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Do People Coddle Their Horses Too Much?

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  • Do People Coddle Their Horses Too Much?

    Since becoming more involved in the A Circuit barns, (used to be at a private barn before) I have noticed a continuous trend. People seem to be so protective, and coddle their horses far too much.
    Now don't get me wrong, in the winter my horses have 2 winter blankets on, our show horses are clipped, and most of my horses go into a stall at night. They're extremely well looked after, if they need a vet, or to be shod, meds/supplements, etc. They've got it.

    But I also discipline my horses. All 6 of our horses, with the exception of the OTTB I just got yesterday, have exceptional ground manners. They aren't pushy, they do not bite, kick when you touch their back legs, and when your leading them that are not impatient.

    I work for quite a low key (B Circuit) barn right now, and granted, 60% of those horses are perfectly fine for the most part. But the others, are incredibly impatient and pushy. I also see people, adults, not children, handling these horses and when they go to snip at them, they get a little tap on the nose. If my horses do that, they're given a good swift slap on the chest.

    Another aspect of this is feeding and stabling. I don't find this problem with the barn I'm at, but I've found many barns In my area do. People are so worried about their $20,000-100,000 show horses getting hurt, or dirty that they seldom put them outside! If its raining, the horses are in, regardless of blankets! I find this absurd. I understand if its thunder/lightning, or pouring rain or if its the day before a show but other than that I believe horses are meant to be outside, and should be! Its not right to keep them cooped up in a tiny stall 6 days a week. Now feeding, I've noticed people over supplement their horses SO MUCH! One barn I went to, I bet each horse had a MINIMUM of 6 different supplements in their grain twice a day. I think unless you horse has some serious issues, they do NOT need this. My horses all get hay regularly, and free fed salt, as well as grain once a day with a multi-vitamin and a couple get glucosamine. One of them gets a high performance feed as well. But thats it.

    Sorry for the rant... I just needed to get this out of my head
    Watermark aka "Cleo" - 5 year old Warmblood cross
    Foxtrot aka "Raven" - 5 year old Hanoverian
    Simon Says aka "Sprout" - 4 year old Welsh pony
    Canadian Eh

  • #2
    I have been in a few different training barns, and I have learned these things.

    1. No one else espouses the exact same horse keeping or training philosophy that you do.

    2. Everyone, deep inside, feels that their philosophy is "just common sense" and "the right way."

    3. You will be much happier if you refrain from ever giving advice to other horse people, and smile with thanks when others offer you advice. The more aggressive and obnoxious the advice, the more pleasant (but brief) your thanks should be.

    4. When people ask for your input, deliver it, but don't expect them to take it, and don't attempt to justify your position. They asked, you offered, they rejected. No problem, it takes all kinds.

    5. Confidence in your methods and philosophy is usually proven out by a healthy horse who behaves the way you want. You need to accept that those things are the ONLY affirmation you'll ever get. Don't seek approval from others, and don't expect them to treat things the way you do. If they want their horse to look and act more like yours, one day they will ask your advice.

    6. What others do with their horses has no impact on what you do with yours. If a barn is pushing their philosophy on you, then it might not be the right place for you. Don't expect to change anyone's mind.
    Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior


    • #3
      I totally understand your frustration, because I've been there myself. On the other hand, I've also been on the other side of the coin in the past with the discipline thing - I didn't get my first horse until I was an adult and I didn't realize at first that I didn't have to coddle this giant beast who could easily break me if he got so inclined. It was only after a year or two that I finally realized just because this horse was from a rescue and had been manhandled didn't mean I had to tip-toe around him. In fact, he was better behaved if I gave him clear, well-defined boundaries...

      I completely agree with you on the over-supplementation and lack of turn-out some horses have. I used to get myself upset about that. Eventually, I just had to say, "Not my horse, not my call" because honestly, we don't always know the circumstances. Talking turn-out, there are some horses that actually hate being outside for very long at all. I know that only equates to a fraction of the ones that are "cooped up" so to speak, but they are out there.

