Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Halter horses - On Breeding and choosing a stud muffin – part 2

Continuing on from part 1 of my halter series, this post goes a little more into why we are choosing to breed and what we hope to achieve with the foal. 
I will admit that I'm a little torn on the whole breeding thing.  There are so many horses out there that need homes and breeding your cute mare to a nice stud usually isn’t the best choice.  I can tell you that if I was looking for a riding horse, I would not be breeding.  That being said, owning and training a foal has been on my bucket list for eons, so having a chance to potentially cross something off my bucket list is pretty exciting.
Totally me...
Our decision to breed was based on a few factors:

  • Major bucket list item for me
  • My friend has the mare and wants to take care of the breeding, I want to show the foal and she doesn’t, so it is a good split
  • We have help from “The Boss”, our halter guru and good friend
  • A crappy exchange rate on the US dollar – that ruled out buying a baby from the US (taxes, shipping, etc. on top of the purchase price make this a tough option).  Although, our stud is in the US, but we just had the flat rate stud fee in USD, so that was manageable.
  • No high quality halter AQHA/APHA breeders “locally” – which to me is within 8-10 hrs drive
  • Lots of breed show class options for weanlings – 3yos without worrying about under saddle training
    • halter
    • longe line (APHA)
    • In hand trail (APHA)
    • Showmanship
I don’t have a lot of science to go on for choosing a stud, but more about the general principles we used.  Keep in mind we also had a very experienced exhibitor and breeder (aka The Boss) guiding us.  I don’t know that this is something I would tackle on my own without extensive help.
The mare we are breeding has a few criteria that are important to us:
  1. proven broodmare
  2. 5 panel negative (HYPP N/N in particular)
  3. halter bred w/ good bloodlines
  4. local show record
Baby Mamma
There are many theories to breeding and choosing horses that will produce well and as a newbie, I know very little about this.  Do you pick something that is similar in quality to the mare and hope she produces higher quality?  What about a stud that is known to throw a specific trait you are looking for – ie – height? Or do you choose the best quality stud you can afford and cross your fingers it all works out?

In my opinion, we are starting with a good quality mare, not a superior quality mare.  So, we are hoping for a foal of high quality, by choosing a stud that is superior quality.  Our plans are to show locally and maybe hope for something that could be competitive in provincial/state futurities. 

Our specific criteria for the stud fluctuated a bit and we both made up a short list of our top 5 choices.  In the end, we went with one that was on both our lists that was made a bit more accessible by the Boss and someone she knows.  Our criteria were (in no specific order):
  1. tall – at least 16hh - and known to throw height
  2. good conformation
  3. overall “wow” appearance
  4. proven halter bloodlines
  5. proven show record – in this case, we were looking for Congress and AQHA/APHA world show wins, not local shows
  6. proven offspring – in this case, futurity halter wins (over $100K US in 2019!) and APHA world show wins
  7. 5 panel negative (HYPP N/N in particular)
  8. optional – double registered AQHA/APHA (for more local show options)
The stud we choose hit all the criteria except #8.  He is APHA only and AQHA does not recognize APHA studs on AQHA mares.  APHA recognizes the reverse, but that isn’t the case for us. 
Image from an ad online
Many halter horses are N/H (they tend to gain more muscle if they are N/H) and many breeders still don’t see it as a negative thing to perpetuate that trait. I am not a big time breeder or a vet, but I feel that my part in not furthering the issue is important, even if small.  I sort of see it as the same as reducing my plastic usage – I can’t save all the turtles - but I can sure do my part.
My fingers are crossed that all goes well and we have a healthy foal! Only 16 or so months to go!
True dat!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Halter class - the basics - part 1

I’ve been trying to draft this post for a while!  I have a hard time 100% endorsing halter classes, with the halter industry being so specialized.  Yes, I own a horse from halter bloodlines that was bred in the hopes of doing well in that one particular class.  There is A LOT of criticism of halter horses online – a quick google search will show you all that you need to see.  As an amateur, I feel that I can experience the class, learn about how to show my horse and learn about feeding and keeping him fit to do as well as I can locally without being a big supporter of the whole industry.
Having "fun" at a schooling show with a broken ankle. 
Why do I do it if I don’t 100% like it?  That is a question I struggle with – I wrote about it more detail in an earlier post so I won’t go into it again here.  Tl;dr – I can work with Fred at home without a coach, lessons or fancy tack and I can still experience breed shows without needing a fancy riding horse.

