We all have a choice when we mount up--to wear a helmet or not. The choice is up to the individual. Below is a handy quiz to help you decide if you should wear a helmet when you ride:
Answer the following questions as either TRUE or FALSE as they apply to you:
Now, tally up your responses: for every time you answered “true,” give yourself 1 point. For every time you answered “false,” give yourself 5 points.
Questions 1-3 – If you answered true to these questions, congratulations on your achievements! These three things will undoubtedly help you stay topside and therefore reduce the risk of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from a fall. Unless #7 is False—that significantly reduces the amount of safety your level of skill/experience provides you.
Questions 4-10 – yes, I’m being a smart-ass, but these are the things we don’t think about. If I had a nickel for every time someone implied they were somehow exempt from brain injury because they were (place ridiculous claim here), or how it’s their body, their choice (which is true, it is)—I’d have a barrel full of nickels to donate to the Brain Trauma Foundation. The fact remains, horses are unpredictable, people make mistakes, freak accidents happen, and gravity is a constant feature of planet earth.
Questions 11-15 – This is really the point of this little exercise—to raise awareness that your decision to wear (or not wear) a helmet is not only about you. Unless your answer to questions 12-14 is “true,” then…well, no still not just about you, because someone will have to take care of you.
Post TBI injury care can include (but is not limited to): teaching sufferer how to walk, feed self, wipe bottom, speak, move arms, move legs, grasp objects, write, and read—hopefully you will be able to relearn all those tasks. Otherwise you may need someone to clean and maintain your respirator, change your diaper, bathe you, feed you (or clean your feeding tube), turn you so you don’t get bed sores, etc.
A recent study discovered that the annual cost of treating/managing a person with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) ranges from $25,000-$81,000 every year for the life of the patient.
The daunting cost of treating/managing the TBI patient is compounded by the fact the sufferer of the TBI is often unable to return to work at the same level or in some cases, at all. The study further found divorce was not uncommon with TBI sufferers in the years following their injury, citing extreme emotional and financial stress as the reason for divorce or separation.
If you have no family, no friends, and no money, and/or not enough insurance, then your lifetime care will fall on the taxpayers and the welfare system.
You might now be thinking, “Well, why do anything risky? Why drive, why fly, why do extreme sports, why keep riding?” My goal is not to scare you out of everything fun. Have adventures, drive on the interstate, ride that crazy mare that hates everyone, jump the big jumps, climb the mountain, go to an Elephant rally wearing a Donkey shirt—do those crazy, fun, dangerous things if the thought moves you, but take the safety precautions available to you—buckle your seat belt, wear the helmet, learn how to tie good mountain climbing knots, and leave the Donkey shirt at home—or avoid the Elephant rally—whichever. It just makes good sense.
Oh yeah, scoring the quiz:
If you scored anywhere from 0-75 points: you should definitely wear your helmet.
76 points or more: check your math, and definitely wear your helmet. Every ride, every time.
10 things you wish you'd known before you got your "free" horse!
10. Aside from the peppermint candies you give as treats (which you acquire for free at Pizza Hut), the buying price of a horse is generally the cheapest thing about horse ownership
9. If the horse has no teeth it does not mean it is young and they haven’t grown in yet
8. The “He’s real quiet with the kids” statement was actually referring to the neighbor kids who come throw apples over the fence; they’ve never actually handled him
7. “He’s a real easy keeper” means you will spend more money repairing fences, replacing stall boards, buying/replacing grazing muzzles, and paying the vet to tube your over-indulgent escape artist horse than you ever would have spent on feed.
6. The “He really loves his work” statement would hold more water if his best friend wasn’t a barn cat named “Work”
5. “Oh, we never have to tie him, we just tack him up in his stall” statement is actually incomplete, the rest of it goes something like: “…because we ran out of places to tie him since he pulled the cemented railroad tie out of the ground.”
4. “We’ve never had to call the vet for him” doesn’t mean he hasn’t been sick but probably does mean he hasn’t had his vaccinations
3. “His last owner? Yeah, she just sort of lost interest in him” Yes, after he bucked her into next Tuesday she did indeed lose interest in the horse nicknamed “Killer”
2. “No, no one’s been on him in a while, we just don’t have time for him” was code for “there isn’t a trainer in the tri-county area who will even come to our barn let alone ride this horse
1. “Yes, he’s really athletic, he could have gone to the National Finals Rodeo” Yes. This is true; he could have gone to the NFR, as a saddle bronc but he was just too rank for that.
