Thursday, December 18, 2014

Winter Riding 101: Horses are for Always

Horses are for always; this is a sentiment that we truly adhere to at Painted Bar Stables. While many people pack up their horses and riding ambitions for the winter, we actually kick it up a notch! 

Winter is actually one of the best times to ride. Many riders who are truly committed to their equestrian dreams find winter to be the perfect opportunity to fully enjoy their mounts.  As crazy as that sounds, there's a whole bunch of reasons that make winter the perfect time to grab your boots and gloves:

1. Winter is Beautiful

Even though we spend most of the winter curled up beside the fireplace, for those of us who brave the outdoors during this season we find one of the most beautiful and picturesque landscapes that we can imagine. 

The crisp cool air sharpens everything into perspective in the winter wonderland as snowflakes fall and sun is reflected off of the snow drifts in a cold sparkle. The forests become quiet and enchanting with the snow absorbing and insulating everything. It's truly a winter wonderland out there for those brave enough to explore it.

And though daytime is a bit warmer in the winter there's nothing so enchanting as riding by the winter full moons! The moonlight, bright in the summer is nearly blinding in the winter as it gets reflected off of the snow and filters through the tree branches, unhindered by the canopy of leaves that would usually be there in the summer. It's a special and amazing experience.

2. Cool Temperatures
While most people actively avoid riding in the winter because of the cool temperatures, this is precisely the reason it can be a better time to ride.

Many people do not realize just how athletic riding at the trot or canter can be. Riding at speed can be fun in the summer, but a very sweaty and exhausting experience for both horse and rider. The cooler temperatures are fantastic for conditioning rides because the horses under saddle will be more able to regulate their core temperature and are less likely to get sweaty and tired. For intermediate and advanced riders, this makes winter the perfect time for long athletic trail rides to increase your horse's endurance and aerobic capability without risk of your horse overheating. 

The cool temperatures are actually great for riders as well. In the cooler weather we can dress in layers so that we always have the right amount of clothes. When riding at the trot or canter we can open zippers or strip off layers that we have accessible to put back on when riding at the walk or getting chilled. 

3. Bareback Riding
A horse's natural body temperature is between 100 and 101 degrees. When it's cold outside and we just can't seem to warm up it can be a very cozy and beautiful ride if you just leave the saddle at home. Bareback riding is one of the most beautiful ways of riding a horse, and there's no better time to do it than in the winter.

Furthermore, if you're just not as balanced as you wish you were you can always just slip off into the soft snow. The only problem with that is getting back on without a stirrup for a leg up!

4. More Focused Horses: Less Obstacles
Here's actually my favorite reason to ride in the winter: there is basically nothing on the trail to distract horses from their riders.

No Yummy Green Things
In the summer the beautiful lush green terrain is fantastic to look at, but it's also an amazing distraction to horses because it's delicious. No matter how well trained your horse is or how strong your partnership is the grass will always be a distraction. Even if the horse does not eat on the trails, that same horse will be even more focused and more participatory in the winter without those distractions. 

No Bugs!
There is no bug spray strong enough to truly protect your horse from the plethora of different types of insects that will bother them on trail: gnats, mosquitoes, black flies, deer flies, horse flies, ticks, and more! Bugs are a real bother on the trail for both horse and rider. They are distracting, frustrating and even painful; and nothing you do can make them go away when it's so warm out. In the winter, however, this isn't a problem. At all.

5. Snow can be great Footing
When you think of winter you think of slipping and ice, but contrary to popular belief horses are very capable in the snow. A nice layer of snow provides good traction and grip, but also soft shock absorption making it easier on the tendons and ligament structures of the leg.

Deep snow is actually a fantastic tool to use for conditioning. To get through deep snow a horse needs to work extra hard, pulling their hind end under them in order to propel themselves up and over the snow with greater efficiency. They also must have higher action with their front legs to lift their feet up and over the snow. As a result, conditioning in deep (but not unreasonable) snow can help pull your horse together and ask them to use their body with more strength. 

That said, while snow itself can be good footing you do need to keep your eye out for the following conditions: mud, slush and ice. Riding should never be attempted on ice as horses do not have padded feet for traction. If a thin layer freezes on top of deep snow it can be difficult for horses to break through and they could even lacerate their lower legs. Especially as temperatures warm again the slush and ice can be very slippery as they may only be a thin coat of slick on top of frozen ground.

6. Those Who Ride in the Winter Become Exponentially Better Riders
For years I have been teaching individuals to ride and these are the facts: 
Riders who take lessons > Riders who do not take lessonsRiders who ride in winter > Riders who are warm weather riders
It seems obvious that riders who ride consistently without breaks would improve faster than riders that take sabbaticals from their lesson routine. While this is true, it's not just the consistency that makes the winter riders improve more. Winter riders are stronger riders.Here's why: 

Muscle Strength and Endurance

Firstly, it takes a lot of muscle to ride in the winter! When your muscles are cold they need work harder to perform. I like to remind people that however sore they may be in the summer after a two hour ride is how they will feel in the winter after a one hour ride. Conditioning in the winter strengthens riding muscles and increases capability leaving the winter riders in not only good shape but better shape by the summer.

True GritThose who choose to ride in the winter are usually more committed to their riding. Nothing gets in their way: Rain, Sleet, Hail and definitely not Snow! This personality and perspective, despite which season they are riding is strongly influential in the development of riding skills. Horses prefer people who are more passionate and committed and have less excuses.

Feeling Their OatsFor many reasons, horses are "feeling their oats" a bit more in the winter. The cold temperatures, combined with less daily mileage can make horses more willing and agile participants. Working with horses that are less lazy and more alert due to the cold temperatures helps to sharpen and hone skills that a tired, overheated and sluggish horse in peak summer may not be as enthusiastic to help develop. Riders who ride in the winter become more participatory and less complacent and/or frustrated in the riding experience as a result.

More Consistency
Not only are horses not being ridden as much and therefore not as tired, here at Painted Bar Stables they are also not being ridden by true beginners as much in the winter. In the summer we take out thousands of beginner and first time riders on our horses, who are patient and kind. In the winter we transition to a stronger lesson program and reduced number of trail rides. This means that our horses get a rider upgrade in the winter to more consistent riders who they know better, but who are also usually either better riders or becoming better riders.

Winter Riding at Painted Bar Stables

A core group of staff here ended up hitting the trails when nobody else signed up to ride on a beautiful winter day! The weather was warm, 38 degrees in the lowlands and 25 degrees on the mountain. There was minimal to no wind. The entire trail was covered in even, soft snowfall with no tracks or slush. Just perfect!