Another note: I did not want to use photos I found online from shows/breeders in this post, as I don't want to bash anyone or anything, as that is just not how I roll!

Ok, on to the meat of this post:
AQHA has halter classes broken down by age and sex and they also have a performance halter class, which is for riding horses that have a certain amount of points from riding classes.    All of the 1st and 2nd place geldings from all the classes then go in for a grand/reserve championship and then the same happens for mares and stallions.  The grand/reserve titles are what people are really after, as your horses is up against a larger selection of the best at that particular show. 
Reserve champ x 3? Sure just give me all the ribbons!  Also, with this horse (not Fred) I said a lot of "whoa motherfucker" in the ring! LOL
Many western performance classes are scored and have comments, such as showmanship, horsemanship, trail, reining, western riding and ranch riding.  Halter does not have any scoring or feedback, so it is purely the opinion and tastes of the judge.  All breed show judges are carded and go through training, but trends, personal preferences and politics (at big shows) definitely come into play.
There is some really good info on the University of Arkansas Ag Dept. website about judging a halter horse ( and some of the info in my post is from that article. 
The halter class is a class where the horse is judged based upon its conformation, overall appearance, and usefulness. Conformation is defined as the physical appearance of a horse due to the arrangement of muscle, bone, and other body tissues.
When evaluating a halter class, the following four factors should be used (in that order) to select and rank the horses being judged.
  1. Balance and Quality
  2. Structural Correctness
  3. Breed and Sex Character
  4. Muscling
This stallion photo gives you an idea of the balance and proportions that are sought.
(Edited 11/16) For a halter class, you walk into the ring toward the judges, they then move out of the way and you jog the horse straight away from the judges and then around a corner.  They are watching for soundness and decent movement and if the horse tracks well (ie  - minimal paddling/interference, etc. ) A lack of muscle and overall turnout/appearance will affect the judge’s first impression also. 

The handler is not judged in a halter class, but if you cannot set your horse up in a way to show it off to the judge, it will affect your placing  – especially in an open class, in amateur classes they cut you more slack.   For example – if you do not try to set your horse up squarely (breed halter doesn’t use the same set up as English in-hand with one back leg set back) or are not trying to show your horse to the best of your ability, they will ding you. 
I don’t have many pics of me showing Fred, but here is one where I am trying to keep his head and neck up and his ears up.  The horse can’t be moving around and bopping around with their head.

You can’t tell a lot from this picture of Fred (he is a 3yo here), but he has moderate muscling – especially his forearms, gaskins and hip.  He is turned out properly – clean, shiny, chalked white socks, properly fitting show halter.  Fred is a bit weak in how his neck ties in to his withers and in this picture, needs more weight over his ribs/mid section.   He doesn’t have the nicest head either – he is a bit plain looking.
Now that he is 4, going on 5, he has put on more weight, his topline is filling in and his chest has widened, but I don’t have any pictures since he looks like a yak right now! lol
Compare Fred’s head to this picture of my friend’s horse – I showed him in 2016. He has a gorgeous head and is very striking.
Me and Spunky (not Fred)
Here is a video that is teaching people how to judge a halter class:
If you have time to watch the video all the way through you’ll see a pretty standard AQHA/APHA judging of a halter horse class.  They show the suggested placings and some rationale.  Read the comments though and you’ll see another story.  The horse that people would want to ride is not the class winner.  This kind of thing is common in halter as a specialized industry.  Some judges prefer “performance” horses, which are horses that are successful under saddle as opposed to the specialized beefcakes.
If you are interested in more details on QH conformation for halter – the University of Nebraska has a good 20 min video with lots of information:

And that is it in a nutshell...  More to come on selecting a stud for breeding to hopefully show in halter...

