Four Stories  (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4)


Developing a Winning Partnership: Preparing Your Horse for COMPETITION!

By Nancy Faulconer


Competition is a big step! There are a lot of things to consider when you decide you want to go to a horse show. The horse that is your sweet willing trail riding partner may not be equipped to make the transformation to fancy show pony without a little work on your part.

Going to a show can be very rewarding. Here are some things to consider first:
1. Go to the show WITHOUT your horse. Take this opportunity to ask questions, observe other horses and riders. Watch for how the horse is presented, and what the riders are wearing. Decide which classes would be best for you and your horse. Fill out membership forms and pick up applications in advance so you can be prepared when your show day arrives. If you are unsure of the rules for showing or judging, now would be a good time to ask the person in charge for more information. There is nothing more frustrating than NOT KNOWING why your horse did not win that ribbon!
2. Brush up on your trailer loading skills. Remember, the easiest way to mess up your chances for being competitive is to have a trailer loading challenge on show day! Plan ahead, and practice loading your horse at least once a day for the seven days before the competition. I like to finish each practice session in the arena with a trailer loading and then I reward my horse for loading in the trailer by letting her rest in there for 10 minutes or so. The trailer can become a comfort zone for your horse.
3. Evaluate. Based on the information that you got when you went to the show, look at your horse and yourself objectively. Are you presentable? Are you dressed as well as the other competitors? Does your horse look his best? Is he groomed properly and in his best physical condition? Your chances of success are greatly reduced without attention to each of these areas.
4. Practice the basics. If you are going to a speed competition, you may be tempted to practice everything at full speed. But, if you think about it, and study the people who have truly mastered your event, you will find that mastery of the basic maneuvers at a walk is the key to a winning time. Remember the old rule of thumb: If you can’t walk it perfectly, you shouldn’t be trotting. If you can’t trot it perfectly, DON’T LOPE! If you are preparing for a western or English performance class, you will still be smart to break down each task into its basic components and get these really good.
5. Dress Rehearsal. If you can arrange it, setting up a mock competition at a location other than your usual practice area is a good way to gauge your strengths and areas for improvement. If possible, trailer your horse to a practice area that he is unfamiliar with, and have a pretend judge to give you feedback. If it is possible, have someone VIDEO you so you can watch it later, and critique yourself.

Now, you’ve done the preparation and show day is just around the corner! Think positive thoughts and have fun! After all, that’s why we have horses, isn’t it?

More resources are available. There are a lot of great books on natural horsemanship and resistance free training.

Remember, every minute you spend with your horse, you ARE teaching him. It is your responsibility to learn as much as you can, and to keep learning.

Want more ideas?

Visit for a recommended reading list, more booklets, and other ideas.

This article is written directly from my personal experience in developing my horsemanship using natural methods, studying psychology and communication of equines, and incorporating the aspect of having young children underfoot while learning. There are a few good natural horsemanship programs available, and the internet has many more resources. Please visit if you need some direction on where to look for a good horsemanship program.

As you progress along your horsemanship journey, you will realize there are many parallels between parenting and horsemanship. I am presenting this article as an attempt to invite you to think along the lines of what worked for my family, and hopefully spark your imagination and creativity where your own family is involved.Hoofprint

Happy Horsing Around!

About the author:
Nancy Faulconer, author of "Living with Horses and Children" and its related workbooks, is the proprietor of Cloud9 Ranch in Naples, Florida where she lives with her two children, one husband, 16 horses, 2 Great Danes, 3 cats, 2 goats and a Chihuahua.

For more information:



By Elizabeth Priegues, Age 8

Ellie and her 18-year-old quarter pony, Ringo Starr

My talk today is about the nutrition every horse needs in its body and how we can help him or her to get it.

It may surprise you but clean water is the most important need for a horse. Clean water tanks regularly to remove algae. Water that is filtered through your pump and filter is best.

How is the horse designed to eat? He has a very small stomach and very long “large intestine”. That means he can’t digest big helpings of food at a time. Feeding your horse lots of feed concentrates like sweet feed is like giving him a banana split for breakfast, lunch and dinner! His body is not made to handle that!

Sugars are very hard for a horse digest. One sugar, called fructan, is especially bad. It is hard for him to digest, but also it causes the tiny parts of the hoof – called lamina – to separate from the coffin bone. That is called laminitis and it is very painful for the horse. It’s like pulling your fingernail back off your finger – very painful!