To see a quick video visit:

To see our route and statistics click here:

Tips for Riding in the Winter

For the Rider:
  • Dress in Layers
    You can never have enough layers. You want to dress in many thin layers. Do not do big, thick layers because the bulk can make it hard to be agile. Many thin layers are warmer than just a couple thick ones.
  • Wear Fibers meant for WinterCotton is only great until it gets wet! Wear fibers that are especially designed to help you stay dry and warm. A little investment goes a long ways.
  • Wear Safe BootsYou obviously want to have warm boots but be sure that they are not so bulky as to get wedged into your stirrups. You wouldn't want them to get stuck!
  • Always Wear GlovesLeather (especially deerskin) gloves are preferable because they provide the grip needed for riding but also the wind-proofing to keep hands warm.
  • Handwarmers and ToewarmersThose little heated inserts for gloves and boots are a lifesaver. Do not underestimate them! Just make sure your boots and gloves are big enough that they won't be too tight with the warmers inside.
  • ScarvesWe want to stay warm but we want to stay safe! If you're wearing a scarf you want to make sure that there is no tail hanging out that could get caught on a branch while you ride. Be sure all loose ends are tucked inside.
  • Hats and Helmet CoversYou'll want to keep your head warm so buy a hat that has a thin but warm profile so it fits under your helmet. Special helmet covers are also made that go over the helmet and have a built in wrap that goes around your ears and neck like a scarf. 
For the Horse
  • Warm the BitA frosty cold bit can be uncomfortable for your horse. Much like a wet hand touching a metal pole in the winter, your horse's lips can actually stick to a cold bit! Warm up your bit in your hands or between your legs before putting it in your horse's mouth.
  • Warm Up Your HorseHorses need to warm up their chilled muscles more in the cold weather. When you first mount their gaits may feel a bit stilted and stiff until they fully loosen up and warm up their muscles.
  • Cool Out Your HorseWhile you might think that it's more important to cool a horse in the summer because it's so hot, it is actually even more imperative to cool them in the winter. Cooling down in the winter can take longer because of thick winter coats. In the winter wet means cold, so even if the horse looks all toasty it will only be a matter of hours before they are cold enough to be sick. After you ride you must be sure that they are walked out so that they are not only put away dry but with a cool core temperature.
  • Blankets?Horses are very capable of handling a lot of cold temperatures and weather conditions that humans are not. However, not all horses are created equally either. If a horse is prone to shivering or does not have a good winter coat they will need a blanket when they are put away. Never put a blanket on a horse that is sweaty as it can trap moisture between the skin and the blanket preventing the horse from drying.
  • SnowballsMany horses can go barefoot in the winter because of the soft snow footing, however if they cannot it is important that horses are outfitted with snowball pads. Horse's hooves are cupped so horses with shoes will pack snow that can become large balls for the horse to walk on making them unsteady and prone to injury.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Horses are for Always: Winter Trail Riding

A core group of staff here today ended up hitting the trails when nobody else signed up to ride on this beautiful winter day! The weather was warm, 38 degrees in the lowlands and 25 degrees on the mountain. There was minimal to no wind. The entire trail was covered in even, soft snowfall with no tracks or slush. Just perfect!

I actually wonder why more riders don't ride here in the winter. I mean riders, not people! Winter is the perfect time to hit the trails if you are an advanced novice, intermediate or experienced trail rider for so many reasons:
1) no bugs
2) no yummy green things
3a) cool temperatures and horses that don't get sweaty or tired
3b) cool temperatures so riders can dress in layers and keep from being sweaty
4) real riders wear gloves anyhow
5) less daily mileage with true beginners for the horses so they are more willing and agile participants
6) snow is soft and excellent footing, reducing strain on tendons and hooves
7) less people riding means more one-on-one attention and smaller groups

To see a quick video visit:

To see our route and statistics click here:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Boarding Budget: again revisited

I came across this great article talking about boarding expenses on equisearch. This is an excellent read into why exactly board costs so much for horses.

Yes! You could feed a horse for $200 a month at home. However keep in mind these added expenses:

Employees - people want the best care possible for their horses but the best care doesn't come at minimum wage! The best care needs to make a living, have health insurance, and feel supported to stick around. Otherwise there will be a lot of transience in the barn employees. 

Mortgage for an equine facility - if you don't own an equine facility this is probably why: they are expensive! You need ample land, hay fields, barn, arenas and more and none of it comes cheap to buy or build. 

Maintenance - let's be honest, even without the horses there a facility is going to require maintenance. Let's now add the horses and watch the destruction begin! We want safe and reliable facilities for our animals and there is not a day that goes by that someone in the barn will not be wielding a hammer, wrench or drill. Don't forget too that there may also be upgrades to aid in efficiency and better management, or maybe even just perks for boarders themselves. 

Taxes for an equine facility - taxes are important for keeping communities afloat, schools operating and roads paved but the burden on stable owners can be pretty high due to the facilities that they own. Combine that with rising inflation and it doesn't get any easier. 

Barn Utilities - those lights that are needed to see by and the heaters for the water in the winter, and often the water itself coming from city supply add up. A barn cannot live without its utilities and unfortunately they are not cheap. 

Business Utilities - if you hope to actually be able to be in touch with the barn you might want them to have Internet and phones. Further, often a barn is able to subsidize its expenses through other programs such as lessons and these alternate programs rely on the office utilities. And don't forget the other basic administrative expenses needed to run a business. 

Insurance - would you really want to be in an uninsured facility? Albeit most barns do not specifically carry insurance for the health and life of your horse, they all carry insurance for liability and property to protect the home that they live in. In NYS a simple farm plan will go from anywhere from $1,500-$2,500 per year. Add in lesson programs and it will probably bump up to $3,500-$4,500 per year. Facilities that hold show events and particularly offer rodeo type opportunities or cross-country jumping will go up further, yet. Specialty programs for trail riding and insure liability on the trails for both clients and boarders alike may boost up to $14,000-$15,000 per year. 

Bedding - well, this is a chronic struggle because bedding just isn't cheap. There is also the ongoing struggle of using the more expensive products that save on employee time or using cheaper products that may be more time consumptive. Either way it comes out of the budget. 

Previous blog posts about boarding:




Sunday, November 16, 2014

Scapegoating: Blaming your Steed

I'm about fed up with people scapegoating specific horses for human error inadequacies. It happens regularly and at least once a year I need to have a major PR mission for a horse that is frustrated with all of us stupid humans.