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Fred and his under saddle training

Note: I’m still away and wrote this last week! I think I will just stay in Florida since it is cold and snowy back home!!

I just realized the other day that I haven't really posted much on Fred's progress (or lack thereof) to his under saddle work.  I did post a while ago that he had been backed, but not much else.

The lady that is helping me has been out 4 times now, but that has slowed down with the rainy weather and impending doom darkness that is November in Canada.  He is really good to work with and hasn't given us much trouble at all, with one exception - bitting.  I haven't had much of a chance to work with him in between lessons the last couple of weeks, so that has slowed down his progress.
I've had to find him bigger bits and bigger girths - the kid is yuuuuggge (compared to my 15hh former guy).  I have had a heck of a time finding 6" bits for him, since the 51/2" was just too small.   I was able to find a couple of 5 3/4" bits from a Cdn tack shop and a few 6" in the US and UK, but the shipping is brutal, even for a small item.  *sigh*  First world problems...

The catch with ordering more bits (more $$$) is that every bit I've tried so far has gone the same way - he chews and chews and chews and chews so much he can't really focus on much else.   I've lunged him off the halter and done halter/showmanship with the bit in to distract him and still he chews!  I've done everything but leave him wearing the bit while eating a big pile of hay! 

I've tried:  a plain copper snaffle, snaffle with copper rollers, French link, French link with sweet iron, plain metal mullen and a snaffle with a lozenge.  All get the same response: chew-chew-chew!  I've been hesitant to try a happy mouth, since he is such a chewer. I think he would either break it or chew it so it would leave sharp edges (I've seen many used happy mouth bits look like this).
Chomp chomp chomp
I had his teeth done in June but seeing as how he is 4, there could be caps, etc. in there bothering him that have nothing to do with the bit.  It seems to me that his wolf teeth are gone, but it might be helpful to have the vet out again to re-assess.   He also might be a bit nervous and the chomping incessantly is how he shows his anxiety.  He does chew and sort of suck on his tongue sometimes when I'm working with him. 

My next step is to borrow a sidepull from my old coach and see if we can make some progress on the riding part - moving off the leg, moving away from me if I'm on the ground, etc.  I'm not sure how many sessions I'll be able to get in before Christmas, but I'm hoping I can get a couple more in at least. 

I've also been daydreaming about this beauty hackamore from PS of Sweden...but need to restrain my spending for a bit after October's wild spending! lol 
photo credit: PS of Sweden website.  Drooolllll.....
I have been using a western headstall up until now, but with all of the bit switching, I've had a couple of bridles on the go.  My English bridles do not fit him well - the noseband is almost on the last hole and the browband is quite snug!   Time to clean those suckers and put them up for sale! I guess I'll need to try a warmblood sized bridle next?  Anyone have any sizing tips?  He is about 16.3hh (and currently bum high...omg!) and has a fairly big head... I'll have to do some measuring and comparing and see what I can find for the kid.  I can't have him looking totally ghetto!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Favourites - blog hop from Raincost Rider

Thanks to Raincoast Rider for sharing this hop. Having material to create posts is really helpful!  I've had this post started for a while now and just had the genius idea (lol) to publish it while I'm away.

1. Favourite show venue:
I’m going with the QH Congress.  Favourite place to watch shows and major bucket list item to show there.
From my first trip to Congress in 2013
2. Favourite discipline:
All of them? I can’t really pick one, but if I had to narrow it down, I love western disciplines – trail, ranch riding, reining, roping, penning etc.  I also have a secret Dressage obsession.

