Triton Barn Systems

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Hill work increases your horses’ muscle and strength – part 2

horsrs climbing thru waterWhere you ride is also important. A competitive horse  in almost any discipline will benefit from hill work.  Make sure  some stamina  and conditioning is in place  before adding hill work.


The gait
The gait used on hill work will also affect the horse’s development. Start off slowly and have your horse already warmed up so soft muscles don’t get  injured. An out-of-shape muscle may pull or tear if subjected to sudden stress. As the horse becomes more fit and its muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints are able to take it, you can increase the speed.

Walking or trotting up hills is ideal for strengthening the lower leg, and the thigh and gaskin of the hind leg. A gallop uphill works the muscles in the rump. This should not be overdone, however, and should be attempted only after the horse is already quite fit.


The Terrain
A good way to build up strength, wind and stamina is to climb hills. Climbing up a grade forces the horse to use  its body weight, exert more and use its muscles harder. Climbing a steep bank now and then will make the heart pump faster and lungs work harder and strengthen the muscles in the hindquarters and forearms.

Start with jaunts up gradual slopes, and increase the grade and length of time spent in “climbing” as the horse becomes more muscular. If your horse has a particularly weak side, negotiate the ups and downs on the diagonal, with his weaker side toward the crest. The “high” side of the body has to exert more muscle to maintain balance and coordination.horses on mointains

“When going around the face of a steep hill, especially if the footing is a bit uneven or loose, the horse must develop more dexterity and coordination, picking up each leg and moving it around the other, perhaps having to scramble a bit if its feet are sliding,” said Heather Smith Thomas.  This improves agility and teaches the horse to balance itself to its best advantage. An agile horse is less apt to strain a leg or fall down when footing is unpredictable.

Riders on flat terrain can use man made “hills,” such as dry drainage ditches, in place of natural terrain; or they can practice jumping even if their horse doesn’t otherwise use those skills.

It sounds easy to work your horse over some rolling hills to get him in condition. However, if your horse isn’t in good condition to start with, or if he’s never done hill work, it will be quite an adjustment. As in part #1 of this article, monitor your horse during his strength training: heavy blowing or trembling muscles indicate that he needs a break. If he’s sore the next day you pushed him too far, so do less the next time out.


Conditioning your horse for summer and fall trail rides – part 1

183258_10150151044681800_205291171799_8169917_7635004_nSummer officially begins with Memorial Weekend. The weather gets warmer, days are longer and there’s more daylight for trail rides. Your horse ought to be in good shape by now and in most parts of the country,  the weather is nice enough to continue trail riding well into October.   If your horse isn’t in shape for those enticing four or five-hour trail rides, what kind of fitness program can you start with?

If your horse has been outside with other horses in a space that allows at least three acres of “running” room per horse, he’s probably been more active than you think and he can be ready for long trail rides in about a month. If he’s been stabled with limited turn out or in a small paddock space that doesn’t encourage play, it may take longer to get him in shape.

If you live somewhere that makes it difficult for your horse to be turned out for extended periods of time, a tread mill or hot walker can help get your horse in shape as well as reduce boredom.

If your horse is ridden three days a week and kept in a large pasture with other horses the other days that will provide some basic conditioning.  The following schedule may be too intense for some horses and not enough for others.

Week 1: 30 minutes per ride with 10 minutes trotting/ 5 minutes cantering
Week 2: 30 minutes per ride with 10 minutes trotting/ 10 minutes cantering
Week 3: 40 minutes per ride with 15 minutes trotting/ 10 minutes cantering
Week 4: 40 minutes per ride with 20 minutes trotting/ 10 minutes cantering
Week 5: 40 minutes per ride with 20 minutes trotting/ 15  minutes cantering


Start with 30-minute rides and gradually, over a four-week period, work up to 90 minutes per ride. And, if you can, ride 4 days a week.  For the first few rides, walk for 15 minutes of the ride and trot for 15 minutes, breaking those minutes up into any increments you’d like. Over time you can add canter work.

A good four-week goal is 90-minute rides with 20 minutes at the walk, 50 minutes at the trot and 20 minutes at the canter, again, broken up and ridden in any order you’d like.

summer drinking horse

As your horse’s fitness increases, the above schedule will become easier for him. He won’t become “winded” as easily, his body will become more muscular and he will be “forward” and eager in his work for longer periods of time. You can also go on shorter trail rides and increase the length of the rides.

Once you’ve gotten your horse fit, it will be fairly easy to keep him in shape.  Horses retain their conditioning easier than people do. Ride him three days a week with continuous turnout all year, and he’ll be in great shape.  And check with you trainer to make sure what schedule is best for you and your horse.