This time I want to focus on Mr. Spock. This is our appaloosa mule who came out of very scary circumstances in a slaughter auction. He's only 6 years old (a baby for a mule) and has obviously been beaten and abused prior to his rescue. He's been here a couple years and has come SO FAR and is kind and sweet with a good work ethic but still requires people to pay attention to him when they ride.

A lot of riders here are spoiled by my horses and no matter how many times I catch them and remind them they still often:

  • lead horses with a long lead rope and open hand, expecting that the horse will follow them anywhere on the planet without question. 
  • mount with loose reins thinking that no matter what bomb goes off the horse will stay put
  • let their reins go slack when the horse is standing still, even when myself or an instructor needs to mess with some tack or adjustments
  • not look where they are going when riding or staying present
  • riding with legs off when everything is going well (so what happens if that suddenly changes, huh?)

Get in the habit of doing it right on the easy horses because quite frankly, Spock is a pretty darned easy ride if you aren't slacking off or distracted. Don't scapegoat the teacher who shows your flaws and then glorify the ones who cover up for your mistakes because those teachers are the ones that help you become better.

The World from Spock's Point of View

Spock had another de-spockle debacle yesterday. He's getting tired of training these stupid humans.
On his first date with my new instructor she had him out on trail and he tripped (he needs his feet trimmed) and she didn't stay with him so he went down the trails without her - obviously she wasn't useful anyhow if she wasn't going to stay on and he didn't know her anyways.

He decided to cut that trail ride a little short anyhow because he might as well go home now. So he trotted slowly down the trail to home where I was there to meet him and he rushed right into my arms and was like "Okay, this human is alright. She at least is only stupid half the time." So I jumped on and figured I would return him to his trail ride and he was a perfect gentleman.

I dismounted and waved to the girls that I brought them back their mule, but then I tripped and Spock was again like "Stupid human, if you can't even pay attention to me and stay on your own feet I have no need of you either. I'm going home." And off he slowly trotted home again being sure not to step on the reins by holding them off to the side. I definitely didn't do as a good job of holding his reins for him.

We we walked home and grabbed him. The instructor then figured at least some arena work would be good, but she forgot to close the gate. Spock and I agree that it's a horrible habit to do arena work with the gate open, so he showed her why before she got on so that nothing bad happened.
Finally he had taught us all of our lessons and was the perfect gentleman for some trotting and cantering in the arena.

The instructor and I were both all giggles the entire time because we both know that it is our weaknesses that set him up for failure.

MORAL OF THE STORY: don't be complacent.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Breed versus Type: The divergence within AQHA

Different breeds hold different concepts of breed standards. This photo was taken of two registered AQHA quarter horses at last year's AQHA World Show.

Some breeds are tested, meaning that the conformation and movement are trump. This is common to many warmbloods and European registries. Other breeds are parentage based and follow lineage. This is seen among American registries such as APHA and AQHA.

What you find in the lineage based registries is that there are many differences within breed due to evolution and bloodline tracking that causes different traits to become desirable for different jobs. The result is an umbrella breed that is home to a number of different types of horses excelling under a number of disciplines. Understanding the history of bloodlines becomes paramount to understanding the breed. 

The little horse is AQHA Taris Dreamer, a 5 year old by Magnum Chic Dream x Doc Tari mare owned by Ronald Thompson. He's showing again this year in Amateur Reining and Amateur Ranch Pleasure. He has LTE of nearly $160,000 in reining.

The taller horse is Hunter Under Saddle horse who was owned by Sharnai Thompson. This horse is also an AQHA quarter horse but bred for a very different purpose and movement.

In these cases, conformation and movement define the type, not the breed. What unites these two horses is history.

The downside in the case of AQHA is that the founding concept of the quarter horse was versatility. By having so many types that are so specifically job oriented it does take away from that initial concept.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Painted Bar Stables - Q&A

The Important Stuff

Do you carry insurance?

Preparing to Ride Questions

Do we HAVE to have a reservation to ride? Can't we just show up?
What should we expect for our ride?
When should we arrive for our trail ride?
I weigh over the 250 lb. weight limit. Can I ride?
How old do my kids need to be to ride?
Can my child ride double with me?
What kind of footwear is appropriate?
I'm on vacation and have no pants. Can I ride in shorts?
I forgot gloves and it's cold! Can I borrow yours?
Why can't we book any rides by phone?


What is the policy for if a rider is scared and wimps out of the ride?
Am I allowed in the barn unsupervised?
Can I pet horses while I wait for my guides?
Can I help saddle my horse?
Can I use my own saddle?

On the Trail

Do I have to wear a helmet?
Can I wear a hat under my helmet? 
Can I choose which horse I ride?
Why does our guide get so upset when you let our horses eat?
Why aren't beginner riders allowed on the longer routes?
Why aren't saddle bags provided for water bottles on our 1 hour ride?
Can I carry a bag with me on the ride?
Is the ride in the sun or the shade?
Are rides based on time or route?



The Important Stuff

Do you carry insurance? Yes, we do! We are very proud of the fact that we are a fully insured stable. Not only do we carry a general farm plan, but we also carry a commercial liability plan that covers all of our equine operations, but most importantly trail rides specifically. Every stable is insured but you need very specific and special insurance to cover our guided trail rides that a typical lesson plan does not cover.

Preparing to Ride Questions

Do we HAVE to have a reservation to ride? Can't we just show up? All rides are by RESERVATION ONLY! We pride ourselves for being able to group people into the perfect ride for their group and not just lumping everyone together haphazardly into our trail rides. We do not appreciate when people just show up and it is a rare occasion that we can accommodate walk ups.

Before we can book your ride we will need you to either fill out our online request form on our website or get us the following information on every rider:

Name, Age, Height, Weight, Riding Experience or Personality Type

We need this information to make sure we group you with other people of the same level and expectations and to make sure we ready you the proper horse before you come.

What should we expect for our ride?
When you get here, your guides will be readying horses. Just come into the indoor arena and we will be right with you when we can to have you sign in. Once everyone arrives we will take money from everyone and start our Horse 101 Speech to make sure that everyone is on the same page before the ride. Once we assign everyone their horses, we will need everyone to lead their own horse through the barn and out to the outdoor arena where we will mount using stairs. Once all of the tack is checked and everyone is aboard we will hit the trails.

When should we arrive for our trail ride?
You should arrive about 5-15 minutes early for your trail ride so you can get your waivers signed. There is no need for you to arrive any earlier because your guides will be busy preparing the horses for the ride (there's a LOT of work for us to do before we can even get you signed in!).

