Nose Flies! Only Not

For those people who aren’t lucky enough to live where there are nose flies, I wanted to share our lovely experience today.

I turned Rusty out to graze in the yard for awhile. I was going to get some non-horsey stuff done and let him take the edge off a bit, fill up on some grass. He walked straight to the place we worked yesterday and started calling me.

How can I resist that?

I got my things and went to work with him.

I asked for a lay down. He said, you know I’d like to. But there’s this bug?!

I assured him it was just a bot fly. NOT a nose fly. He would be ok. If I can find them I’m happy to do my best to kill a bot fly too. Sometimes I even manage. Today I couldn’t even see it, just had his word that it was there.

I thought maybe we could work on something different?

He took a few steps and said no. It was a nose fly. It was going to eat him. In just a few more seconds he was screaming SAVE ME!

Yes, I DO know that that was what he was saying. Look at him. How could you not hear it loud and clear?

He was running to me begging me to take care of it. I was searching frantically for the culprit while also trying to avoid being smashed. If you listen carefully you can hear me trying to reassure him that I am trying!

Finally I got his nose and covered it for him. Nose flies do, I think? fly up their noses. This is exactly the response horses have. Although this was fairly mild. Now imagine trying to ride a horse doing this? Having the horse on a leadrope and not being able to let him flee?

This is why we live in fear and dread of nose flies.

This was NOT a nose fly. They only come out for about a week in the first half of June. Fortunately or we all would have given up horses by now. This was a bot fly. Also evil. Not to the extent of nose flies though. The are about the same size, color and shape of a nose fly and hoover around the horses in the same manner. After an exceptionally bad nose fly season this year the horses are apparently traumatized and not willing to take a chance. When in doubt run!

The horses had all been hiding in the shed when I called Rusty. After he took off I found him waiting at the gate wanting back to the shed. Poor guy. Guess he can go hide in the shed instead of playing today.


For those of you who don’t know, I love fall and Halloween!

The only thing better than fallen leaves and pumpkins is fallen leaves and pumpkins with horses involved somehow.

This year I’m on a mission to make wings for my horses. Still working on the exact how, but I think there will be pool noodles involved. I thought I’d bring you guys along on my journey, Share my failures, of which I already have plenty to hare! And hopefully eventually my successes and cool Halloween pictures.

This is a crazy silly and potentially dangerous endeavor. Whenever we are attaching anything to our horses it has to be done with utmost care and all precautions taken. Even more so when it is something big and floppy like wings. This sort of thing can easily scare the best of horses. All the training we put into tricks or starting a horse undersaddle, introducing it gradually, in small steps and pieces, and lots of reward to associate the new thing with good should be used.

I thought I had the design figured out. A pool noodle on each side attached to my driving surcingle. Drape some lightweight cloth over them and there it was!

The trial runs worked great. I ordered more, bigger cloth. Put it all together.

Total failure. The noodles were not strong enough to hold even one draping of the cloth. It all hung. The horses tried to eat it.

Back to the drawing board.

I would also like to point out how completely unconcerned my trick trained horses were about this. Mostly they thought they should eat it or fetch it for me. Even the bag the cloth came in 😆

Righteous, HorseWhorls

So often it can be hard to tell what aspects of a horse they are born with an which ones they have developed from the handling they have received over time.

Righteous is one of those horses.

He came with a whole list of behavioral issues and phobias. Luckily for him he landed with one of the few people willing to put the time in to help him. Explosive and overly sensitive, getting him closer to being a ride-able horse who could be handled on the ground has been a long journey. Through all of it though Jessica has maintained that at heart he is a sensible willing horse who was badly started.

When she sent me his pictures I was surprised. Knowing of the horses issues I expected to see much more extreme head shape and whorls. Instead we see a dished profile, sensitive, but not overly so. A nicely squared off rectangular muzzle, steady, dependable. His eye has the look of eagles, proud, capable, intelligent. His jowl is large, a quick learner, athletic. His chin not overly complicated.

From the front we see his ears, sensitive but widely set, intelligent, willing, steady. His whorl is a simple, slightly high whorl. As expected to go with the rest of the head he’s an extrovert. Extroverts are very invested in the external world, everything going on around them. They want to go, to be moving all the time. Emotional and sensitive they will be as brave as they can be and eager to please with a sensitive supportive rider or a nervous wreck with a harsh rider who doesn’t give the support they need.

While everything about him says he should be sensitive and emotional there’s nothing that should cause him to be reactive to the point of being uncontrollable like he was when he came to Jessica. She believes in the willing level headed horse she knows is hidden beneath the veneer of the handling he has received.

Not everyone should take on this sort of a case. Jessica has put in a lot of work and careful training. Without her skill and effort the outcome could have been very different. Fixing issues caused by poor handling can be extremely difficult.

