The Good Shepherd Ranch, LLC.
~Guaranteed Trail & Driving Horses~
Advice & tips
I often meet & know of so many people that are trying to learn, just starting out & have no clue where to begin with owning/purchasing a horse. So here is some advice from us to you.
Everything I am sharing with you are practices we follow here at our ranch, they have & continue to work for us on a daily basis now, & whats has been many years.
Below are words of wisdom, advice & things we have learned from trial & error, many years of experience, tips from other folks in the horse industry including many Vet's & other Trainers.
As time goes on I will try to cover many other subjects that I think should be shared.
I am always more than willing to take phone calls or emails to offer as much advice & help as I can.
If you you have some tips that you would like to share, idea's or topics to discuss please let us know.
We are always looking to learn & we always take into consideration every ones suggestions or advice!
*We are never above constructive criticism*
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What Kind of horse should you purchase?
First of all when you are shopping for a horse before you go to try out a horse please make it clear to the seller your riding skill & level.
If looking at the horse in person, ALWAYS make the seller ride the horse first! If they hesitate or are not willing don't ride the horse, PERIOD! If not trying/seeing the horse in person, that is ok also, as long as you get a guarantee of some kind. Again, if there is any hesitation, just move along. If the price seems too good to be true, most likely is.
Also make known what type of horse you want but please don't be insulted if the seller shares with you what they think you need & would better suit your riding level/skills.
If you are a beginner or not so confident rider & you don't want to take lessons then make sure you purchase a horse that is older & will be on the boaring side.
Buy a horse that is easy, safe for you to ride & handle!
You might get board but you will be safe & until you are ready to move on start off with a boaring horse for a year or 2.
Don't be so concerned or afraid of a mature horse (late teens to 20 & up) these are the best years, trust me! Or if you want the perfect horse but are looking for a long term partnership, then look into cold blooded breeds, such as; Drafts or draft crosses.
Folks make the mistake of being too concerned purchasing an older horse because of potential health issues.
Any horse despite of age can come with health problems or issues.
All horses will come with some form of health issue that we may not even be aware of but they do just fine.
Don't fuss over little things, such as; scars, bumps, cuts, scrapes, dings, dents, imperfect looks, ugly hooves, etc...
Some of my best horses were super pigeon toed, cow hocked or missing eyeballs.
I spent my share with many different horses of every age, breed, & size. I have to say that in my personal experience if you want a great mind, no matter the age, go with a Draft or draft cross.
And please don't be scared of the aged horse. These days, Horses have more available to their well being & generally live longer with proper care.
Horses can live well past their 20's we are finding.
Most mature horses have already trained themselves for you, they put themselves through their own stupidity & have learned how to keep themselves out of trouble. They have learned not to sweat the small stuff.
Nobody can predict the life span of any animal but the nice thing about an older, gentle horse is - that if kept in shape, fed right, ridden often but not abused or overworked they will last you many years.
When we bring horses here to the Ranch & access them they are not always pretty but they sure do become more beautiful every time they give us an uneventful & very enjoyable ride.
There is always a diamond in the rough!
Don't get your sights set on anything before getting to know the animal better. If you don't or can't try/see the horse in person, purchase from a VERY reputable source that will offer extensive video & provide a guarantee.
But I will tell you right now, there is no such thing as the perfect horse!
Nothing is perfect for that matter.
The key is you have to take the good with the bad & the good must out weigh the bad!
Looks should not make your choice on a horse but only add to it!
Yes, mature horses sometimes have scars, blemishes, bumps, scrapes & bruises from their many years. Who doesn't!
Most of the time when I am looking at a horse those with the most scars, saddles sores & blemishes will attract my attention because that horse has been through a lot of life lessons.
Those horses have learned one of two things from their blemished past & tend to be just a good ol dependable steed that knows to be calm in most situations!
As long as it is not a life threatening medical condition, don't let blemishes, runny eyes, scratches, bite marks, or horses that need a little hoof care turn you off from an awesome horse.
An ugly horse is much nicer to have than a dangerous one or one you won't use because he makes you nervous.
It is cheaper to fix up a rough looking horse for for several months than training cost or medical bills!
Feeding your Horse :
Don't freak out if you can see his ribs.
When we have a horse that is really lean & hard to keep weight on, we start by deworming him, free feeding him on bermuda or pasture & maybe put him on Beet pulp pellets rather than putting him on straight alfalfa or grain.
If you feel like you need to pellet your horse use Beet pulp pellets or shreds. It is affordable & won't have them acting like a horse ready for the race.
Is Grain, Pellets & Alfalfa a good idea?
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!
In case you didn't catch that
I am sure you would like to know why I stress this?
Well, If you have a Ranch/Performance horse that you are using HARD every day, then maybe.
We work every horse here almost everyday 2-3 hours plus a day in the deep sand, up/down steep rocky hills, in the heat & you won't catch us feeding any grain or pellets.
Once in while there are some exceptions to the rule (depends on the horse) but if they get high/hot, show too much spunk or their attitude changes then off the rich feed they go!
We never feed pure alfalfa, that is just asking for trouble unless you prefer a more nervous, hot headed race horse on rocket fuel that will eventually have health problems from the high protien diet!