      Hey, at least you're able to manage your own horses the way you want them managed. That, my dear, is a "win."
      ~*~*~*~Founding member of the Spotted Saddlebred Pals Clique~*~*~*~

      The equine love of my life: Gabriel
      4/6/1993 - 8/23/2015 ...RIP my big, beautiful boy <3


      • #4
        Animal discipline is a bit like child discipline. Everybody does their own thing. I don't say to my friends "wow, you really should spank your kid more" nor would I say that to them about their horse (or dog or whatever pet). As long as the horse has basic manners & the barn staff can handle them, I don't think you can yell at people who might not discipline as strictly as you do.

        I would also like to point out that while some people believe horses should be turned out all day every day, not all horses agree. I think the best program is tailored to the specific horse. Some horses only prefer 2-3 hours of turnout & are quite content to be in their stall. I would much prefer that to an unhappy horse pacing the fence line for hours on end cause gosh darn it you are going to stay out there all day & like it!

        As for the supplements, perhaps they are feeding based on a vet recommendation? Or their trainer? Maybe the quality of the barn feed isn't as high quality & they want to add to it? Again, if it's not affecting you--you aren't being forced to supplement your horse--what does it matter?
        "I'm not crazy...my mother had me tested"


        • #5
          Out of all the things you're gripping about, the only one that really bothers me too is the pushy horses. My horse is very well behaved on the ground and I enforce it every time I handle her. The only thing she sometimes tries to do is nip and will get a well deserved smack in return. However, pushy horses can be dangerous-I want a horse to respect my space, especially when I'm leading them.

          As for the turnout and the supplementation, I agree that not all horses love being out. Mine has a limit of about 2-4 hours, and then she is ready to come back in. And over supplementation, while it can be detrimental, usually just results in really expensive pee...


          • #6
            I get where you are coming from.......it's hard to see "things" go on that you would never do or don't believe in .....I also know that some barns won't turn horses out in the rain or if it is slippery to save their grass/footing.

            Wish I knew what to say.... I feel like I deal with this on a daily basis in 1 way or another...and am trying to just take care of my horse and mind my own business.......but that's hard! so I call and talk to some friends so I can at least get it off my chest.

            Hang in, you are not alone........



            • #7
              One of my pet peeves are horses who are unclipped and standing in a 40*+ barn wearing blankets. Seems like such a waste of time and unnecessary wear on the blankets. I assure you, your healthy, 1100 lb. animal is not going to get cold when it's over 40* indoors.

              I just figure, if these people have enough money to keep replacing stuff and pay for medical expences resulting from a lack of turnout, overheating, bad manners, etc. then that's just their perogitive.


              • #8
                And unless they're clipped or they live north of the Arctic circle, I find multiple blankets overkill. (But I don't clip.) So on some level I probably think YOURS are coddled! But I don't ride in the winter or I don't ride much (no indoors, and the ground is either frozen or there's a foot of snow/inch of ice) so I don't clip. A big fuzzy coat doesn't bother me.

                With you on the supplements. I've basically given them up other than electrolytes if it's very hot weather. Dither about selenium, but he seems fine on grain and hay without anything added, so as I've never seen any evidence it creates more than anything but expensive pee, I don't. If people want to spend their money, I suppose most of them are harmless enough, but I've never seen a difference, sups or none, so I don't any more.

                As far as turnout, six kinds of fancy feeds, etc...I rode from age 6 to age 21, five-year break, picked it up again, and I've actively seen ONE colic (a gas colic of a mare I happened to be leading during a NARHA program class.) I have literally known as many horses who colic as I have horses who broke their necks in their hay net. (Why I NEVER leave one in overnight. Ever.) No horse I own/feed. They've all gotten basic grain, basic hay (alfalfa/mix), and they spend as much time as possible turned out. Even the oldster who needed soft food at the BO's barn, who came in starved by the other barn he'd been at, got all-day turnout and very little in the way of fancy foods or supplements (just extra weight builders) and...no colic. Best friend's horses growing up? Turnout w/run in, no colic. Neighbor's horses? No colic. Neighbor HERE's horses? Out in little paddocks most of the time, hay, grass, and water...no colics. Are we all just INSANELY lucky, or are horses less likely to colic on lots of hay, basic food, and lots of turnout?
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                • #9
                  I'd rather see that vs the abuse that goes on with horses like a horse that doesn't get out much and sits in a dirty pen with flies all over. Lack of feed because someones to friggen cheap to feed their horse properly and says "I don't have the money". Well get rid of the horse then. Or they are ridden into the ground on weekends only because the owner doesn't give a crap if the horse is in shape enough and the horses feet haven't been trimmed in months.