Never arrive late! We will collect money and start our Horse 101 Speech at the exact time of the scheduled ride. If you are late you may miss our introduction on how to ride a horse. We reserve the right to decline anyone arriving late the privilege of riding, especially if they miss our Horse 101.

I weigh over the 250 lb. weight limit. Can I ride? Unfortunately we are unable to accommodate riders larger than 250 lbs. as we do not have a herd that can carry such a rider.

It takes a very specific herd to be able to take beginner riders out, but especially heavier beginner riders. Our goal is to ensure a pleasurable ride for all of our riders. If a horse is carrying more weight than it is comfortable, it not only takes a toll on the horse, but also can cause unpredictable and unsafe behaviors no matter how well trained a horse might be (tripping, slipping, reluctance to move, irritability and even bucking).

Our restrictions are not a matter of prejudice against heavy persons, but for safety for you as well as our horses. For further explanation of our policy, please see

How old do my kids need to be to ride? While we start giving lessons to children at age 5, our insurance requires all trail riders to be 8 years old or older. This rule is a good rule because all of our trail riders must ride the horse independently and be strong and large enough to control the horse on their own.

For kids ages 5 and up we are sometimes able to coordinate a trail ride simultaneously with a lesson so that your child can ride while the adults go out on trail. This depends on instructor availability so the more of a heads up we get the better. Tell us if this is something you would like us to look into.

While we do offer Tiny Tot Horsemanship lessons for kids ages 3-5, those lessons are too short to do simultaneously with a trail ride and we do not provide babysitting beyond the duration of a lesson.

Can my child ride double with me?
Everyone must ride their own horse. We NEVER allow double riding as it is A) dangerous for the child and B) dangerous for the horse. While we often see people doing this with their own children on their own horses, these are experienced riders taking risks with their own deep and well-founded relationships with their children and animals - something that is impossible for public trail riding.

What kind of footwear is appropriate? So, traditionally the rule of thumb is to wear riding boots and cowboy boots. But let's be honest, we don't all own those. So here's an explanation of what makes riding boots so optimal so that you can go through your closet and choose the right boots.
  • Firm sole: you want a firm sole on your boot so your foot is not bending at the stirrup.
  • Short solid heel: the heel on your boot is to prevent you from being able to slip your entire foot through the stirrup accidentally
  • Closed-toed made of leather: horses are heavy (+1000lbs.) and unfortunately the only part of their body they really can't see is their feet. They are usually pretty good at being careful but us spastic humans tend to move a bit unpredictably and sometimes they misstep and land a foot on our toes. We want these protected.
  • Tall boot height: when we sit down, our pants hike up. Tall boots protect our ankles and legs from both the outside world and getting sores from the leather of the saddle.
  • Narrow width and a pointy toe: we are sticking our toes in a hole, so it's best they fit. 
So whatever you have that is as close to the above criteria is good with us, however, here is an easy cheat sheet of options other than riding boots:

  • Good to Go: Leather boots, rubber boots, many tall hiking boots
  • Not Optimal: Sneakers, Fancy Heeled Tall Boots, Stilettos
  • Not Acceptable: Keds, Canvas Sneakers, Keens, Sandals, Shoes that don't cover the entire top of your foot.

I'm on vacation and have no pants. Can I ride in shorts?
No. Unfortunately shorts are unacceptable for riding. 

Riding in shorts can cause saddle sores and scrapes from brush and thorns on the trail. What makes it truly a problem is not just the scrapes and sores, but the distraction that it causes for the rider. Some riders may even compensate for sores by changing their riding position, putting them off balance. This can be problematic when riding because it not just limits the rider's ability, but can even sore our horses.

There is a Walmart in Watkins Glen and many of our riders previously have picked up some sweatpants or leggings for very cheap.

I forgot gloves and it's cold! Can I borrow yours? Every winter we have dozens of riders (especially students!!) who show up to ride without gloves. This is just silly! Please wear weather appropriate clothing.

In the past our employees have loaned out their personal gloves at personal expense and loss. Now we have the following items for sale for forgetful people:

Gloves in assorted colors -  $5.00 per pair.
Winter Helmet Covers - $13.00 each
Hot Hands and Toe Warmers - $2.00 each

Why can't we book any rides by phone? We don't rely on phones for a number of reasons, but the main one is that we do not have designated office staff. While this helps us keep the overhead down and our prices low, this means that the people you need to talk to are either on horseback, with clients, on a tractor or working the barn about 9 hours a day. It can be dangerous for us to be distracted from the task at hand. Texts and emails we can get back to decently quickly once it is safe for us to respond.

Also, it turns out that most of you people who try to book appointments on the phone don't actually show up! Our no-show rate for phone bookings is roughly 50%, whereas 98% of our email bookings hit the trails with us. Having that written record via email seems to help everyone remember their appointments.


What is the policy for if a rider is scared and wimps out of the ride?
Unfortunately the ride is not the "work" that we provide for the trail ride. Preparing the horses is half the battle. Furthermore, every rider that does not hit the trails, especially during peak season, means that one of the riders we turned away does not get to ride when they could have. 

What we sell is not the service of the trail ride, but the opportunity to ride on our proven horses on the trails. As a result we will not give a full refund but maintain the following policies:
  • Any rider who chooses not to mount will only be required to pay $25 towards their ride and refunded the remainder.
  • Any rider that is forced to return to the stables part way through the ride because of an executive decision by the trail guide is entitled to a 25% discount if requested.
  • Any trail riders who heads out on the trails but voluntarily decides and chooses to not finish their ride is not entitled to a refund.
What if there is bad weather?
While it can be possible to ride in the drizzle, severe or threatening weather can cause unpredictable behaviors in horses and bad terrain condition. Moreover, we don't like people to pay us to be miserable.

If possible, we try to send out an email the night before if we see a bad forecast with the following options:
  1. Play it by ear and keep in touch before the ride, understanding that there may be last minute cancellations. The best way to get in touch with us quickly is by text at 607-216-8141
  2. Reschedule to another day
  3. Cancel
If the weather is looking poor the day of the ride, we will send you a text message and an email telling you if we need to cancel the ride. We will also try calling you on the number you provide if we can't get a hold of you by text.

May I ride in an English Saddle on the trails?

While we do ride both English and Western in our barn, we require that every person riding on trail with us for the first time rides in a western saddle. This is because our terrain is hilly and varied and we ride at multiple speeds. We have had issues in the past with riders over-estimating their abilities to conquer our trails in English saddles; this issue has resulted in other riders on the ride not getting the ride that they desired.