Christmas time is near and many little girls (and even boys) are dreaming of waking up Christmas morning to find a horse of their very own under the tree (or perhaps tied out in the back yard). She has filled her school notebooks with horse drawings, has 642 Breyer horse models crowding her bedroom and has read all 20 of the original Black Stallion books at least 146 times. She begs her parents for a horse no less than 14 times a day, has memorized the lines from every horse movie ever created, and dreams of one day racing across the desert on the back of an Arabian Stallion, just like Alec Ramsey and the Black.
Finally, the parents break down and decide to surprise their little angel with a horse of her very own. Unfortunately, they haven’t done their research; after all, a horse is a horse, right? They soon discover some hard truths about little girls and horse ownership. I was that little girl and I did finally get my horse but I had to wait, and wait, and wait, until I had a job and could pay for him myself. If you are thinking of buying a horse for a Christmas present, I have a little friendly advice for you.
Horse Ownership Is NOT a Good First Step: Many little girls lose interest in horses as soon as something better comes along. Most frequently this is boys but it could be a school sport, other extra-curricular activity, cold weather, or just plain loss-of-interest. To find out if your daughter is really ready for a horse, start with riding lessons. Find a good instructor who teaches the student about horsemanship, not just about riding. The student should be responsible for grooming, tacking, untacking and cool out. The ride may be 1 hour but you should plan 2 hours for horse care before and after. If the riding stable does the work for the student, I’d look for another stable.
Other ways for your child to gain experience in horse care include joining 4H, volunteering at a horse rescue or therapeutic riding program, and (this is a great one) earning lesson money by helping out around the barn (cleaning stalls, tack, etc.). If your child sticks with this for a few years and is still eager to perform all parts of horse ownership (not just riding), then you may want to revisit the horse ownership discussion.
Horses are Extraordinarily Expensive: You found a horse for only $200 or better yet, it’s free! As mentioned above, the buying price of the horse is the least of your financial concerns. A healthy horse will cost thousands of dollars a year (horses can live beyond age 30!). Figure $300-$800 a month (depending on your location and amenities) for board. Have your own farm? Great! Now you still get to spend several hundred dollars a month on hay, feed, and bedding PLUS do all the work! Hoof care: $30 (just a trim) -$150 (shoes) or more every 6 weeks. Vaccinations given by a vet: figure $200-300 each visit (can’t forget the barn call!). Dental care: $90-$120 for basic care 1-2 times a year…this can quickly triple or quadruple if there is a dental problem. Deworming is about $6-14 every couple months.
Are you keeping track? This “free” horse is about to cost you $5,000 (very conservative) to $12,000 each year! This does not take into account horse care items like brushes, blankets, saddles, bridles, halters, pads, boots, leg wraps, lead ropes, buckets, feed tubs, water tanks, fence repair, farm maintenance, etc. etc.
Remember, above is an estimate of what a healthy horse will cost you. What if the horse gets sick or worse, has a chronic health problem? My horse was sick last week to the tune of nearly $1000 which is minor compared to some of the other vet bills she’s incurred: Hospitalization for severe colic: $3000, Eye surgery: $2000, 3 years of eye care: $3000, Eye removal (couldn’t save it): $1200…and she is only 10. Many people have bills much, much higher when their horse becomes ill.
Am I trying to scare you? Yes! Horse ownership is a huge financial and emotional commitment and should not be entered into without adequate preparation, planning and knowing what to expect. It is also very rewarding to have a relationship with a special horse. Just please, please know what you are getting into and take advantage of as many “free” or low cost options as you can such as 4H, riding lessons, and volunteering. This is my advice to you. Little Suzy or Timmy can wait. Let them learn some responsibility first and show you they are genuinely interested in and dedicated to the 10-30 year commitment of horse ownership (depending on the age of the horse at the time of purchase). In a future post I will discuss what to do when you decide you are ready to buy a horse (hint: it does NOT involve buying a horse under the age of 8!).
There has been a post going around Facebook this past week showing the supposed diary of a gelding vs. a mare. It is a knock off of a post I saw a while back showing the supposed diary of a dog vs. a cat. I feel the dog
vs. cat one is much more accurate but both are humorous. However, as the owner of a very special mare who is rather opinionated on
many matters, I don’t feel the original posting completely captures my mare. Therefore, I have decided to take a different approach, leaving the complacent geldings out of it and posting the 10 Rules for handling the Painted Princess:
10 Rules for handling the Painted Princess
1. You must always remember being in my presence is an
honor and a privilege, not a right.
2. I am not to be ignored! If you are within my field of vision,
you should be directing all of your attention toward me!
