By Cynthia Foley, April 14, 2013
I love horses, obviously, but I’ve never been a big fan of getting dirty. My husband remains befuddled by it, but it’s always been difficult for me not to immediately want to change my clothes if I get a spot of food or ink on them. But in the barn, well, I don’t mind a bit. Dirt, hair, horse manure. No problem. No one’s sure quite why . . .
Still, I’m happy we’re approaching the end of shedding season. I’ve done the bulk of the shedding out our three mares, and I have a special jacket I wear when I do it. It’s one of those “old” styles, with the really shiny nylon, to which almost nothing sticks. It’s really out of date, but it beats the heck out of a fleece jacket when it comes to air filled with horse hair. My own hair is up under a baseball cap because the knit hat will become too hairy otherwise.
My favorite tool for shedding has always been the plain rubber oval curry comb – yes, the one you can buy for less than $5. I love the stimulation the horse’s skin gets with each circular motion as much as the horses do (the workout my arms receive is good, too).
Usually, we’ll follow that with a vacuuming, as this pulls the loosened dirt and hair right out of a horse’s coat. (My sister thinks it’s fun to vacuum one side of the horse and not the other, then pat the horse’s rump for a “dust bowl” comparison.) Our first vacuum lasted over 25 years before we replaced it, so while it might take saving funds for a while to get one, if you take care of it, you’ll have it for a long time. They’re worth every penny.
However, shedding then vacuuming isn’t a quick process, and as I become increasingly busy, I find myself reaching for the good old Furminator. It’s not inexpensive by any stretch, retailing around $70, but I’ve been using the same one for a couple of years. We greatly prefer it over the old steel shedding blades because we get so much more hair out with one stroke. Can’t use it on bony areas, or course, but the horses seem to like it. If you’d like to read about our field trial with Furminator and its competitors subscribers can read about it here: Shedding tools.
After this morning’s shedding session–which was great fun because Sally (my mare) was feeling especially playful–I sat down to do the Horse Journal pick for a Rescue Horse feature. Windsong, the mare we chose, reminds me so much of my own Sally that it’s incredible. That eye just says a lot to me. Doing the post reminded me that I also wanted to bring attention to Mountain Horse, an equestrian brand most of us are familiar with, because they are sponsoring the American Competitive Trail Horse Association’s “Diamond in the Rough Award.”
This coveted award goes to horses coming from a rescue category that compete in ACTHA events. Mountain Horse’s generosity to ACTHA goes further than that, but we wanted to highlight the attention to rescue horses. We need more companies to follow suit with more donations toward rescue horses. If more horse-sport organizations would consider such an award, more competitors would likely look at rescue horses as a possibility.
What if one of the big hunter/jumper groups decided to offer a year-end award to the highest-earning rescue horse? Maybe $10,000 or $25,000? Seems like a drop in the bucket, compared to the funds they get from corporate sponsorship. Rolex? I bet they could sell one watch and offer one heck of a bonus prize. (I found a Rolex for sale for $450,000! No kidding. Look here.)
But it might be incentive to riders and trainers to peruse the listings and maybe find a horse or pony who deserves a chance. I’m no pro, but I’ve noticed rescue ponies that looked like they had huge potential, especially in the hunter ring. And you know what well-trained ponies with talent bring to the bank? Sometimes six figures.
If you’re doubtful that rescue horses may have potential, must I remind you of Snowman and Harry deLeyer? There’s a terrific book available from Horse Books Etc. that tells the story of this great team. You can read more about Snowman and rescue horses in Margaret Freeman’s blog. If you’re a Horse Journal subscriber, you can read John Strassburger’s review of the book before you buy it.
If we could up the ante, more horses would get a chance again. Think about it. While most rescue groups are very good at giving an honest evaluation of a horse’s temperament and putting in some training hours, it probably doesn’t hold a candle to what a horse might get in a strong (reputable!) training stable. With training like that, even if they didn’t pan out to be the next Gem Twist, they might find a good home with a junior rider.
Mountain Horse isn’t alone in helping rescue horses, of course. Our favorite “A Home for Every Horse” program is sponsored by our own Equine Network, Absorbine, Purina, Tractor Supply, Weatherbeeta, the Wild Horse and Burro Program. Maybe we can encourage more companies to step up to the plate and help our homeless horses. All we have to do is offer them a program and suggest the sponsorship.