As a result we have developed an "English Approved List" that you can ask to be added to once you have ridden with us once before and we have seen your competency in this terrain. There is no guarantee that you will be added to the list just because you ask.

Do you take Credit Cards and Debit Cards?
Sure do! Even American Express. 

That said, we charge an additional 5% for card transactions. This is because of extra taxes and fees associated with credit cards and we have chosen to pass on the added expense only to our card users and not to the rest of our riders who pay by cash or check.

Can we ride without a guide?
All of our rides are guided as we deeply care for our animals and the liability is just too high to let strangers have unsupervised access to our horses. We do have membership programs for experienced riders who have proven their skills and want a monthly contract to take our horses out independently. See the website for more information on that.

Where can I smoke?
Honestly, you should quit. Or at least don't do it anywhere here! We have a no smoking policy on the entire premises.

Barns are an incredibly flammable environment filled with dry hay, wood, dust, and more that can light at the drop of the hat. As a result we cannot allow smoking in or near the barn.

Horses aren't really a fan of smoking either. They can't really wrap their brains around why we would light ourselves on fire and it can freak them out. While many horses can be trained to tolerate smoke, none of us smoke around here so our horse's just aren't used to it. As a result we cannot allow smoking on or near our horses.

And even in the driveway smoking drives us nuts. Too many smokers have left their cigarette butts in the driveway and quite frankly it's kinda gross when we have to go and pick them up. So basically, just don't smoke at Painted Bar Stables unless you're in your car.

In the Barn

Am I allowed in the barn unsupervised?
If you enter our barn, please stay in designated areas for visitors. These areas include the sign-in lounge and in the indoor arena.

Only designated individuals are allowed into the tack rooms, residential areas of the stables where the horses live in their stalls, or the fields. Nobody is allowed into a horse's stall without staff present. Please do not reach into horse's stalls as this can greatly irritate horses. A horse's stall is their private bedroom and they prefer that people not barge in.

Can I pet horses while I wait for my guides?
No! As I always say, "If you don't know the horse, don't pet it. And if you knew the horse you would know why not to pet it!"

Just like humans, horses have personal space boundaries. Often when they are waiting at the wall for their riders they are dozing and resting, mentally preparing themselves for the ride. They don't appreciate a stranger coming up to pet them or surprise them. Even the kindest and most gentle animal will nip if surprised or overly bothered, so just let them be. We'll introduce you soon enough.

Can I help saddle my horse?
Nope. For the same reason that we don't let you pet them, we don't have you saddle them. Getting ready for a ride is a surprisingly intimate experience for horses. Every horse has some quirks and a particular way they like to be readied. They like to have "their people" who they know and trust get them ready to ride.

It's also really important that everything be put on correctly. Not only that, but it actually takes more time for us to help someone and to double check the gear than it would for us to do it ourselves. 

Can I use my own saddle? 
We would rather you not. Every horse is a different shape and size and while we understand that your saddle will be most comfortable for you, it may not be comfortable for our horse. A bad fit saddle can cause pain for a horse, and even major behavioral issues. We'd rather take out the risk for both you and our horses by using gear that we know fits. 

Sometimes we can make exceptions and let you use your own gear, but only if you: 1) give us a heads up and describe the measurements of the saddle you are bringing, 2) come early so we can get it on before the start of the ride, 3) we are not jam packed during peak season and too busy to properly fit the saddle.

Can we give horses treats?
Please don't. There are many reasons we do not let everyone give our horses treats but here's the main ones:
  • Our horses are on specific diets to ensure their health. They do not need treats. You are not the only person riding that horse and if everyone were to give them treats it could cause obesity, diarrhea and many other digestive issues.
  • Treats, especially from strangers, can cause LOADS of behavioral issues. Horses that are constantly given treats will become mouthy or nippy, and are even known to tear people's pockets in their jackets. Our horses do not expect treats and are respectful of you and your space BECAUSE of this policy.
  • You can't bribe your way into a horse's heart with treats. They are just not that stupid. 


On the Trail

Do I have to wear a helmet?

Helmets are not required by NYS law for adults but we strongly suggest them and provide them. Riders not wearing a helmet must take it on as their own risk and fill out an additional portion of the waiver. Bicycle helmets are not approved for riding horses and not allowed.

We provide approved horseback riding helmets free of charge at our stables in various sizes. We regularly sanitize them to keep our riders healthy.

Can I wear a hat under my helmet?
We would prefer that you don't. Helmets are designed to be safest to be worn as they are. If you must wear a hat the hat must be slim fitting and the helmet must rest balanced and secure.

We do sell helmet covers especially designed for winter riding that have built in scarves and keep you insulated from the cold. These are available whenever in stock.

Can I choose which horse I ride?
Nope. We do our best to match riders with their desires for horses, however we cannot make promises based on horse color, breed or size. Our goal is to have the best fit for each rider's form, personality and capability and there are many factors that we need to take into about not only individual horses but the distribution within our herd.  

That said, if you have really enjoyed a particular horse in the past, let us know. Or if a particular horse and you didn't work well previously, let us know that too. How you interact with each horse will give us hints as to which horses would probably work well with you in the future.

Why does our guide get so upset when you let our horses eat?
Well first off, you gotta be kidding us, right? We spend a LOT of time working with our horses to ensure that they are in the best physical, mental and skillful condition for your ride. A big part of this is developing routines and rules for our horses and not being allowed to eat while bridled and saddled is one of them! We assure that under a skillful hand that our horses will not eat under saddle. When we ride them they do not eat. 

We understand that some riders may not be as skillful and the horses may take them for granted more than they would us, as their trainers. The big thing to keep in mind with horses, like children, it's not what you do but when you do it. A well timed reprimand is much better than a repeated and frustrated argument. We understand that you might not just have the timing down, but that you're trying.

However, one thing we cannot tolerate are people who purposefully allow our horses to eat under saddle. We do not care if you think you are "being nice" or "winning them over" or any of the other excuses you could come up with because in the end, what it encourages is disrespect from our horses. If you are not training a horse you are un-training them. When riders allow our horses to eat, it creates extra work and fatigue for us and our horses because we will have to ride them additionally afterward to re-teach them their manners.

Why aren't beginner riders allowed on the longer routes?

Our 2 and 3 hour route is more difficult than our 1 hour route in terms of riding technique. We restrict these rides to novice, and sometimes even just intermediate and advanced riders not because we do not think beginners can ride on a longer ride, but because the routes are simply harder.