Five Best Fairs in the 50 States

Its summer and the state fairs are rolling out their tried and true events and some new surprises. State fairs are a tradition for many families, and what’s not to love? Fairs, parades, watermelon, baseball games, and fireworks are the stuff summer is made of.

Although fairs seem to offer the same food, rides, events and music, look more closely. There are subtle differences. State fairs reflect the culture and agriculture of the state they’re held in. Try out a different Fairs this summer, just for fun and look for the differences. If you can’t travel to another state, look for a smaller fair in the next county over. What’s your favorite fair?

Alaska State FairKeevan-Cabbage-CJM-378x240

When one thinks of large produce, Alaska isn’t the first state on your mind. Even though the growing season is quite short compared with southern states like Florida; from June through August the state gets roughly 18 hours of sunlight. The short season doesn’t seem to matter to vegetables and fruit; they grow when they have the chance. At the annual Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off, contestants compete for a $2,000 prize and the media spotlight. Previous winners have included an 83-pound rutabaga, and a 23-foot long corn.  In addition to a line up of great concerts, check out the Knights of Valor Jousting Tournament — full contact jousting on horseback as seen on the History Channel. This year the fair dates are August 21 through September 1. For more information go to Alaska State Fair


Wisconsin State Fair
Known for its famous cream puffs, the fair also offers a wide variety of cheese, butter, honey and other dairy products. New this year is the K-9 Sports Arena, which offers everything for the dog lover: dog dock diving, dancing dogs, the new rage Frisbee and agility courses, and Police K-9 units.  Now in its second year is the WI State Fair Food Competition, aptly named The Spoorkies. The top eight finalists include a Loaded Twisted Dog, Chicken n Waffle Cone, and a Peanut Butter Bacon Bison Burge. Fairgoers can also vote for their favorite via social media after tasting the 8 unusual foods from local restaurants. The fair runs from July 31 through August 10, for more events check out their website at Wisconsin State Fair.


The Big E Fair
Located in Springfield, Massachusetts, the Eastern States Exposition is actually New England’s regional fair, bringing together six states: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut. For 17 days every September almost a million people visit the vast fairgrounds to enjoy Maine lobster, Cape Cod cranberries, Vermont maple syrup and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. A walk down the Avenue of States, with scaled down replicas of the original statehouses standing on lots owned by each state, brings together the regional focus. Other favorites include the Eastern States Exposition Horse Show, and the European-style Super Circus and a chance meeting with the wandering Mechanical Man. More details can be found at The Big E.


alaska-state-faiir (1)

New York State Fair
Like many other state fairs, New York has a strong agricultural presence in the United States. Known for its vineyards, dozens of wineries host tastings at the fair, more than any other state including California. Representatives from a variety of New York wineries talk about the differences between red grapes and white grapes and which wines ought to be served with certain entrees.  There are also demonstrations on making homemade wine and homemade brew. For concerts, dates and more information, go to


State Fair of Texas
Established in 1886, the Texas  State Fair is big just like everything in Texas. Even the 52’ foot tall mascot, Big Tex, is huge and not to be missed. Many fairs have pig races, but have you ever seen an ostrich race? You can see both at this fair. The fair also offers a huge Chili cook-off, a BBQ cook-off and the Great American Spam Championship. Other food choices include the awesome Deep-Fried Nutella, Fried Cuban Roll and a battered, deep-fried cheese, pepper and bacon dish called The Texas Fried Fireball.  If you really don’t like crowds, this may not be the fair to go to. Last year the fair took in over two million people in less than two weeks. For a detailed schedule, check out State Fair of Texas.

Tips to keep your horse cool during hot weather


Ben%20and%20BeBoplink%20pixThe summer months are hot and humid in most of the United States. Horse owners need to take steps to make sure their horses are healthy, cool and comfortable. Unlike people, most horses prefer cooler weather. 

When its hot, ride your horse early in the morning, before 10:00 am  or later in the afternoon after it cools off around 4:00 pm. Make sure to cool your horse off after riding by spraying your mare or gelding down with cool water and give them plenty of water to drink. If your horse has a white muzzle, use at least 15 SPF on his nose. 

Water: Horses, like humans, cool off by sweating. When the weather is hot and humid they need access to large amounts of water so they don’t become overheated. If they’re in a stall, water should be available at all times, preferably from an automatic watering system so it’s fresh and clean.  Horses also need a salt block or mineral block since they sweat during the hot weather.