If we have a horse we are breaking, training, is spooky or nervous we take him off of Alfalfa or any other feed he might be getting & give straight bermuda!
Usually this eliminates most of the horses problems & makes it a whole lot easier for all of us!
The horse will drop weight of course from the work schedule we put him through, so then we put him on beet pulp pellets.
If that doesn't put weight back on the horse than we will put the horse on a very small amount of Alfalfa or half bermuda/alfalfa.
ONLY IF HE IS GETTING WORKED DAILY!
If behavorial problems arise again, then no more Alfalfa at all!
Think about this: God made horses grazing animals! Okay, so this means not only do they cover a 20 mile radius on average everyday, out on the land but they eat the NATURAL range grass, NOT rich alfalfa but usually dried out yellow grass.
Don't forget that they are also walking this off as they eat it & keeping their bare feet trimmed up! Not standing in a small pen or pasture eating alfalfa (aka Rocket fuel) they are traveling over many different terrains.
In their natural enviroment they don't always have that fresh grass, when winter comes it's good bye yummy grass.
In captivity they are fed a rich diet 365 days a year & barely used.
Then when folks go to ride their "promised to be gentle horse" & it bucks them off they wonder why, usually blaming whomever they purchased the horse from.
I am sure most horse owners don't even put the 20 miles on your horse in a month that he would walk naturally in day if he was left free or loose!
When I was much younger I was told by some of my friends & vet's about feeding rich diets but didn't listen until I was taught these lessons the hard way!
I was taught in my younger years that alfalfa is cheaper, easier & better to feed.
I thought this was okay.
Well, that was until I put my best horse down in the prime of her life because of health issues caused by too rich of diet (Alfalfa & the ocassional grains).
When my vet explained to me why the mare had to be put down & what measures it would take to prevent this from repeating, I finally learned.
You might think you are saving money or treating your horse by giving him the richest/greenest hay & the yummy grain they so love, but you are asking for trouble. If not health problems then a rodeo!
I am sure your Kid loves his candy, soda, ice cream, ect... but if you are at all concerned about his or her long term health you would not make this a steady diet.
Then why is it different for your horse?
In the long run it will cost you more with the vet bills & heart ache!
If you are a trail rider & ride mostly on the weekends like most folks do then your horse should not be eating grain, pellets or Alfalfa.
If you feed too rich or keep your horse cooped up for too long & don't do a good amount of ground work, you are foolish if you are not expecting a rodeo, despite his age or training level!
I don't make the rules, this is just experience speaking.
Also as I said there are exceptions to the rules but please learn who your horse is & when in doubt please consult your vet.
Always take into consideration the diet your horse was on previous to purchase.
DON'T EVER GET ON A
HORSE BEFORE YOUR
Why should I Ground Work my horse!
I know you may not want to, you think it is foolish or don't think the horse needs it but please spend time with your horse on the ground first, on the lunge line or in the round pen.
Don't be afraid to make them sweat!
Always teach your horse to respect & focus on you from the ground up!
If he breaks a sweat it is not going to kill him, infact that is the best thing for the 2 of you previous to a ride.
Especially if you don't want a rodeo. It helps for a more focused, calm, confident horse & rider.
It will help take the edge off for both horse & rider.
I always hear this "what happened in the old days when people had horses? I am sure they didn't round pen or do ground work before each ride!"
You are right, they didn't!
Want to know why?
They used their horses almost EVERYDAY if not EVERYDAY!!!!
Sometimes 3-4 times a day, or even everyday ALL day long.
So if you spend this much time on your horses back please don't worry about the ground work.
Ground work is the best thing you can do to prevent yourself from getting in a wreck.
When having horses you need plenty of patience & time, if you don't have time or commitment then don't have horses!
Consistency is key with horses. Train/work with your horse daily or as much as possible. Even if it is only in the round pen or on a lunge line!
If you can't do something daily with your horse then
EVER GET ON YOUR HORSE WITHOUT
I don't care how gentle the horse is, DO GROUND WORK BEFORE EACH RIDE!!!!!!
Another tip that helps, make your horse do the ground work under saddle!
For those who can't ride/work their horses daily must utilize ground work.
We can't stress to you the importance of Ground work enough!
Any trainer you will watch & learn from including the famous ones such as Clinton Anderson, Pat Parelli, Chris Cox & more, all stress that ground work is key for a great partnership with your horse.
When working with horses they are not always consistent.
Behavior will change depending on their handler.
Horses are a constant, another words they will need continuous training.
When trying to train the horse to your want's/way's or keep your equine the way you purchased him/her, it will take consistent work & change will never happen overnight.
Below is a great article I read in the Horse & Rider magazine that was written by Clinton Anderson himself regarding ground work:
Title - Consistency is Key:
Train daily (or on as many consecutive days as you can) for best success.
Letter to Clinton: "Clinton, I have limited time to spend with my horse. Which is more important: to get in sizable blocks of training time, or to work with your horse everyday?"
It's the everyday consistency that's most important overall. Here's a story to illustrate the point.
