Monday, March 23, 2015

Best Horseback Riding Trails in Missouri

If you’ve been following the South Texas Tack blog for very long, you know we love getting to know another state by seeing where we could go for a good horseback ride. This month, we’re taking a closer look at the best trails Missouri has to offer.

Wild Rose Equine Center — Located just outside of Kansas City near Platte City, the Wild Rose Equine Center offers a variety of services, including riding lessons, trail rides and more. Whether you’re looking for a weekend away or a fun afternoon, this property has what you’re looking for! The trails go through open fields, woods and creeks and are great for riders of all experience levels.

Turkey Creek Ranch — This 700-acre property near the Missouri-Arkansas border offers visitors so many different activities. In addition to horseback riding, visitors to Turkey Creek Ranch can enjoy water skiing, tennis, shuffleboard, canoeing and more. Make a weekend of it and stay at one of the ranch’s cabins for a relaxing time with family or friends.

Meramec River Cabins — Perfect for newer riders, Meramec Farm Cabins and Trail Rides in Bourbon, Missouri, southwest of St. Louis, offers group trail rides and hourly rentals. Their gorgeous horses are sure to make the visit especially enjoyable. In addition to hourly rentals, more experienced riders can bring their own horse and explore the trails unguided for the day.

Golden Hills Trail Rides — Found in the stunning Ozark Mountains in Southern Missouri, Golden Hills Trail Rides is perfect for riders of all skill levels. Riders of the property’s 200 miles of trails are rewarded with sightings of deer and other local wildlife. In addition to unguided rides, the complex offers organized rides throughout the year, giving visitors two different and fun experiences to take advantage of.

Plain & Fancy Trails — This bed and breakfast and stable property 80 miles from St. Louis is the perfect way to spend a day. Riders have the opportunity to stay at the Plain & Fancy B&B or visit for the day just to ride. Visitors can experience fun creek views and woods scenery.

4-J Big Piney Horse Camp — This camp in Waynesville, Missouri, has been combining country hospitality along with gorgeous views. Fun for the whole family, 4-J Big Piney Horse Camp is a great place to vacation with the whole family and instill a love of horseback riding in younger children.

Know of a great trail in Missouri we left off our list? Let us know in the comments below!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Top Picks for Spring Rodeos in Texas

Spring is a great time for rodeos in Texas — the weather is a little warmer, the days last a little longer and there’s no better way to celebrate than watching athletes show off their rodeo skills in a competition. Fortunately, there are plenty of fantastic rodeos to take advantage of over the next few months.

When you’re searching for rodeos to visit, there’s no better state than Texas. We’ve come up with some of the best picks for rodeos in Texas to help you get started planning:

Houston Livestock Show & RodeoMarch 3-22 – The Houston, Texas Rodeo is a massive, three-week affair that’s been held every year since 1931. With attendance in the millions, the Houston, Texas Rodeo hosts the world’s largest livestock show and competitions such as bronco busting, bull riding and team roping. Guests can even take part in more events and activities such as the Downtown Rodeo Parade, Trail Rides and Ladies’ Night Out.

The 2015 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo features a concert lineup with huge pop, country and Tejano stars like Dierks Bentley, Pitbull and La Maquinaria NoreƱa. If you’re only going to visit one rodeo in 2015, be sure not to miss the Houston Rodeo. This is one of our favorite rodeos of the year, and we love that it’s just an hour down the road from our store in Brenham.

Austin RodeoMarch 14-28 – The Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo in Austin, Texas aims to make education a large part of their overall mission. The 2015 Austin Rodeo will be more “green” than ever, and since 1981 the Austin Rodeo organization has provided over $5 million to students in the form of scholarships. In addition to typical rodeo events, the Austin Rodeo also features pig races, a BBQ cook-off and a youth art show.

Galveston County Fair and RodeoApril 10-18 – The Galveston County Fair & Rodeo prides itself on serving Galveston county youth since 1938. Complete with fairgrounds, youth and animal projects and even special community days (such as Kids’ Day and Senior Citizens’ Day), the Galveston County Fair & Rodeo is a non-profit organization that provides scholarships in addition to family-friendly rodeo entertainment.

Mesquite ProRodeoEvery Friday and Saturday, May 30-Aug 23Mesquite ProRodeo is Texas’ premier western family attraction. Spread over several months from late spring to mid-summer, the Mesquite rodeo audience is highly dominated by families, and the Mesquite ProRodeo organization works hard to provide a safe environment where both adults and children can experience the magic of a rodeo. Every weekend for a few months this year, you can enjoy an exciting new laser show in addition to standard rodeo events, like steer wrestling and barrel racing.