3. Favourite horse colour:
I love bucksins.  Not sure why even.  And a bright bay.  And a loud Appaloosa with a blanket.  A good horse is always the right colour, right?  Says the person who owns two sorrels.  Sigh.
4. Favourite tack store:
Does the entire QH Congress count? It is basically a giant tack store.  I don’t have a favourite local shop – I go to a chain tack shop for necessities, as it is close to work.  I tend to order from the US for most of my stuff – Schneiders, Rods, Stateline Tack, Derby House in the UK.
 5. Favourite breed:
I love my quarter horses. So versatile, so different.  However, I’ll let you in on a secret – my all time favourite breed is the Lippizaner.  Those horses make me swoon.  Maybe someday I’ll buy one or ride one.  Or at least visit Austria and see the Spanish riding school and the Piber stud farm.  My friend in Sweden has bred/trained Lipizzaners, so I would consult her heavily if I ever thought of buying one. 

6. Favourite place to ride:
Err…I want to say the trails I had at home as a kid.  Creeks, hills, corn fields, etc.  Nothing has compared to that since and likely never will. 
7. Favourite piece of riding apparel:
 A good pair of boots that don't hurt my feet, cowboy or otherwise. 
8. Favourite horse related web site:
I don’t think I have one anymore!  Websites have changed and the amount/type of content that is posted no longer interests me.  Most of my horse-related websites besides blogs are for online shopping!
9. Favourite piece of tack:
A fancy show halter - dark oil and silver! 
Wish list - Kathy's sterling overlay...
10. Favourite horse book:
I have read a lot of horse books. I think the one that stands out recently is:  Mark Rashid - A Good Horse is Never the Wrong Color.

11. Favorite horse movie:
Hidalgo?  Not sure on this one.
Feel free to share and add/delete questions as you wish.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Delayed Hallowe'en and random updates

We had a couple of days of storms with high winds and rain over Hallowe'en - our city was contemplating moving Hallowe'en trick or treating to another day so the weather would be better for the kids!  A lot of people were very angry about this, so it was kept on the same day!  I think the city of Montreal did move trick or treating to Thursday or Friday!

Anyway - I was planning on taking pictures of Fred in his skull gear on Thursday, but it was too gross to get decent pictures outside.  This attempt at a matching outfit was inspired by Stacie at Amateur at Large - her outfits and her horse's outfits are pretty amazing, so I thought I would do a post in homage to her.  ;-)  Turns out it is way harder to get good pics and put everything together than I thought. I also dislike taking pictures of myself, so you won't see much of my outfit.

When I did my big shopping spree in late September, I found a cute skeleton saddle pad and halter from Horze.  I like skulls, so I couldn't resist.  They even had a skeleton rain sheet, but I tried to have some self control and didn't get that.
Horze halter and fly bonnet my Mom made a while ago
I also made him wear a fly bonnet even though the flies are long gone (one good thing about November).  My Mom made this for me a while ago and she said it was a pain to crochet, so she wasn't going to do any more!  hahaha.  

I'm not a fan of the Horze halter - the fit was a bit weird, even on Fred's big head. It wouldn't fit a smaller horse well at all. 
Cute horze saddle pad
 Man, my saddle needs some oil. Ahem - add that to the list for this month!  I like to bring tack inside and work on it by the fireplace!
Lame attempt at a selfie with my skull hat...My arms are just too short for selfies!
I found this skull hat (or toque if you are Cdn) at the Dollar store last year. It cracks me up.  It wasn't really that cold, but you know, for the sake of the themed outfit...
Found this tshirt on zulilly a while back - couldn't resist.
The rest of my outfit was boring, so I didn't attempt a photo. I was wearing black tights, black paddock boots and my fitbit with skulls. 
Post work hallowe'en cookie!
We worked on some showmanship stuff and practicing setting up on the laneway, since everywhere else was a muddy swamp.  I switched Fred back to his regular halter after and gave him a big cookie as a reward. I won these cookies in a raffle at a club banquet last weekend! They are super cute and Fred loves them.
New Bucas rainsheet - in black to go with the skull/black theme (or that was the only colour)
 And I broke my no-shopping streak on Friday -  I only made it 8 days - I had to buy Fred another rain sheet at the local tack shop, since his new green one is not waterproof at all! Ugh.