It's about a woman I was giving lessons to, back in Australia. She showed up each week complaining about her lack of progress. And she was right. She wasn't getting better, and neither was her horse. The worst part was she was kind of blaming me for it.
I said, "Are you riding the horse on the days between lessons?"
"Well, no, I don't have a lot of time," she said. "I only work with him when I'm with you"
"There's your problem right there!" I said.
She looked confused.
"I'm not a miracle worker," I said. "I'm giving you the information each week but I can't make your horse go train himself in the pasture. If you're unhappy about your lack of progress, you're going to have to make the effort to find the time to work with your horse between lessons."
I could tell she didn't really believe me, so I proposed an experiment.
"Why don't you practice what I show you in this lesson every week, and when we have our next lesson, let's see if we can tell any difference." Reluctantly, she agreed.
The next week when she came for her lesson, she was beaming. "I did it!" She exclaimed. "I practiced what you showed me last week every single day- and guess what? You were right!"
I just smiled, and for the next hour enjoyed watching the amazing transformation she had brought about in her horse-and in her own riding-with just one week of consistent practice.
I know it's a challenge to find that consistency. With jobs, families, and busy lives, it's hard for people even to imagine they could find the time to train their horse every day. But here's the secret: It's not the amount of time you spend that counts most, but rather the CONSISTENCY of spending time doing something with him every day.
Think of it this way: It takes children roughly 13 years (including kindergarten) to graduate from high school, going to school 5 days a week. But what if they were able to go to school just 2 days a week? Would they still be able to graduate? Yes, but it would take a lot longer-not just because the days were spread out, but also becasue their ability to retain information from school day to school day would be greatly lessened.
It's the same with learning any new skill, such as tying a knot. When someone teaches me a new knot, I tie it in front of him 2-3 times, then I repeat the process as many times as I can with him watching me, until I can remember the sequence on my own. Then I practice it every dayto cement it in my mind and muscle memory.
If he just shows me how to tie it and I tie it a couple of times before we part, ant that's it, I'll have forgotton it completly when I go to tie it again a few days later.
So even if you have just 15 minutes to spend with your horse, spend that time on as many days of the week as you can, doing just GROUNDWORK if that is all you have time for. Go for consistency.
DEALING WITH 'MONDAYITIS'
Now, what if you simply can't get out to the barn on most days of the week-what if you have just 3 days to spend time with your horse? The answer, ideally, is to make those days consecutive, in order to minimize "Mondayitis."
What's that? A "throwaway" day. For example, if I'm on tour over the weekend, then come back on Monday to ride my horses, I know they're not going to be paying attention and that they're going to be full of themselves. So most of Monday's lesson is just a refresher course and I won't be able to teach much that's new.
But if I get a horse really listening to me on Monday, then Tuesday's lesson will start exactly where Monday's left off, and I'll be able to make good progress.
If, however, after Monday I don't ride that horse again until Thursday, then he's going to have "Thursdayitis" from the days off in between, and I"ll be back to refreshing his memory.
So, the more days you can make consecutive in working with your horse, the faster and easier you'll progress. Understanding this is the key to avoiding frustration.
Get creative about how you can be more consecutive with your training days, and you'll be surprised at how much more sucess you'll have.
Looking for a Bomb-proof horse?
Well, Good Luck to you!
Your batting a better average with cold blooded breeds, such as; Drafts & draft crosses but sometimes Horses will be horses!
Are there any people in this world without some kind of issue or imperfection, NO!
So don't expect it from an ANIMAL.
I have owned & sold many AMAZING horses, but they always come with some kind of an issue or imperfection.
You must always take the good with the bad.
Even the best horses won't always be perfect, remember they are not machines.
Are you consistently the same every day?
I didn't think so, please don't expect your horse to be also.
I am sure your horse would appreciate it if you ride him the same way every time, but regardless of your skills you will confuse him once in a while & he will forgive you so please forgive him on a bad day.
On bad days remember your ground work.
You should learn to read your horse, work with him on the ground, & feel him out before jumping on his back.
Along with ground work & feeding your horse correctly you will prevent a lot of broken bones, stress, heart ache, etc...
Unless getting a colder blooded horse, we do highly recommend an older horse (late teens to 20 years & up) for a first horse or for a timid/nervous rider.
It may sound silly but horses will feed off your nervousness or feel your lack of confidence.
Young horses, rich diets, horses that stand in pens, are all very bad!
A younger horse will also pick up bad habits easily that you may not even be aware you are teaching.
Should I shoe or keep my horse barefoot?
If your horse does well barefoot then leave him that way.
It will save you money & long term it is usually better for the horse if he can stay sound without the shoes.
Otherwise have him shod.
Of course every horse is different & it depends on the horse.
If you are not sure ask your farrier & vet their opinion.
Dry feet, cracked feet, Thrush, soft feet, bruised soles, are all no big deal.
Don't freak out, just ask your farrier or friends for any advice on remedies.
Horses are amazing & resilient animals!
If you purchased an animal from us or anyone else & would like some help or just a tune up, we would love to help you!
You can haul your horse here or we would be happy to work with you at your location.
We charge by the hour & have a call out fee.
When working with us,
you're supporting a Christian Family & local business!