No matter which rodeo you choose to attend, you’re just about guaranteed an extraordinary time. After all, there’s nothing else like the rodeos in Texas! Tell us about your favorite Texas rodeo experiences in the comments below.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Top 10 Spring Horse Care Tips

spring horse care tips
Helping your horse make the transition from cold weather into the warmer, more active months requires some special attention, and it’s not always easy. We’ve pulled together a few of our favorite tips to help you and your horse make this transition as smooth as possible.

1. Begin your riding schedule slowly — If you and your horse haven’t been very active this winter, it’s important to start your riding schedule with slow, light rides to prevent you and your equine friend from getting too sore early in the season.

2. Groom your horse — As you probably noticed over the winter, your horse grew a long winter coat. While that coat was ideal for colder weather, in the spring it can cause him to overheat or take a long time to dry from rain. Grooming your horse regularly will help hasten shedding and prevent overheating from a long coat. A shedding blade can help speed this process along.

3. Monitor grazing — If your horse has been eating hay all winter, try to prevent them from eating too much grass right away, as an abundance of grass on a stomach that isn’t used to it can cause colic. Consider turning your horse out to a less grassy area to build up his tolerance before going to lush pastures.

4. Set up vaccinations — Spring is the time of the year to make an appointment with the vet for your horse’s annual wellness exam and vaccinations. Line this up before the mosquitoes begin to get active, as many of the worst horse diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes.

5. Blanket at night — Depending on your climate, it may be important to continue blanketing your horse during the evening when temperatures dip and removing the blanket during the day. Keep in mind that your horse is currently used to being kept warm by a blanket all day and night, and he may not be used to cooler temperatures yet.

6. Give him a bath — Now that the weather’s warming up a little, it’s the perfect time to give your horse a bath and check for small cuts that need to be tended to. Look all over to find abrasions and nicks so you can tend to them as soon as you notice them.

7. Prevent parasites — If you live in a cool enough climate that you discontinued use of wormers over the winter, now’s the time to resume your parasite-prevention schedule. Check with your vet to determine the best schedule for your horse.

8. Fly control — Flies start to get more active as the weather warms up, so start your fly prevention and control now to keep your horse from experiencing irritation as the spring goes on.

9. Check and pick hooves daily — If your area is experiencing a wet spring, hoof care should be one of your top concerns. Hooves that are wet or muddy most of the day are vulnerable to thrush, a bacterial infection that causes a strong odor and weaken the hoof. Use a hoof pick to keep your horse’s hooves free of mud and resulting bacteria.

10. Check your fences — This part of spring horse care is often overlooked, but is an important part of ensuring your horses don’t wander off of your property or out of their pastures. Take a walk around your fence-line and determine if any parts of your fence need to be repaired.

What spring horse activities are you most looking forward to this year? Let us know in the comments below!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Best Trails in Illinois

At South Texas Tack, we love learning about a state by seeing the best horseback riding trails it offers. From trails that lead to the most scenic landmarks to trails that take riders through the state’s history, horseback riding trails are a great way to get to know a state a little better. This month, we’re looking at the horseback riding trails Illinois has to offer and showcasing some of our favorites in the Land of Lincoln.

Rend Lake Trail

For gorgeous lake views, there are few better trails than the Rend Lake Trail. This trail goes nearly half way around the second-largest man-made lake in Illinois. Riders are rewarded with views of wildlife and the tree-lined lake on this 20.6 mile trail in Franklin and Jefferson counties. The trail includes a large visitors’ center and campground and day use areas.

Hennepin Canal Parkway

In addition to being a state park, the Hennepin Canal Parkway is one of the more fascinating trails in Illinois. The trail follows an old towpath next to a canal that was built to link the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Visitors have a variety of options in addition to following the trail: picnicking, hiking, boating, canoeing, fishing, camping, winter sports and more. During winter, the canal often freezes, making it perfect for ice skating.

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

Making a loop around the 2,492-acre preserve, the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve trail system offers some of the most stunning geological views in Illinois. Riders will travel through prairies, savannas and oak-maple woodlands to see a variety of wildlife and native plant species. This multi-use trail system is great for horseback riding, biking and hiking, and some trails are even used for cross country skiing in the winter. Keep in mind, though, that the trail is not for beginners or anyone shaky with horseback riding.

Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway

Traveling along the Des Plaines River in Lake and Cook counties, the Des Plains River Trail and Greenway is a 56-mile trail connecting a variety of communities, parks and more, from the Illinois-Wisconsin border all the way to the Chicago suburbs. The trail is mostly flat with some gently rolling hills, however, don’t expect this trail to be well developed. Frequent flooding from the river prevents additional trail bed development.