Let’s look at what horses eat in nature. Wild horses eat a variety of dry grasses all day – up to 20 hours a day. They also travel in search of food and water up to 30 miles a day. They can stay fit and healthy on that diet – not too thin and not too fat.

In Florida, hay is best to feed your horse. Pasture grasses can be too sweet here, especially when it is dry and sunny. That concentrates the sugars – and fructan – in the grass and makes it hard to digest.

What types of hay are available in Florida?

a. Timothy – can be good hay because it has good fiber. But it can sometimes be sweet. Usually, the hay that is actually best for your horse is the one he won’t like as much – because it’s low in sugar.

b. Orchard grass hay is often good and filled with nutrition for your horse, but again it can be sweet.

c. Coastal is probably the best hay to feed your horse on a daily basis. He can munch on it all day, and it has the lowest level of sugar of any hay that you feed your horse.

d. Peanut hay is nutritious, but very rich. So be careful not to feed too much peanut hay, or else mix it with other kinds. Horses love it! We sometimes sprinkle some on top for our horses as a treat.

e. Alfalfa is delicious, like Peanut, but very rich in sugar and protein. So you need to be careful when feeding Alfalfa. Also it has been shown to cause laminitis, if you feed too much. Alfalfa is best to be fed on special occasions as a treat.

VARIETY is important too. Try to feed 2 or 3 different types of hay. That way, if one hay is low in minerals or nutrients, the other hay you feed could make up for it. Its like if you ate nothing but oranges all day. You’d get plenty of vitamin C, but you need protein (from meat or beans) and potassium (like from bananas) as well to be healthy. Horses are the same – they need variety.

Fat – a small amount of fat is good for horses. It is easy to digest and can help keep their coats shiny. Flax seed can be ground up and fed to horses as a supplement. It is high in fat but easy for them to digest.

In summary, horses thrive on wild natural grasses. Since we can’t provide that diet for our horses here in Florida, the best we can do is try to provide a natural diet of different types of hay.

This article was based on Elizabeth’s talk at the South Florida Fair as part of the 4H competition. She received a blue ribbon for it. Elizabeth is active in her 4H club, where she is secretary, and loves riding her quarter horse Ringo Starr. She hopes to be a writer when she grows up.


Savvy Safety with Your Horse

By Katharine Priegues, Age 11

Katharine and her 6-year-old American Paint gelding, Hidalgo

My talk today will focus on 3 problems and situations people have where there is a danger that they may get hurt and how to prevent them to stay safe with your horse.

1. Riding with a hard hat to protect your head.
“Use your brain – ride with a hard hat to protect it.”
Inside your skull there is very soft sensitive tissue that can easily be damaged in a fall – if you aren’t wearing a hard hat.

My aunt Sam once was riding a horse without a hard hat, and as she got on the horse the horse trotted off before she was balanced. She bounced back on his back over his flanks, and he began to buck. He bucked her off and she landed on hard ground and a small stone cracked the base of her skull. She was in the hospital for two weeks and was in a coma for two days. My grandmother didn’t know if she would live.

When she woke up, Sam didn’t recognize her own mom, or her sister (my mother). Her brain was damaged and she had lost her sense of smell and taste – but at least she was alive! All this could have been avoided if only she had worn a hard hat. She would have gotten up off the ground and walked away that day.

2. Standing still for mounting.

This brings me to the second dangerous problem that happens every day with horses – and it’s dangerous even though many people take it for granted. That is that the horse walks or trots away when the rider is mounting. The horse is too eager to get away and has not been rewarded for standing quietly. How can you teach your horse to stand quietly?

Well, first, let me ask a question: what’s the first thing you should ALWAYS do when you first get on your horse? . . . Nothing! You can teach your horse to stand quietly by spending some time asking him to stand while you get on and off of him several times. If he walks away, stop and back him up. Now get off and start over. If he does it again, do the same thing. After a few times practicing, he will probably decide to stand still. When he does, reward him by praising him, rubbing his neck and allowing him to stand still for several minutes. That is the biggest reward to a horse! He may not be used to standing still without moving his feet. That’s okay, just keep asking him to stop and then rewarding him.

Then, every single time you mount, be sure to have him stand still before walking off. At first, it’s a good idea to stand for several minutes. This will seem like a long time!!! That’s okay. You will see a change in your horse if you are consistent and do this every single time you ride. Don’t be in a hurry!