Strawberry Roan, HorseWhorls

Surely I’m not the only one who likes the old western songs? Yes, old country songs, but the western genre. Those cowboy songs about horses and cattle.
If we listen to them they give fascinating insight to the horses of the day.
They also tell us how subconsciously people have always used head shape to judge horses. And maybe not so subconsciously, old cowboys have often used whorls and head shape to judge horses. All horsemen have.
In ‘The Strawberry Roan’ the shape of the horses head is described as a horse that you could tell just by looking would be ab ‘outlaw’.
“Down in the horse corral standin’ alone
Is an old caballo, a strawberry roan
His legs are all spavined, he’s got pigeon toes
Little pig eyes and a big roman nose
Little pin ears that touched at the tip
A big 44 brand was on his left hip
U-necked and old, with a long, lower jaw
I could see with one eye, he’s a regular outlaw”
If we start with the ‘spavined legs’ and pigeon toed we have a horse with physical issues that can cause discomfort or lack of stability that can cause behavioral problems.
Especially when combined with little pig eyes, a slow learner, needs lessons slowly and carefully explained. When started in a rough and quick manner he would likely respond by fighting.
A big Roman nose, no matter what that will mean tough and determined. Determined can be read stubborn and refusing to give up on ideas they have developed. If this horse has decided he doesn’t like people he isn’t going to let go of that. If it is a Roman head, starting above the eyes, instead of below, it will compound the pig eyes and make for a very slow learner who will cling to one way of doing things. Bucking in this case.
Little pin ears that touched at the tip would show a horse with lots of energy and spirit. Quite likely one who will be spooky and flighty. The short ears show a horse with his own ideas, going with the big Roman nose.
Ewe necked again shows physical issues, poor self carriage, I wonder if he had any whorls on the bottom side of the neck? I would guess a big open splaying whorl, or wheat sheaf. I realize that’s getting a bit picky about a fictional horse in a song 😉
The long lower jaw? I don’t have anything for that. Except that tension in the tmj caused by issues with the jaw can lead to issues all over the body.
I love how this song covers all the bases we would look at when judging a horse’s temperament by the shape of the head.
If by some chance you don’t know the song you can find one of the many covers of it here:

Head Down Cue

While visiting my parents we spent some time at the barn. Because what else would you do? 😉

Mom mentioned that her lovely horse Silver would not lower his head from the saddle. She had tried and tried with no success. She has done a great job teaching him anything else she had decided to try and was frustrated by this one thing.

I got on him and found exactly what she had said. He was soft and responsive to his head gear. He is willing and mostly agreeable, all he really wanted to do ever was eat, so only mostly agreeable. He was not lowering his head though.

When we went back the next day I took advantage of his strong desire to eat and installed ‘Head Down For Calmness’. I stroked his neck as a cue to lower his head. He picked it up immediately. It had been miserably hot and more humid than could handle being used to the bone dry high plains. This day a storm was blowing in that would hopefully cool things down a little. I was still barely able to handle the heat, even in my flip flops. The wind was picking up and thunder rumbling in the not so far distance.

Silver still stood quietly, only interested in grazing. He was so good I decided to hop on quickly bareback.

Even a well installed cue can be difficult for a horse to understand when you make a big change, like moving from the ground to the back. So we made it easier for him by once again making use of the grass. Silver picked it up immediately.

Then we added in the reins. By picking up the reins before giving the cue we are adding a new cue that will soon replace the old one. In the couple of minutes this video took Silver had figured out the change of the cue from the ground to his back and then transferred that action to a new cue. It’s amazing how fast horses are capable of learning.

That isn’t the point of this post though.

So often we get hung up on our horses not being able to do something. Not in the normal manner or stages of progression.

Instead of thinking that means we can’t do something we need to take a few big steps backwards and find a way around the road block.

Just because Silver couldn’t understand that picking up the reins meant to lower his head didn’t mean he couldn’t figure out how to lower his head. We just had to teach it in a way that he WAS able to understand.

Don’t let road blocks stop you. Instead find a detour and get around them!


The Diagonal Double Whorl, Horse Whorls

This is the only high whorl that shows an introverted temperament.

This is also the hardest whorl for me to recognize. In fact it’s lack of definition and ease of recognition is one of the hallmarks of the whorl. It is usually a bit muddied with faint ghost whorls and feathering weaving between the two whorls.

It is the hardest whorl for me personally to work with. There are no bad whorls, just different ways horses need handled. This one needs handled with extreme care and sensitivity. A right brain introvert is one who will hide emotions, like any introvert they hold their feelings deep inside themselves not showing the world how they feel. Unlike a left brain introvert who will withdraw further and refuse to interact any more when overwhelmed by too much going on around them, a right brain horse will explode. When a right brain introvert reaches the point they can’t handle the stimulation any more they will bolt, or buck. Often this will come as a complete shock to people who thought their horse was ok with what was going on because they were still and quiet.