Busse Woods Trail

Located within the Ned Brown Forest preserve, the Busse Woods Trail is full of paved trails for horseback riding, walking and biking. Trail riders will circle lakes, meadows and more while seeing a variety of plants and wildlife. Make a day out of exploring the trail with the various activities offered in Busse Woods, including picnicking, fishing, boating and more.

Wauponsee Glacial Trail

For the horseback riders who also love bird watching, the Wauponsee Glacial Trail in Will County near Joliet is not to be missed. The streams and prairie lands in the area attract a diverse group of birds to guarantee hours of great bird watching. The portion of the trail ideal for horseback riding is 19.5 miles long, and is also used for biking, hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

Did we miss your favorite trail in Illinois? Let us know in the comments below!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Horse Supplement Roundup: Your Guide to Using Top Horse Supplements

Keeping a horse healthy can be difficult work. At different points in a horse’s life, they need a little extra help to perform at their best, and it can be hard to keep up with their changing needs. To top it all off, there are so many different supplements out there, making it almost impossible to keep track of which supplements are best for your horse.

Whether you’re a new horse owner or you’ve had horses for your whole life, it can be helpful to have a resource to refer back to with specific horse supplements to know when your horse might need them.

Arthrisoothe Gold Joint Formula — This supplement helps horses maintain and support healthy cartilage, tissues and joints with the addition of glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid and MSM.

B-L Pellets — If your horse suffers from discomfort associated with daily exercise, B-L Pellets offer powerful herbs in addition to Vitamin B-12 to ease aches and pains from training and exercise. B-L Pellets are ideal for most adult horses, however they should not be fed to pregnant mares.

Garlic Powder — Just like in humans, garlic powder can aid in intestinal health for horses. Fed in small quantities, garlic powder can offer antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic benefits, and some horse owners even use it to repel flies.

Grow Colt — As its name implies, Grow Colt is for growing foals. With calcium, phosphorous, biotin and 24 other vitamins and minerals, Grow Colt provides all the nutrients a growing horse needs to form a strong foundation for adulthood.

Horseshoer’s Secret — Healthy hooves require optimal nutrition, and Horseshoer’s Secret contains the purest and most digestible ingredients to prevent cracked hooves and strengthen hoof walls. This supplement can also restore normal hoof growth.

Legacy Pellets — Ideal for senior horses, Legacy Pellets support healthy joint function with glucosamine, chondroitin and three other natural herbs. Legacy Pellets should be fed to horses 15 years or older.

Lung Aid — Best for horses healing from injury and illness or horses that often suffer with nose bleeds and respiratory ailments, Lung Aid helps fight off infection, improve lung congestion and nasal discharge and boost the immune system.

Mare Plus — When a mare is entering the stage of her life where she’ll be having foals, Mare Plus is a great supplement to give to help her meet the demands of gestation, foaling and lactation. Mare Plus should be fed to broodmares 90 days before conception and then continued year-round.

One AC — This feed supplement is intended for horses that do not sweat. One AC contains six vitamins and minerals to help horses who do not sweat stay healthy while performing in hot or humid weather.

Quietex — Quietex is an alternative to tranquilizers for horses who are experiencing stress or anxiety. The formula calms a horse in just two hours without causing drowsiness like drugs do. This supplement should be used before riding, training or trailering.

Select Fiberpsyll — This digestive aid offers pelleted psyllium seed husk, beet pulp and wheat bran to add fiber to the diet and introduce probiotics that support digestion. As an added benefit, Fiberpsyll may help prevent sand colic in horses.

Usler Shield — Use Ulser Shield to protect the horse’s mucosal lining and reduce the acidity of the stomach to promote proper digestion and nutrient absorption to prevent equine ulcers. It’s sometimes difficult to tell if a horse is suffering with an ulcer, but here are some signs that point to a possible ulcer: poor appetite, colic, attitude changes and poor training performance.

Weight Builder — If your horse is struggling to put on weight, Weight Builder can help by providing concentrated calories. With the Omega-3 fatty acids in flax meal, horses get twice the calories of grain without the digestive downsides that often come with grain.

Wind Aid — When a horse is experiencing throat irritation, bronchial congestion or restricted and swollen air passages, Wind Aid can help treat the damage and aid in equine recovery. Use Wind Aid if your horse suffers from seasonal allergies, respiratory tract problems and coughs.