3. Safe pasture turnout.

Turning your horse out into the pasture also is a situation that can be very dangerous. Many people are injured because their horse gets excited, turns and runs out into the pasture, kicking up his heels as he goes. This happened to a trainer who is a family friend and who has a lot of experience with horses. The horse was new to him and got really excited while he was leading her out to the pasture. She took off with him and ran up to the fence and he slammed his body into the fence, breaking two ribs. This could happen to you if you are not careful. How can you prevent it?

First, you need to teach your horse to lead with respect at your shoulder, and not allow him to get ahead of you. Your horse should also stop when you stop and not just keeping walking ahead. Two good ways to teach your horse this: when your horse is starting to walk ahead of you, just turn and walk the other way. You can also make a tight circle until he is walking with you again. This way, whenever he decides to go his own way, you make the decision to turn, and now he is following you again.

Another way is to do the “funky chicken”. Lead your horse and if he doesn’t stop automatically when you stop, then you do the “funky chicken”. The funky chicken is when you put your arms up, and wiggle your elbows like a “funky chicken.” Your horse will look at you like you're crazy and back up. Now try it again, and if he doesn’t stop, do the funky chicken again. You’ll be surprised how quickly he will learn to stop and pay attention to you when you stop.

So when turning your horse out into the pasture, be sure that he leads with respect first and always have him turn, face you and wait quietly before you leave. As you take his halter off, rub his neck and stand with him to let him know not to run off. If you follow these suggestions, it will make the bond with your horse stronger and safer!

This article is based on Katharine’s presentation at the South Florida Fair as part of the 4H club competition. She received a blue ribbon for it. Katharine is president of her 4H club, the Savvy Saddle Club and she is a Level 1 graduate of the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program. She enjoys riding and playing with her 6-year-old American Paint gelding, Hidalgo.

Part 4

Aromatherapy Research - A School Project

By Valerie Brock


Valerie, barrel racing on her Paint horse, Dusty Wagon

The purpose of this project was to determine if allowing a horse to inhale lavender essential oil for one minute before a workout would relieve the nervousness that the horse typically exhibits. Subjects in this experiment included both male and female adult horses (2 years and older) of different breeds. The horses were rated for their nervousness by their rider on a scale of 1 to 5 before the essential oil was inhaled, directly after being inhaled, twice during a specified workout, and after a cool down. Twenty four out of twenty five horses showed an improvement after inhaling the lavender essential oil. This data indicates that the use of lavender could have a positive impact in the training of nervous horses, creating a safer environment for the trainer.


Morag (2000) wrote that essential oils are a gentle and effective answer to many of today’s common problems and that they are the potent extracts of aromatic plants that have been used as a health aid for centuries. Sandurson (2000) stated that essential oils balance the body, mind and spirit of an animal, therefore, relieving stress, anxiety, and many other health problems. Lavender essential oil will calm a sensitive and/or nervous horse (Bird, 2001). However, Sandurson (2000) also wrote that you must be very aware of how the essential oil is applied and what essential oil is used because a horse may not react well to the oil.

The purpose of this project is to determine if allowing a horse to inhale lavender essential oil for one minute before a workout will relieve the nervousness that the horse typically exhibits. The hypothesis is if the essential oil lavender is applied to the horse through inhalation for one minute, then the lavender will relax and calm the horse to a lower level of nervousness in a workout involving flatwork.

Methods and Materials
Twenty five horses were used in this study. Backgrounds to these subjects can be found in Figure 1. An initial workout was performed using no essential oil to establish baseline data. This was followed by a workout with the lavender essential oil within two weeks of the original workout. The warm up consisted of walking on an extremely loose rein for 2 minutes. The initial workout per horse over 4 years of age consisted of two periods, one in each direction. Each period of the workout was an easy to medium level workout and included 3 minutes of a working walk, 6 minutes of a working trot or jog (depending on the seat of the horse and rider), and 1 minute of cantering or loping (depending on the seat of the horse and rider). Cooling down consisted of walking on a loose rein for 2 minutes. The initial workout per horse under 4 years of age consisted of the same two workout periods except for no cantering and only 3 minutes of trotting. No cantering was done on horses 4 years or younger due to the early stages of training and that horse not particularly being ready to canter in this study. For stables with more than one horse assigned to a rider, each rider was assigned to one horse per session (A and B) for the whole project. Workouts were completed only when the temperature was above 60°F and it was not raining. Horses completed their workouts in familiar surroundings where they are normally ridden.