Our one hour ride has vastly varied terrain, twists and turns, creek crossings and is highly interesting at a walk, with opportunities for short jaunts. Our 2+ hour loop goes through more ungroomed trails and many more fields with long straight aways and we have to ride along the road at one point. For much of the trail the grass is tall and if not moving at speed it can be quite the buffet. As a result we tend to take this trail at a faster speed. Here is a picture from one of our longer rides.

Additionally, the main problem with beginners joining longer rides is that if they can't keep up, the other riders in the ride who are more up to the task can feel extremely frustrated. This is why we ask typically that people be of an intermediate level to ride the longer rides (capable of a non-bouncing posting trot or canter, or at least the ability to control their horses and not allow them to eat on the ride).

Why aren't saddle bags provided for water bottles on our 1 hour ride?
It's just an hour! We find that the saddle bags and water bottles cause more distraction than comfort on these short rides. We want everyone focused and safe.

Can I carry a bag with me on the ride?
Let's be honest, how much stuff do you really need on your ride? It's always best to put everything in your car. 

If you do need to wear a bag wear something that is strapped down so that it will not flap or cause you discomfort. Anything that can flap up and down will not only be distracting to you, but also to your horse. Depending on your group, we may or may not be able to change our ride to accommodate your needs because of your baggage.

Is the ride in the sun or the shade?
The first part of all of our trail rides is in the sun as we pass through the fields and past the horse pastures. For 1 hour rides, the trails past the pastures are predominantly in the woods and shaded. For our longer rides the trails are an equal mix of sun and shade.

Are rides based on time or route?
All of our rides are based on mileage and time and the average speed it takes to do each route. We ride our trails often enough to know the average speed for each route and to plan accordingly.

Our 1 hour trail routes are all roughly 3 miles long and is typically taken at 2.5-3 mph. As a result, most 1 Hour rides end up being exactly 60 minutes to 75 minutes in duration.

Our 2 hour trail ride is roughly 8 miles long and is typically taken at 3.5-4 mph and turns out to be roughly 120 minutes to 140 minutes in duration.

If your ride is faster than planned, often it is because we were able to go faster than the average riders. We do not offer discounts for riders who push our horses harder than average, even if they do return to the barn earlier, as it usually is a sign of more than expected wear and tear on our horses.

Do you provide food for our trail ride?
We unfortunately only offer food with our all day or overnight rides as we need to find outside catering for those events.

We strongly suggest going to Two Goats Brewing after your ride to grab a home brew and a homemade roast beef sandwich with the 180-degree lake view off their porch. Or for an early meal stopping at Berta's Café in Burdett where everything is homemade from scratch. Stonecat Café or Nickles Pit BBQ are great places to eat dinner and everything they serve is not only yummy but locally sourced.

What's your policy for drinking alcohol and riding?
I understand that we are located right off the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, that there are a number of microbreweries mere miles away, let alone Finger Lakes Distilling. That said, please refrain from drinking before your ride because we do not allow drinking and riding.

Our waiver includes a clause that maintains that riders are not under the influence of alcohol or any substance and we reserve the right to refuse you the right to ride WITHOUT refund if we determine that you are under the influence.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Rider Weight Issue: obesity and horseback riding

The safety of our riders is only seconded by the safety of our animals.

The Horse Channel just came out with an article addressing the "rider weight" issue that all of us at Painted Bar Stables know only too well: 

We were happy to know, reading this article, that all of our guidelines that we already enforce are nearly the exact same statistics and reasons that the experts have found!

When riding at Painted Bar Stables you'll be happy to know that we care!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Youth Intern Recognition for the Summer of 2014

We got some youngin's that need to be recognized!! 
I'm not sure if all of you noticed our band of pre-teens and teenagers that have been bopping around the barn this summer but our Youth Interns were pretty special this summer and each of them needs to be recognized.
Tristin Rose-Morley started off here first before school even left out last spring. The reason she is first on my list is because I have seen the most personal growth out of this young lady! By the end of the summer she has transformed into an incredibly responsible, determined, focused and humble person. It was a lot of work for her to get up the guts to talk to strangers in the beginning, and today I got to listen to her helping and talking to trail riders on the trail like it was nothing. Her instructions clear, her conversations interesting, and reliable, reliable, reliable. Way to get over the hurdles!
Next up is the Jadyn Lauper. This powerhouse of a young woman never gives up. She always jumps at challenges and sets high goals for herself. Over the summer I watched her really develop an understanding of how to ask for help, offer help, and give help without being bossy, condescending or demanding (which is more than most of us adults can say...). On the trails she learned how to speak up, give instructions to large groups and last week she even was able to guide out a group of regular adult clients on her own!
Then there is Kathleen Clifford. Can there be someone more responsible for herself, others and pretty much everything around her? Her OCD was well appreciated this summer along with her smart riding skills and logical common sense. She has an innate way of helping others and a clear way of giving directions. Over the summer I saw her sense of timing and context truly thrive, being able to read situations before they even happened and jump in to prevent them. I see her going far in this world.
Miss Ava Hameister is another that we look forward to spending more time with in the future. Ava lives a bit further than everyone else so she wasn't always able to come up regularly in the past. This summer, however, I watched her really grow. She remembers pretty much every instruction and retains it, developing and building off of each lesson. Her horsemanship and skills in the barn truly flourished and I can't wait to have her back.
However, the biggest recognition need to go to Raevyn Saunders. Rae headed up the entire Youth Intern program this year, managing the workload, schedules, and even day to day routines. This is a TOUGH job for any adult and this amazing teenager took the bull by the horns and really grew as a manager over the weeks and months learning that leadership doesn't come from authority, but from mentorship and support. I'm very, very proud of her and the amount of personal growth that she displayed in managing this program.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

EMPLOYMENT: Lead Horseback Instructor Wanted

Painted Bar Stables is looking to recruit an lead instructor at our stables.

Our riding goals at are stables are very different than many stables. Our goals are not competition oriented, but based intrinsically on intuitive and effective riding. The main focus of our lesson and public programs is trail riding and accomplishing goals in real world environments. This is where our horses excel and what makes our program so different. The concept of thinking outside of the box and working with each horse as an individual partner for a multitude of activities is what drives our program.

All of our students ride in a multitude of riding styles: general English and Western riding, gymkhana, western pleasure, working cow, trail, bareback, dressage, novice cross-country jumping, and hunt seat (though I have some strong opinions on the misdirection of modern hunt seat style). For our more advanced students instead of going to shows we regularly go on field trips around the state, including but not limited to: hunter paces, rugged trails, team penning practices, barrel races, and clinics. We even started a new tournament series as well as a distance riding course to provide more interesting and creative opportunities. 