Have questions about other horse supplements or tips for fellow horse lovers? Leave us a comment below!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Best Trails in Georgia

One of the best ways to get to know a state is by exploring its horseback riding trails with a trusted friend. This month, we’re taking a look at the gorgeous trails in Georgia and spotlighting a few of our favorite trails for horseback riding in Georgia.

Riverfront Greenway Trail

The shortest trail on our list, the Riverfront Greenway Trail in Albany, Georgia offers some spectacular sights for visitors. Overlooking the Flint River, the trail offers a scenic view of local plants and animals as well as fabulous vistas, making this a must-visit for anyone in Georgia.

Silver Comet Trail

A former rail-trail, the Silver Comet Trail follows the former path of the Seaboard Air Line’s Silver Comet, a passenger train providing luxury travel from Birmingham, AL to New York. Visitors can access the trail 13 miles northwest of Atlanta, making this a convenient and gorgeous spot for many riders. The 61-mile trail is fully paved and offers fun relics of railroading past for riders to explore. For riders looking to make a longer trip of the trail, the Silver Comet Trail connects in with Alabama’s Chief Ladiga Trail at the state line.

Simms Mountain Trail

For riders looking for a bit more challenge, the Simms Mountain Trail is the perfect option! The trail goes through a dense forest in Northwestern Georgia and offers a rugged trek for more advanced riders. Although the trail is only 4.5 miles, riders can make a whole day of traveling the area, as the Simms Mountain Trail connects with Georgia Pinhoti Trail, the longest trail in the state.

Georgia Coast Rail Trail

Although still in development, the Georgia Coast Rail Trail promises to be one of the best trails in the nation. Crossing 43 different creeks and tidal rivers, exploring luscious verdant landscapes and boasting the best piney forest views, the Georgia Coast Rail Trail offers an experience that’s hard to beat. Once complete, the trail will span 68 miles, making for a new experience each time.

Melon Bluff and Palmyra Plantations

Featuring 25 miles of trails across some of the most gorgeous salt marshes in Georgia, Melon Bluff and Palmyra Plantations just south of Savannah in Sunbury are not to be missed. Make a weekend of it and stay in the Dunham Farms Country Inn while keeping your horse at the stables, or visit for a day and take in the gorgeous scenery before heading out for other adventures — either way, you’ll be glad you came to visit.

Notice any trails we missed? Leave us a comment to let us know which trails we should visit the next time we’re in Georgia!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Equine Therapy at Boys Ranch

Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch is a community of boys and girls in the Texas panhandle where at-risk youth live together and learn how to become responsible and resilient young people. The staff at Boys Ranch works to provide these children with a variety of extracurricular activities to help them grow into happy and healthy adults. One of our favorite services that they offer children in the community between the ages of 5 and 18 is equine therapy. We spoke with Reccia Jobe and Liz Clark, two of the equine therapy staff members at Boys Ranch to learn more about horses help the residents of Boys Ranch.

Tell us a little about the equine therapy program at Boys Ranch.

Our equine therapy program is really a program we’ve developed using several different models of equine therapy. It’s equine-assisted therapy, and we do many different facets from psychotherapy to our program called Rythmic Riding, where there’s a little psychotherapy involved, but there’s also riding, so there’s a lot of sematic therapy which is more physical stuff: being able to feel the horse, being aware of your body, learning to control your body. We really have a wide range of services that we provide for the kids at the Ranch, using the horses in a therapeutic way.

The program is needs-focused, so whatever the needs of the kids are, we tailor the program to that kid. Some kids need to just groom the horse, to have that physical movement and feel that connection and that relationship with another being, but some kids need it on a deeper level. They need to work on a relational or behavioral pattern, and we use the horses in that way as well.

What we’re really doing, we’re trying to make it developmentally appropriate for the child’s developmental age, and we want it to be trauma informed. We target the part of the brain that we feel needs reorganization, because trauma affects the way that the brain develops. Whatever part of the brain is developing at the time you experience trauma is most likely going to experience some vulnerabilities. If we have a child who’s grooming a horse, we’re really trying to tap into that sensory part of the brain and help those parts of the brain build new neural pathways and reorganize in a way that’s healthy so the child can function at a healthier level. With the psychotherapy, we’re focusing on the relationship they’re building alongside the horse, like if they’re training a colt as part of the therapy, we’re providing therapy that is more relational, so we’re targeting the social/emotional part of their brain.

The goal is to help them develop some of those self-awareness skills and those attunement skills that they might need to form and maintain a healthy relationship with the people around them. A lot of our kids have misconceptions about the world around them or about themselves. Many of these kids have a hard time connecting things like “When I do this, this happens.” With a horse, they’re going to get immediate feedback: “When I do this, the horse does this.” That’s good for learning because kids can start to connect their behavior to the outcome of their behavior and the relationships they’re in. We’re really trying to make it fine-tuned to the parts of the brain that are needing the most intervention for that child.