                  Why would you care what these people are doing as long as they are not abusing their horses. It just seems petty to me.
                  If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.


                  • #10
                    Of course some people coddle their horses, but "too much" is subjective.

                    To me, it becomes "too much" when it is detrimental to the horse or the people around the horse (pushy/rude horse on the ground because of lack of discipline, a horse standing out in the field sweating and looking miserable under 5 layers of blankets, etc.)

                    Otherwise, its their horse and not mine. If buying their horse 5 supplements is their way of enjoying their horse or feeling involved in its care, what does it hurt you?


                    • #11
                      Do people worry about things that aren't their business too much?

                      Sorry for the snark, but honestly, these threads of judging people because you think that the way they do it is wrong and the way you do it is right are getting old. Not you specifically, but in general... every few weeks, there is a thread talking about similar stuff.

                      If it isn't abuse, neglect, or harming your horse, it's really none of your concern.
                      Proudly blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse!


                      • #12
                        I understand why people are comparing disciplining horses to disciplining kids and pointing out that each has their own way. However, if a child swings or gets pushy, it's easy to get out of that situation with minimal risk or injury. Horses are just too big to be allowed to be pushy. All regularly handled horses should respect a human's personal space at the very least.

                        Now, as for the portion of OP's message about feed/turnout/care, I believe every person has the right to care for their horse's health as they choose (as long as it's not neglectful). But I disagree with the sentiment that as long as it's not abuse it's of no concern when it comes to basic behavioral issues. By allowing these behaviors (i.e. biting, as OP mentioned) to continue, you are putting your horse and people who handle your horse in danger.


                        • #13
                          OP would hate being around my horse. She lives inside and hates turnout, so her time outside consists of long workouts and hand-grazing (she also gets briefly turned out in a field where she likes to roll and buck/play a little bit). She gets her own special high protein, high fat pellets, several different supplements, and dengi. If you saw her on the cross ties and didn't know her, you might be concerned for my life; she acts like something that the Crocodile Hunter wouldn't want to go near - but she doesn't actually bite, it's all for show. She jigs next to you when you take her out to graze, but never pulls on the rope. I figure if she wants to trot with a little tiny stride and look goofy, that's fine as long as she stays out of my space and behaves herself.

                          But with all that being said, I'm willing to bet that the COTHers who have met her can agree with me that all things considered, she is very polite and easy to work around. And she's 17 and still bombing around the 1.45m-1.50m classes with me so I must be doing something right .
                          Last edited by supershorty628; Mar. 12, 2013, 12:02 PM.
                          Proudly blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse!


                          • #14
                            Agree. Seems to be lately these sweeping negative generalizations of A show barns, riders, and trainers. I think its safe to say most people want what is best for their horses.

                            To answer the OP. My horse is at an A show barn and every horse gets out just about every day. The turnout is tailored for what each horse needs. Mine, for example, pretty much goes out all night. Some only need an hour or two

                            Horses are expected to behave and have manners. Most of us are ammies and teenagers and why would we want to be around a PIA horse?

                            Yes they wear blankets or sheets but most are clipped through the winter.


                            • #15
                              Nobody is ever going to be in agreement about horse care/training. But, I have noticed everyone gravitates toward the well mannered, easy to get along with horse. Therefore, if you want your horse to be that kind of horse, take the time to learn from that horse's owner.


                              • #16
                                if you cannot put ointment on a scrape that is just skinned b/c the horse is acting like an a$$, then yes your horse is coddled

                                true story, was at a barn and there were a group of ppl surrounding this horse that had a scrape (very surperficial, maybe 1x1 inch on his hip) and they were going on and on about how bad it was and how much pain the horse was in b/c he would not let them apply ointment, and this was a horse that was w/t/c broke and shown over fences, he was being an a$$


                                • #17
                                  [QUOTE=Giddy-up;6880986]Animal discipline is a bit like child discipline. Everybody does their own thing.