That very stillness can be a warning sign. The horse is pulling deeper and deeper into themselves trying to hide internally from the things they can’t handle.

Missing the warning signs and misreading the stillness people are often caught completely unaware then when the horse explodes.

Is this horse a diagonal double? I think so? Again, I think so in large part because I can’t tell! When I have no idea what the whorl is for sure that means it’s probably a diagonal double 😉 But also the rest of the head shows a right brain horse. Huge, worried eyes, hard and lined with lines of worry, large alert nostrils, thin skin tight to reined bones.

Finding A New Cue

Often when we are working with horses we give a cue that ‘we’ think should go with a trick. Then we get frustrated when the cue doesn’t work.
It is so important in our training to take a step back. Not being determined to use one certain cue but to be willing to experiment and find something our animals can better understand can avoid frustration for both of us.
I thought that stepping forward and back would be a workable cue to ask Ghost to step forward and back. After all, it works on the horses. The horses don’t have spin down like Ghost does.
My step back was close enough to her spin cue that she offered spin instead. I didn’t reward it because that wasn’t what I was after. She was trying her heart out. Just not giving what I was looking for. If I kept going at it her frustration levels would skyrocket. She would quit being so happy to try.
That is the last thing we ever want.
Catching myself and realizing the problem, luckily, I started experimenting. What would she do if I touched her leg? I didn’t expect back, I was just trying it out to see what sort of response I got so we could look for something from there.
Fortunately what she offered was what I was looking for. Now we had a cue that was clear and not frustrating to her and getting back was easy.
When something isn’t working quitting the thing we are doing and searching for other ideas can be the best thing we can do for our animals.

Horse Whorls, Lop Sided

I went to see some friends the other day. We were playing with horses, talking about horses, looking at horses.
What else do people do with their friends???  😉
As we worked with this nice mare I was looking at her feet, noticing the slight imbalance. Her right front hoof is much straighter than her left front. As I heard a story about her taking a good tumble and her regular stumbles I thought about that hoof.
I checked out her chest whorls, perfectly even. I looked at flanks, same. Nothing unusual on the sides of her neck. Her head shows a friendly, willing horse.
As I looked at the head though I noticed a whorl on the back side of her jowl. I’ve seen these before a handful of times and always put them down to being part of the throatlatch whorls that were always present with them.
Could a whorl on the side of a jowl be related to an upright hoof on the opposite side of the body?
As I kept looking there was a spot on her neck where the hair grew towards the right. Not ‘whorl’ just a patch of side swept hair. Then I peaked under her belly. With it not being a horse I was familiar with I was cautious. The view is hard to get. I stuck my camera under there instead of my head and took a handful of shots hoping to be able to see something in the end.
Looking at the pictures the uneven belly whorls were clearly visible. One at the center line while the other was set out a ways.
The end conclusion?
The jowl whorl may well be related to the hooves. There’s no way to tell for sure without many more horses to look at. But, the jowl whorl combined with the neck whorl and the belly whorls are clear signs pointing to the unbalanced sides of her body.
A lack of balance from side to side can be the cause of a horse being ‘clumsy’ and having a tendency to take spills or get hurt. We can never just look at the head. The entire body contributes to the temperament and behavior of a horse.


A friend came along with me to check cows. I also remembered to bring cookies for Ghost. As a result we got some video of Ghost doing her tricks!
Ghost remembers how to spin. We played around with it a bit the other day but her calf wanted to nurse. The calf is as big as she is so it was hard for Ghost to manage to spin around the calf. Luckily we weren’t there at lunch time this time around.

Hypermobility, for whorl page

What can the legs of a horse tell us about temperament?
In some cases legs can tell us quite a lot.
When a horse’s ligaments are weak due to hypermobility it gives them a lack of stability. The problem often shows up first in the suspensory ligaments, where it is known as DSLD, but it exists through the ligaments of the entire body.
When a horse feels a lack of balance, strength, and control because of the loose ligaments through their body they become nervous and reactive.
Hypermobility will often present like this horse. The hind pasterns are weak and sinking lower. This has caused what may have already been fairly straight hind legs to become almost completely straight. We can see by the pin firing that there has been lameness along the way. The attempt to treat it was misguided and focusing on the wrong issues. Not that pin firing is effective for anything.
This horse also has a pendulous belly. The loose ligaments, along with poor conformation and bad training, allow it to hang instead of being held up by the muscles as it would be in a ‘normal’ horse.
Horses with weak sunken pasterns will usually have high flashy action which is also a normal accompaniment to a high strung, reactive temperament.
There are so many factors that go into the creation of temperament and personality. Hypermobility can cause what would otherwise be a calm steady horse to become reactive and spooky. Nothing works alone in a horse’s body and the entire picture needs to be taken into account when we look at whorls and all the other ‘tells’ on the outside of a horse that can give us clues to what is going on inside.