Can you talk about what the rhythm of grooming a horse does for the brain of a developing child?

It has been proven that patterned repetitive rhythmic activity provides input to the brain to help make changes and new pathways within the brain, so grooming is a very simple way of providing that patterned repetitive rhythmic activity. In addition, you have a horse that the kid is able to interact with, which adds the relational element to the therapy.

Relational interactions and patterned repetitive rhythmic therapy help us self-regulate, which allows us to stay calm in stressful situations and use the higher parts of our brain. A lot of our kids who have trauma have a difficult time with that, because they just didn’t have that kind of input when they needed it, so those parts of the brain are not fully developed.

Can you tell us about a time that equine therapy was especially beneficial?

The first one that comes to my mind is that we worked with an adolescent girl in therapeutic colt training. She was training a colt who had never been worked with before as part of her therapy. We were allowing her to develop a relationship with the colt the way it would naturally develop. We’re not giving her a lot of direction because we want to see the natural relationship patterns that came out of that to give us feedback about what’s really going on. One of the things we started to notice as they got comfortable with each other was that he started nipping at her and then nudging at her, and then he started to paw at her. He started giving these physical indications that he was testing her boundaries.

From a horse person’s perspective, we could see that the horse was pushing the boundaries of the relationship, but we wanted to know she was experiencing. We asked her “What do you think is happening?” She told us that he liked her and was playing with her. What was interesting at this time was that she was dating a boy who was quite abusive to her. While we had this in the back of our mind, we wanted to let the colt training be her experience, so we said okay and allowed her to continue training, but he continued to do it. We decided to video some of it for her and allow her to watch it so she could see the interaction.

There came a point where, all of the sudden, she was no longer okay with the way this horse was treating her. She told us that she was not okay with it, so we brainstormed some different options for her to set her boundaries. In the context of therapy, she had to figure out a way to set that physical and emotional boundary so she could be treated in a way where she felt respected. That was especially hard for her to do because — in her mind — if she set a boundary, he wasn’t going to like her any more, and she would rather him like her and be abused than not have the relationship, so she had this fear that if she set a boundary that she was going to be alone forever.

She changed the way that she saw what was happening. Her perceptions and beliefs changed. She began to see his actions as abuse rather than affection. She had to give herself permission to ask for something different. The more repetition she got of practicing setting that boundary, the more he respected her space. After a while, he wouldn’t even try to break in to her space unless she had invited him in. After that, the training took off. He eventually became a part of our riding herd, which is our ultimate goal with colt training.

The takeaways from this changed the way that she related to her boyfriend, parents, house parents and other members of her home in a healthy way. That’s really what we’re going for. We want global change. We don’t just want to change their relationship with their horse. We want to be able to transfer that to other parts of their lives and change a pattern that has been set.

What kind of things did she do to set those boundaries with her colt?

The physical actions don’t matter as much. We want the kids to have an authentic relationship with the horse. We want their insides to match their outsides. For anyone who’s been around horses, you know if your insides don’t match your outsides, you’re not trustworthy. The horse doesn’t respect you if you’re not trustworthy, and he won’t respond to you. The horses can pick up on something on a deeper level that we can’t even understand. It’s very instinctive. It’s almost like it happens on a different plane that we can’t perceive. That’s why it’s so powerful with the horses.

Do the horses need to undergo any special training to work with the kids?

A lot of our horses have been raised and trained out at the Ranch. It’s kind of a partnership between the staff and the kids. The kids do some of it, and we fill in the gaps. It’s a unique and interesting process. We have some horses who are very well bred. They have a very calm demeanor and can handle a lot of stress. They can tolerate a lot of frustration and a lot of inexperienced riders without losing their cool, which is important for what we do. We focus on getting good horses that we can use for pretty much everything we do, whether it’s therapy, trail rides, rodeos, roping, barrel racing. We’re looking to train horses who are all around horses who can perform athletically, but can also handle a lot of stress and be safe for our kids to ride.

What can someone do to support your program?

We accept monetary donations through our website, and we could always use tack and equipment sent to our office in Amarillo. However, we don’t really need donations of horses. We currently have 56 horses and it can get very costly to feed the horses, so in order to manage the money we get from donors efficiently, we need to keep our numbers down to a few horses who can perform most of the tasks we need.

One important type of support we need, though, is prayers and emotional support for the kids and the staff. That can have a big impact.