All of our students, young and old, are expected to learn on the ground skills as well: form and function of tack for all disciplines, general horse care, loading and unloading horses from trailers, grooming and bathing, lameness and first aid, equine diseases and medical standards, and how to train and school horses.

Instructors at our facility are expected to be approachable, fun, positive and creative. An upbeat and energetic demeanor is mandatory. All instructors, with the supervision of the head instructor, are also required to manage their own lesson schedule of students assigned to them, communicating continually about resource availability at the barn and understanding how their lessons integrate into the "big picture" for the stables and horses. 

Open-mindedness is a must as well as the ability to solve problems for both the horses and riders and demonstrate solutions without ever blaming the horse. Instructors are also expected to know, school and ride the horses that they teach with and it is our policy that an individual may never teach others on a horse that they themselves have never ridden.

The head instructor would not only be expected to teach a majority of the students at our stables but to coordinate and schedule the other instructors and their students and to insure a cohesive curriculum between instructors.

For more information about our stables, see

Instructors can set their own hours of availability. Should expect to be available in afternoons, evenings and weekends as that is high traffic times for student lesson requests.
10-30 hours a week

Instruction paid on a commission of $8 per student per lesson (20-40 students per week in group and private lessons)

Base pay to head instructor for coordination and management (5-15 hours per week) of $200

- Access to 15+ horses to ride and school
- Tack and equipment provides
- INSURANCE COVERAGE for all lessons instructed on our facilities
- Online student coordination system

Extensive experience with horses
Advanced riding skills and ability to communicate these skills to others
Experience schooling and training horses and working with young horses
Ability to self-manage
Confident and competent at coordinating schedules
Must be able to communicate clearly, audibly and assertively
Creativity and flexibility. Open-mindedness is a must.
Must use email and be prompt and clear with communications

CPR and First Aid Certified
A sense of direction on trail

Instructing lessons in the following areas: Walk/Trot Beginners; Western Recreational Riding; English Recreational Riding; Hunt Seat/Jumping; Barrel Racing; Obstacles; General Horsemanship; Independent Trail Riding; Dressage.
Lessons are taught to youth (age 5 and up), novice adults, and mature adults
Coordinate Instructor Schedule
Book New and Existing Student Lessons and Reschedule Lessons
Act as Student and Parent Point of Contact
Reserve Arena Time Notify Instructors of Trail Schedule and Indoor Arena Availability
Reserve Horses for Lessons
Monitor the Schooling Reports
Assist with camp riding lesson program
Manage the FrontDeskHQ Scheduling Software via mobile app or online: Student Profile Note Updates, Schedule, Attendance, Cancellations, No-Show Fee Collection

Lessons are scheduled based on the student and instructor's schedule and scheduling is flexible, however routine.
All lessons would be booked by Painted Bar Stables with communication between the stables and the instructor, so as to coordinate the use of the horse with the lesson program and the trail riding program.

If you are interested, please submit a letter, references AND resume to erika @ Extensive equine experience is required and applications without resumes will be disregarded.

This is an amazing opportunity for an instructor to have a stable work space with horses, tack, scheduling system and insurance provided. Pay would be based on a per student taught commission with a base pay for student and horse management, as well as office work. 

What this means: we currently teach 62 students in group and private lessons lee week (22 actually lessons per week) and coordinate lessons (4-5 hours) and weekly commission pay could exceed $480 per week.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Equine Dentistry: The Hook

For years I have had our equine dentist, Sasha Kone, out to our stables to touch base with new horses. She's usually the first healthcare professional I call other than the farrier! Jello, however, missed her initial visit because of the stitches she had in her mouth after her accident this fall that prevented us from doing the dental exam.

Over the months we had her we noticed that she had a number of behavioral issues:
  • head shy on one side
  • tense and anxious about giving to the bit
  • difficulty bending
  • not reacting as expected to the bit
  • very slow eating
A lot of these behaviors just didn't make sense in terms of who Jello is as a horse. She is way to polite, endearing and willing to assume that they were the result of her just being a jerk!

During her last dental appointment we found out why! Both sides of her mouth were ulcerated and she had terrible hooks on both sides of her mouth.

Rostral hooks are the overgrowth of the front premolars (1/6 or 2/6 tooth). The hooks are caused by discrepancies in the length and position of  the upper jaw (maxilla) and the lower jaw (mandible). When they do not match perfectly, hooks develop. Often, if there is a rostral hook (up in the front, there is a caudal hook (or ramp) that develops in the back of the mouth as well.

Sometimes it isn't the horses conformation, but simply the height at which the horse is fed that causes the mandible and maxilla to be misaligned. If the horse eats off of the ground, then all of the teeth are in the natural position. When a horse is fed up higher, as seen in a lot of show barns using hay feeders, the mandible shifts back, causing the teeth to grid out of occlusion and cause the rostral hooks and caudal hooks.

When horses have hooks, the teeth can no longer grind against one another forward and back, causing the horses to have to chew up and down instead of in their natural griding pattern. It also presents a very large problem for horses needing to release their jaw to the bit, forcing their mouths open with bit pressure instead of allowing them to relax into the pressure of the bit.

Poor Jello!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


After a harsh winter, farm cat Bartholomew makes it to NYC for a trial run at the luxurious apartment life. 

Bartholomew is a stray that took up residence at Painted Bar Stable last summer. He's not the usual barn cat: friendly, sweet, kind and peaceful. But moreover: he is declawed!

This winter was tough on the poor booger. Unable to catch mice and climb into the best places, winter wore on him. We tried to feed him the best we could, but the lanky and naturally thin guy kept losing weight. 

Eventually, we found out that he's also litter trained and we decided he needed a house to live in. Unfortunately, indoor cat Tiger disagreed so Bart couldn't move inside. 

Today Bart made it to NYC to live with my cat obsessed sister in Brooklyn and her three-legged and lonely cat Wayne. 

Here's hoping the best!!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Parrot Mouth 2: an ongoing observation of Apollonia

Everyone will remember the story of Apollonia from December? If not be sure to CLICK HERE to visit our other blog post about Apple's first dentist appointment to catch up on the story before reading more!

For comparative reasons we are including the photo of Apple's first appointment in December 2013 for comparison. Each photos includes:
PHOTO 1) Natural incisor alignment before the appointment.
PHOTO 2) Incisor alignment after the molar angle has been treated.
PHOTO 3) Incisor alignment after the final stage of the appointment.
Apollonia: progress at 1st dentist appointment (age 7 months, 1 week)
Visit 1: December 2013 (Age 7 Months)
Visit 2: March 2014 (Age 10 Months)
Since Apple's first appointment, as we expected her teeth returned to their natural state and her parrot mouth was again evident three months later. This is because the changes that we made to her mouth in December were not structural changes to her bone structure, but just changes in the angles of her teeth causing her jaw to lay in a different position. As the teeth grew and wore, the changes that we made were slowly erased and the teeth again started to fall into their position that shows the overbite.