On Friday night, I went to a paint night with a big group of horse friends.  It was a hoot - the painting is easy - they give you templates, so you don't have to worry about the actual painting part as much.  This is a key factor when adult beverages are involved!  Of course I chose something about cats, since they didn't have any horse options.   We are going to do another one this winter and my friend is going to send them a bunch of horse quotes for signs, so that will be fun. 
This weekend has been all about tack and cleaning up and organizing my little barn.  It sort of looked like a tack store exploded in there.  lol  I have a bunch of tack I'm selling for the therapeutic riding centre and a bunch of my tack that needs to go. I brought all of that in the house to clean and take pictures so I can list it online.  I also hung up all the winter blankets and put away (sniff!) all of the summer gear.  So, I'm making some progress there!

And my last random update is that I also have to pack this weekend, as on Thursday I'm heading out of town for a little jaunt to Disneyworld!  It was my Mom's 70th bday this year, so she wanted to go to Disney with my cousin and I.  We fly out of Detroit early Saturday morning and I'll be gone for a week!  

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Treat Yo'self - mega edition: continued!

So this is part two and hopefully the final instalment of me spending all of the money I've been trying to save!  LOL
Me lately!
A few months ago, a friend approached me to see if I was interested in a partnership to breed her mare. I was thrilled that she asked me, as having/raising a foal has been on my bucket list before I even knew what a bucket list was!  
Also me.
We make a good team since a) we both have the same first name (lol) and b) she has the mare and doesn't like to show, but I do want to show.  So we agreed we would each go away and do some research on studs we were interested in.  In the end it came down to a halter stud who is actually a paint!  We were originally looking for something double registered (AQHA, APHA) so we'd have more breed show options, but we were able to get a special rate on this stallion that was on our short list.  We signed the contract and sent it in this week, so it looks like I'll be half owner of a foal in 2021, if all goes as planned.
Baby daddy!
And the other big, unplanned purchase this week is a new-to-me used truck!  I already had a truck, but it turns out it had a huuuuggge mechanical problem caused by modifications the dealer made, which were not disclosed to me.  Long story short, the dealer bought the truck back and I had about 5 days to find a new vehicle.

I thought about not getting a truck (cheaper on gas!) and then found a truck and sorta fell in love.  Yep. With a truck.

It is a 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 and has heated seats (which is awesome when you live where I do!) and lots of other features.  It has a towing package with trailer brakes all installed and everything. I have two trailers I can borrow whenever I want, so a big goal for 2020 will be learning to drive with a trailer! *Gulp*  I've driven my friend's rig once or twice on short hauls, but I want to get my skillz up next year so I'm comfortable on local hauls.
I know all of  this spending seems quite a bit out of character for me - I've been pretty careful about not spending - but at least most of it was planned and within budget.   I was already making truck payments, so this new one is around the same amount, so it isn't a shock to our budget. The stress of doing all this vehicle stuff in a week?  That is a different story...  Stress aside,  I'm very grateful that I am in a position to do all of these things right now, as you never know what life will throw at you!

What about you guys - any big purchases planned?  Are you saving up for anything? As for me, I'm back to saving...well, right after my trip to DisneyWorld with my Mom in a couple of weeks...  I'm also going to go check the couch cushions for change and hope to find a $20 in a pocket of  a winter jacket!  Edited to add:  I found $15 in change in my old truck when I cleaned it out. Counting that as a win!

Halter horses - On Breeding and choosing a stud muffin – part 2

Continuing on from  part 1 of my halter series , this post goes a little more into why we are choosing to breed and what we hope to achieve...