Fly Sheets, Fly Masks & Fly Spray: When they’re turned out during hot weather, horses use a huge amount of energy stomping and walking to get rid of horse flies, mosquitoes and gnats especially around their head and legs. A light colored fly sheet and mask will keep some of the bugs away and fly spray will also help.

Ventilation: Barn doors and windows need to be open to allow air to flow through the building. Box fans can be installed in stalls, and overhead fans in aisle ways and indoor rings to keep the temperature and humidity lower.  

Pasture: Horses that are outside in hot weather will need shade trees or a three-sided shelter to get out of the sun during the day. Fresh water should be available at all times, since horses drink up to 25 gallons of water a day in hot weather.

Feed: An adult horse in training or competing should only have 12-14% of protein in their total feed; anything higher may cause a horse to heat up as it digests its food, making it harder to stay cool.  A horse not showing;  just on pasture turn out only needs 10% protein in its daily feed.


Toys and Treats – stall rest #4


Keeping a horse on stall rest occupied and entertained is a must.   Whether a “stall buddy” is available or not, it is often beneficial to provide the horse with other forms of entertainment. These include stall toys and treats.  Owners can purchase pre-manufactured horse toys from most local feed stores.  Some of the most common are Jolly Balls ®, the Jolly Mega Ball ®, the Horse Pas-A-Fier   ®, or Jolly Apples.

Owners can also cheaply and easily create their own stall toys by hanging a milk jug, ¼ full of water; hanging a giant tennis ball (softball size or larger) or hanging an old lead rope that has been knotted a couple of times in their horse’s stall.  Any of these will give the horse something to play with when he/she becomes bored.   

Owners can also keep their horse occupied by providing salt or sweet licks.  Some brand names for these treats are: Pony Pops ®, Himalayan Rock Salt ®, or Jolly Jumbo Licks ®.  By keeping a horse on stall rest entertained, there is less of a chance that he/she will develop many of the vices that are caused by boredom.  

If an owner follows the recommendations laid out in parts 1 – 4 of this article, most horses will effortlessly get through their confinement with little or no complications.

Does your horse like goats? – stall rest # 3


Even though location, cleanliness, feed, and exercise are quite important when a horse is on stall rest, keeping the horse occupied is even more important.  A bored horse is often a destructive horse.  If the horse does not become too bored, then stall rest can actually be restful and not torment for the horse or owner. 

The biggest downfall with stall rest is that the horse often becomes bored.  This listlessness is what causes the hose to develop bad habits.  Just as dogs chew and dig when they are bored, horses crib, kick, rub, chew, and paw.  To help prevent a horse from adopting these habits, it is beneficial to keep the horse occupied.  

There are many options owners can choose from when it comes to keeping a horse entertained.  The first is extremely beneficial.  However, it is not a probable option for everyone.  The easiest and most steadfast way to keep a horse occupied is by providing the horse with a “stall buddy.” This “buddy” is often another horse in the adjoining stall. 

If another horse is not available, some owners opt to purchase a goat.  Goats are small enough that they can be housed in the stall with a horse that has been put on stall rest. In turn, the horse will have a constant companion.  Nevertheless, it is important to ensure (both for the horse’s and the goats safety) that the horse does not have a hatred or fear of goats.  Otherwise, the goat would be more of a hindrance than a benefit. 

In addition, make sure that the stall is large enough to comfortably accommodate both the horse and the goat.  If a stall buddy is not an option, owners can also purchase toys and treats to keep their horse occupied.

How to get disaster relief funding to rebuild your barn

Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico near i...

Image via Wikipedia


When a natural disaster strikes —  a tornado, blizzard, fire, flood or hurricane — it’s always a horrible event. And its even more difficult when your animals are hurt, traumatized or homeless after the disaster is over.

After Hurricane Katrina, the United States Equestrian Foundation (USEF) established a permanent USEF Equine Disaster Relief Fund to prepare for future disasters. Monetary contributions from individuals and organizations are collected and distributed to provide feed, veterinary care  and shelter for horses and ponies of all breeds and disciplines.

The USEF in Kentucky acts as a collection point for information and distribution of all funds and in-kind donations. While each state may also have a disaster fund, contact the USEF first to let them help you through the red tape and paperwork to help feed your horses and rebuild your barn.

Finding a new balance — stall rest #2


Once the horse’s stall has been set up, the next concern will be the horse’s feed.  When a horse is on stall rest, owners may also want to consider a change in feed. It may be beneficial to reduce the horse’s feed or at least lower his/her protein intake.  If the horse in question is very athletic and ridden on a regular basis, he/she is more than likely getting a substantial amount of feed. 