                                  This - Hands down...

                                  [QUOTE=Giddy-up;6880986]I would also like to point out that while some people believe horses should be turned out all day every day, not all horses agree. I think the best program is tailored to the specific horse. Some horses only prefer 2-3 hours of turnout & are quite content to be in their stall. I would much prefer that to an unhappy horse pacing the fence line for hours on end cause gosh darn it you are going to stay out there all day & like it!

                                  And this - my horse goes out at night which at the barn I board at means he gets turned out at 3 pm and comes in at 6 am. Due to the recent historic snowfall and below normal temps common in my area at this time of year, some of the barn staff opted to rotate him into the day turnout schedule. And he just didn't like it.....stood at the gate and threatened to jump out until he was brought in.

                                  Why? Not sure...but he does enjoy his quiet time in his stall each day and napping for hours on end.

                                  In the height of the summer he goes out after the sun goes down because he doesn't like to bake in the sun.

                                  Otherwise, he will go outside as long as it is above 15 degrees F overnight, in a light rain shower as long as its going to pass/not too cold, in a light snow and under many other less than perfect conditions...

                                  And he goes to A circuit shows.....

                                  And he gets turned out overnight the night before the horseshow....

                                  I don't think that he will ever be a 24 hr turnout horse unless he had a paddock attached to his stall where he could run in for a nap at his leisure...


                                  • #18
                                    Horses at my A-show barn are treated as individuals.

                                    Some have lived out 24/7 because that is what they needed. On the other extreme we have some who panic if they are out more than 20 minutes or the conditions are not absolutely perfect. No amount of forcing them to stay out and like it is going to change their minds. That's ok, because there are others who will take their spot. I think my BOs do the best they can to get the horses out as much as they can within the confines of available turnout and ensuring that turnout conditions remain safe. When the conditions are not great, they may stay in a few days or only get out for a few hours every other day and when the weather is great, they often only come in to eat. Maybe ours are stall potatoes, but they don't seem to enjoy being out long when the weather is extremely cold, windy, wet, hot or buggy. When the weather is great, though, you can't get them out the doors fast enough.

                                    We try to operate on a minimialist basis when it comes to supplements and blanketing. But if a horse needs it, they get it. Almost all of our horses are clipped, so most live in some level of blanket from October through April.

                                    Most of our horses have excellent ground manners; however, some are ... quirky. My experience with quirky horses is that demanding high levels of obedience from them often backfires. Strongly punishing or picking on them for expressing their opinion makes them worse. As long as you set boundaries to ensure they are safe to handle and treat them fairly, they end up chilling and respecting you more in the long run. This is not to say that some horses are not just plain spoiled and taking advantage. They get disciplined appropriately.

                                    Maybe we have created horses that have gone soft and have bad manners. But IMHO, I ask my horse to perform at a level that, if left to his own devices, he probably not do on his own. It is up to me to provide him with enough creature comforts to keep him happy and willing to do his job, even if I have to work 8 hours to his one hour .


                                    • #19
                                      To the poster upthread who says she's seen one colic in her lifetime and wonders whether she's just been lucky: Yes. Horses colic for all kinds of reasons and under all kinds of care. I know you don't mean to be insulting, but the insinuation that a horse who colics isn't getting the right care gives me pause. I've had a few colic cases during my quarter-century of keeping horses, but my vets will tell you that my horses (who live out, with access to their stalls, 24/7 unless the weather is dreadful and eat good feed and hay) get great care. And I've seen colics at other barns that offer wonderful care. I hope you'll continue to be lucky for as long as you own horses, though!


                                      • #20
                                        Are we all just INSANELY lucky, or are horses less likely to colic on lots of hay, basic food, and lots of turnout?
                                        When something as simple as a weather change can cause colic, my vote would be lucky
                                        I don't always feel up to arguing with your ignorance