her horse as a wildfire was approaching the barn where she boarded. The horse was so spooked by the fire, helicopters and fire trucks, she was very difficult to load.

  • And now is a good time to make sure that your horses will load!

  • If you do not have a trailer, or have more horses than trailer space, have a list of people you can contact to help.

    To protect your property from fires (both wildfire and otherwise):

  • Trim palmettos, shrubs and trees. Keep at least a 50' clearance around your barn.

  • Install ground rods.

  • Use metal conduit for wiring inside the barn and underground use pvc.

  • Use industrial extension cords.

  • Inspect cords regularly for signs of chewing from rodents.

  • Do not use indoor box fans. Use industrial fans. Lasko fans have been recalled due to starting fires.

  • NEVER use a heater. A tragic fire in Ohio last month killed several horses and was the result of a heater being left on in a barn.

  • Install smoke detectors.

  • Install fire sprinkers...costs less than you may think!

  • Have fire extinguishers every 40' and at both ends of the barn. An extinguisher may not put out a fire, but it can help buy enough time to evacuate animals.

  • Store hay and shavings in a separate barn. Do not store fresh hay on top of old hay.

  • Keep cobwebs and dust to a minimum. This is not just for aesthetic reasons!

  • Do not store gas cans or lawn equipment in the barn. Do not store anything flammable!

  • Use a metal trash can instead of rubber. If a fire starts in the trash can, the metal will help contain it.

  • Make sure your driveway is clear for a firetruck to reach your barn Trim the trees and bushes. The closer a truck can get to your barn, the faster they can start to extinguish the fire.

  • Install easy to read street numbers at the road.


In the event of flooding, you need to evacuate as soon as possible. As with wildfires, you cannot afford to wait.

After Tropical Storm Faye, in 2008, our farm was about a foot under water for weeks. I was initally concerned about snakes. The real threat however, were ants. Did you know that ants float? I didn't. Fireants will attach to each other and form a floating island. I quickly discovered that leaning on the fence was a painful experience, as ants sought refuge here. Sadly, a man died near my barn after coming in contact from a floating ant island.

In the event of tornadoes, I really don't think there is much you can do, other than to seek shelter and pray. One house may be totally destroyed, leaving their neighbor unscathed. Just as in hurricanes, I will take my chances and leave my horses inside. I will risk my barn being destroyed over having my horses impaled or electrocuted.

Now is the time to plan and prepare. Know your options and devise an emergency plan now!

Thank you to the Chuluota Fire Department and Dr. Jennifer Fowinkle for their contributions that allowed me to write this blog!