3. If you cannot arrive to the barn in a timely manner you must
a) apologize profusely for your tardiness, b) feed me treats
(the good ones!) while asking my forgiveness, and c) promise
to never ever be late again!
4. You are not to discuss the cleanliness of my stall with
anyone! It is my job to keep my stall any way I choose, it is
your job to clean up after me!
5. Do not expect me to be nicey-nice to another mare just
because she belongs to your best friend. This is not how the
6. I must be permitted to inspect and possibly squeal at any
horse in my presence (at my discretion), this is an age-old
tradition among mares and it should be honored. I further
should be allowed to change my mind about a horse I like
and decide to dislike the horse when it is convenient for me.
7. You will not speak of my heat cycle in a negative manner.
This is part of the privilege of being in my presence. I must
endure your hormonally dictated behaviors, you will tolerate
8. There is no such thing as being “mare-ish.” I am a dynamic,
interesting, ever-evolving individual. There are simply some
people and animals in this world which have earned more of
my respect than others.
9. Mares are sensitive creatures. Remember the story of The
Princess and the Pea whenever you select saddle pads,
saddles, boots, leg wraps, blankets or other items of apparel
for me. Further, I am not to be dressed poorly. I should be
dressed both stylishly and comfortably!
10. You will never ever twitch me! If I don’t like what you’re
doing it is because you are doing it wrong. I demand
respect. Ask me nicely and be patient enough for me to
respond when I am ready!
All kidding aside, I am honored to have a mare as special as Farletta in my life. My first horse was a wonderful gelding and I loved him very much. I still love and miss him and we had a great relationship. However, there is something different in the relationship between Farletta and me. She demands the best from me, she has helped me navigate the sometimes treacherous parts of my personal journey and I am a better person in a better place because of her. She has taught me compassion. She awakened my spirit and reminded me that it's not too late to discover my life's purpose and forge my dreams into reality. Would I be in the place I am right now if it weren't for Farletta? Maybe. However, I believe God uses a variety of tools to help us live our life purpose; in my case, He used a painted princess I call, Farletta.
No poop, no horse! We've all heard this at some point in our lives with our four-hooved friends and it's quite true, I can assure you. Many people (myself included) who gag at the thought of changing a dirty diaper or hold your breath and shudder each time you stoop to pick up doggie-doodle don't think twice about slinging horse poo. In fact, we enjoy it...I know I do. Who needs a gym membership? Just give me a manure fork and 20 stalls to clean and I will show you one buff chica!
Many horse professionals "break-in" to the horse business slinging poo. Spending hours bent over a fork (one with a full set of tines if you're lucky), cleaning up after our favorite friends is considered a blessing -- "They're actually paying me to hang out with horses! I am so lucky!"
I spent many years "paying dues" in the horse business, cleaning stalls for the opportunity to work with horses and develop my skills. In the late 1990s I was working two jobs, seven days a week to make ends meet and support my horse habit. Part of my job was (of course) mucking stalls.
On a particulary hot day in early summer I was working away in a stall, sweat rolling off of me from every pore (not that you asked, but yes, it is possible to soak your underwear with sweat). It could have been the long hours, the serious sleep deprivation or the extreme heat...I wasn't sure but one thing I was quite certain of is that one of the pieces of manure had lept from the pile I was working on and landed near the door. I stared in disbelief at the little brown turd trying to decide if I was finally losing my mind. I leaned the fork against the stall wall and wiped my face with my shirt. Just as I was turning back to the fork I caught that turd out of the corner of my eye...it moved again!
Now I was positively disturbed. Seriously, jumping poo? I squatted down closer to the magical turd, trying to get a better look in the dim light of the stall. I moved my finger toward it and then, suddenly realizing I was about to touch poo with my bare hand I opted for a nearby piece of hay. I slowly moved the long hay stem toward the poo. Just as I was about to make contact the turd lept again, and again! Right out of the stall and into the barn aisle!
I staggered backward in suprise but then quickly followed the jumping poo. I stepped from the stall into the barn aisle. In the brighter light of the aisle I could see the poo was in fact a turd-colored toad which apparantly enjoyed the warmth and moisture of a somewhat fresh pile of manure. "Ha! I knew it! I'm not crazy at all" I said to the turd-colored toad as it hoped down the aisle.
I took a swig of cold water and returned to the stall. I looked at the various poo piles, daring them to move, gently prodding them with my fork. They stayed completely still; as all well-behaved manure piles do. I took another drink of water and returned to my work, quite relieved knowing no one had been there to hear me conversing with the "magic poo."
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Cheryl L. Eriksen, MSW, Equine Enthusiast, EAGALA groupie and writer of interesting, educational and entertaining blog posts!