While the horse is on stall rest, this “extra” feed could cause the horse to become “hyper” due to the fact that his/her body will not be processing the feed at the rate it was before.  However, before changing the horse’s feed, make sure that the horse’s veterinarian is consulted.  If the horse’s feed is reduced without the consultation of a veterinarian, it could do more harm than good.   

In addition to feed, a new exercise regimen will need to be figured out.  Whether the horse walks around a pasture/paddock all day or is extremely active, being stuck in a stall will greatly reduce their activity level.  If approved by the horse’s veterinarian, light exercise can be a positive factor in the horse’s recovery.  Depending on the horse’s injury, walking the horse for short periods a couple of times a day can act as exercise and help break up the monotony of being in a stall.   

If the horse’s injury does not permit any sort of exercise, it is still beneficial for owners to make sure that they spend time with the horse.  An owner should spend 20 – 30 minutes a couple of times a day with their horse, talking, scratching, grooming, or calming the horse.  This contact will help keep the horse from becoming overly antsy or anxious.

How to keep your horse “comfy” on stall rest


This is a four-part series which focuses on various problems often associated with stall confinement.  A range of solutions are provided to help make the horses’ stall rest more tolerable for horse and owner.


 Inevitably, it is common for a horse to be placed on stall rest for one reason or another at some point in his/her life.  Extended stall rest can be stressful for both horse and owner.  Often, after a few days of confinement, a horse will “acquire” destructive behaviors such as cribbing, chewing,  kicking, or pawing.  In addition, many horses will also show signs of extreme anxiety.

Unfortunately, long-term stall rest is often not a choice.  Horses are commonly placed on stall rest by their veterinarian due to injury.  Ultimately, the goal is for the horse to heal as quickly as possible.  However, the side effects of stall confinement  are anxiety and the development of destructive behaviors.  In turn, owners must look for ways to “survive” the allotted stall rest with the least amount of physical and/or psychological damage to the horse or themselves.  By taking location, feed management, limited exercise, and entertainment into consideration, it is possible to make this experience relatively painless.

The first factor that should be considered when a horse is on stall rest is location.  Although some owners may not have an option as to where their horse is stalled, if it is possible, a change in the horse’s location can make stall rest easier to bear. A horse on stall rest should be placed in a stall where he/she has a clear view of outside activities.  This way, the horse can at least participate in “normal” daily activities as a spectator.  If the horse is able to watch what is going on around him/her, it will help keep the animal occupied.

Whether the horses stall location can or cannot be moved, it is important to make sure your horse is as comfortable as possible in his/her stall.  Consequently, owners must make sure the horse has a clean and padded stall.  This can be attained by insuring the horse has clean shavings and is standing on rubber mats.  Since the horse will be confined to a small area with little or no exercise for days at a time, owners need to make sure there is no additional strain to the horse’s body. 

Standing on concrete or packed dirt with little room to stretch could cause this additional strain.  If employees standing behind a checkout counter for four hours at a time are provided with padded mats to minimize discomfort, shouldn’t a horse that is going to be in a stall for an extended period of time be assigned the same care? 

One other option owners should consider is setting up a fan/ mister during the summer months or a heat lamp during the winter months to provide the horse with a more comfortable environment.  Making sure the horse is as comfortable as possible will help the animal heal quicker and could also help prevent the horse from developing hard-to-stop vices.

Check your horse for ticks this spring!

Ticks can  transmit infectious diseases including  ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, and piroplasmosis to horses. Severe tick infestations can cause skin irritations and even anemia, a decrease in number of healthy red blood cells.

What to do about ticks:

Check horses thoroughly for ticks , especially on the lower legs and mane when grooming. Large American dog ticks are easy to find, but smaller ticks can be overlooked.

Ticks wander around on animals for a while before they attach to one place.  To remove a tick put on latex or nitrile gloves, grasp the tick very closely to the skin with tweezers, pliers and forceps and apply steady traction. Although it may take a while,  this is the best way to remove the entire tick from the horse’s skin.

Repellents and insecticides with permethrin or cypermethrin provide horses with several hours of protection. These insecticides are very irritating to ticks, so ticks usually drop off before attaching to the horse. Products based on natural ingredients, such as botanical oils, might also give some protection for short periods of time. 

Ticks spend most of their lives on the ground in areas with some shade and humidity and congregate along trails, in overgrown areas, and in margins of wood openings. Direct sunlight and low humidity are their enemies. Keeping brush cut back and clipping pastures will make areas inhospitable for ticks.