The baseline data workout included a warm up; riders then immediately rated the nervousness of their horse. After the first rating, the riders were instructed to ride the first period of the workout and take another rating directly after, followed by period 2 and another rating. Finally, they were instructed to cool down and take a final rating. The workout that included the essential oil was the same workout, but included taking an initial rating and inhalation of lavender before the warm up was completed.

The ratings are based on a scale from 1 to 5. If a horse is rated a 1, that meant the horse was very calm, and listened to the rider’s every signal. If a horse is rated a 2, that meant the horse was mostly calm and listened to the rider most of the time. A rating of 3 was to signify that the horse was fairly calm and only responded to half of the rider’s signals. A 4 rating showed that the horse seldom listened to the rider and showed fairly high nervousness. Finally, if a horse was rated a 5, this meant that the horse was very nervous and did not listen to any signal coming from the rider. Before the workouts began, each horse was exposed to the lavender essential oil with a veterinarian present to be sure that no horses had a negative reaction to the oil. None of the horses in this experiment showed signs of being allergic or had a negative reaction.


Twenty four out of twenty five horses, or 96% of the subjects, had a positive effect with the essential oil lavender being used. There was no data supporting that the breed, gender, or seat being ridden had any effect on the nervousness level of the horse. The horse that responded negatively only had a very slight negative response during a small portion of the workout. The horse was otherwise rated the same throughout the rest of the workout. I calculated an average rating from all of the horses for each workout section for both workouts. The average horse’s nervousness level improved by 0.54 when the average ratings with and without essential oil before the workout were compared. The average horse improved by 0.9 after period 1, 0.98 after period 2, and by 0.36 after the workout. Positive changes ranged from 0.5 to 3.


The data supported the hypothesis that if the essential oil lavender is applied to the horse through inhalation for one minute, then the lavender will relax and calm the horse to a lower level of nervousness in a workout involving flatwork. Twenty four out of twenty five horses were effected positively by the essential oil. Only one out of the twenty five horses tested responded negatively to the essential oil, lavender, meaning that 96% of the horses tested had an improvement in their nervousness level. The negative effect was only present at one rating and only a 0.5 increase in nervousness after period one of exercise. After the slight increase, however, the ratings stayed the same as they were in the baseline data collection for that horse. The horse that had a negative effect with the essential oil was a 2 year old gelding Quarter Horse. This negative effect could have been brought about due to the gelding's low experience level of being ridden. None of the other horses had negative effects that were older and more mature and nervousness is not a typical demeanor for a horse unless a stress is applied, such as a rider problem or an outside factor such as a sudden noise or bright moving object.

Horses were not ridden under any change in their normal routine to limit the variability in the results. Variables that could have been present included the horse's age, the skill of the rider, and the surrounding environment. The skill of the rider and environment were not considered variables in this project since the horses were ridden by their normal accustomed riders in familiar surroundings.


The outcome of this research was that 96% of the horses reacted positively to the inhalation of lavender essential oil. Therefore, this oil appears to be a good method that would result in a less nervous horse for training. Having a less nervous horse for training will help in creating a safer environment for a trainer. A larger sample size, using more horses in each category could be used to improve the findings of this research.

I would like to thank all of my subject riders; Dr. Jack Kittell, my mentor; Ms. Catherine Bird, an Equine Aroma-therapist; and Mr. Pagano, my course facilitator.

About the author:
Valerie Brock, age 17, is currently a senior in Hoosic Valley High School, located in Schaghticoke, New York. She is enrolled in a 3-year Science Research program through her school. Science Research is a program in which students are expected to design, carry out, and analyze their own project. Valerie is in her final year of the program in which she has designed a project about The Effects of Lavender Essential Oil on the Nervousness of Horses in a Practice Environment. Valerie is active with her own two horses - she barrel races her Paint horse, Dusty Wagon (seen in photo) and does local shows and trail riding with her Quarter Horse, Wiley Win Won. Valerie can also be found being the Rensselaer County Dairy Princess, showing cattle, goats, and dogs through 4-H, and working hard on her family's dairy farm. She will be attending SUNY Cobleskill in the fall to major in Animal Science. After, she would like to attend vet school and become an Equine Chiropractor.