Not to mention, because of growth spurts that cause the head and jaw to grow at differing paces, Apple's parrot mouth and may continue to enlarge and lessen as she ages. Bone growth in the skull of horses continues for a longer time than much of the rest of the skeletal structure, particularly in the maxilla and jawbone which house the developing and erupting teeth. While most of the growth plates in the distal parts of the limbs (below the knee and hock) are typically fused by age two, the fusion of the higher up joins and vertebral physes, as well as bone growth in the skull, can continue until about age six. For more information about bone growth, see this article by Deb Bennett:

As shown, this process is not meant to "fix" Apple but to help her live a more normal and comfortable life. It is a continual process that will need to be sustained throughout her entire life. Our goal is to simply make these changes sustain longer between each visit.  

Using similar techniques as last time, you can see that we were again able to give Apple some occulsion - meaning that the incisors touch. This will help her considerably with eating and give her the ability to have at least some wear on her front incisors which is very important to her dental health. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Fever: It's all About the Babies

Spring is in the air! In addition to the start of a new warm-weather trail riding season, in our barn that means two things: breeding and babies! This month we are going to take a closer look at breeding. Next month in anticipation of the foals expected at our farm this spring we will dive into babies.
BREEDING SEASON: It’s all about the ladies
Every spring the horses come back alive after the long winter. Reproduction is the strongest instinct and drive that horses have, even to the point that it takes precedence over eating
Mares are seasonally polyestrous, which means that they cycle (have hormone estrous cycles) many times per year (poly) but only during a breeding season (seasonally). Mares have a natural breeding season that is triggered by the increasing daylight in the spring. The light stimulates the receptors in the brain to produce reproductive hormones. These hormones are what control the regular periods of “heat,” or estrous in the mares. These cycles will continue throughout the summer and cease during the autumn as the days get shorter again.
The estrous cycles mares go through consist of days in which the mare will show estrus and be able to become pregnant, and days in which she will be in diestrus. While there is a lot of variation on the length of each cycle, most mares average 21 days from ovulation to ovulation. It takes several days for most egg follicles to mature and during most of this time the mare is not receptive to breeding. This time between heat cycles lasts on average 16 days. Once enough follicle growth occurs, a mare will start to show signs of heat for 3 to 8 days (on average 4-5). It is towards the last day of heat that the mare actually ovulates and therefore the best chance of breeding is on the last day of the heat.
Each mare is different about how they express their hormones. Other than showing obvious interest in stallions there are many signs that help you to tell if a mare is in heat.
  • Holding their tail elevated
  • “Winking” – opening and closing the lops of the vulva
  • “Squirting” of urine and mucus
  • Squatting
  • Lowered activity and seemingly stubborn behavior.
  • Impatient, anxious or preoccupied with something other than what you are doing with her.
  • Grouchy or downright mean (don’t judge ladies, I’ve seen many of you around the barn!)
While mares cycle through their heats in a regular pattern, veterinary therapies are also available to alter a mare’s estrous cycle once they are in season. Why would you want to alter a mare’s estrous cycle?
  • SAFETY: Some mares do not show their heats as clearly as others. Mares will only be receptive to the stallion and allow him to mount when they are in heat. Some mares may be in heat but not display any signs, causing breeders to miss the window for covering them. Other mares may be very flirtatious, showing all the signs, but not actually be in heat and therefore not being tolerant of the stallion mounting – which can be dangerous, particularly for the stallion.
  • LIVE COVER: Often, breeding is not done at home, meaning that the mare needs to be shipped off to another farm where the stallion lives. Veterinary therapies ensure that the mare will arrive ready to breed, so as to make the most use of the time the mare spends away from home and to save money on mare care fees during breeding.
  • ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION: Timing is everything when using AI technologies. Once collected from the stallion, semen only has a short window that it can survive until being implanted in the mare. Ensuring the mare’s receptiveness is essential to the timing of the AI process.
Because light stimulates the heat cycles, it is possible to begin the breeding season earlier by artificially increasing the amount of light (i.e. – using electric lights in a stable). In order to work, lighting programs need to start 60 to 90 days before breeding and must be consistent, regular and controlled. Missing severally days in a row, just as leaving lights on 24 hours a day, could negate the effect. Most mares are put “under lights” for 16 hours of totally light perception per day. Why would you want to start the breeding season earlier?
  • INDUSTRY STANDARDS: The thoroughbred racing industry tries to produce foals as near as they can to January 1st (the official birthday of all thoroughbred race horses) as to ensure that the horse will be as mature as possible when it comes time to train and race.
  • FUTURITIES: Many futurity horses are bred as early in the season as possible to try to give the foal as much time as possible to mature so that by the fall the foal will be halter broke, shed its baby coat and be ready for the fall halter futurity competitions.
  • WORKING MOM: Competition mares may be bred early in order to ensure that they can compete throughout their early pregnancy and be given enough time after foaling to be brought back into training for competition the following year.
The most ideal conditions for foaling in most places in the United States are between May and July. This is when the most grass is available to help the mare’s milk supply and the temperatures are warm and comfortable for the foal.
A normal pregnancy in horses lasts roughly 11 months – around 340 days. As a result, most mares that aim at the natural birthing period are bred between June and August. It is common for mares to carry their foals a couple weeks longer, and on rare occasion for foals to be carried three to four weeks over time. Typically colts tend to be carried longer than fillies.
While stallions also have a seasonal cycle in regard to their fertility, they are “on” virtually all of the time and ready and able to breed whenever there is a receptive mare. Because mare receptivity and fertility dictates breeding, stallions must be on call at all times to play their supporting role in the mating game.
Ironically, however, they are much easier to shut “off” than mares. Properly managed stallions, such as Sierra at Painted Bar Stables, will always be able to shut down and focus when not being required to breed. Most stallions will never attempt to breed a mare that is not in season. They may tentatively test the waters, but if the mare indicates that she is not interested they back right off. This “off switch” actually makes the stallions more easily trainable with regard to expressing their sexual behavior than mares, who are “off” part of the time and almost irresistibly “on” when their hormones are dictating them.
When you breed horses it is called “covering” a mare. In the horse world, there is nothing inherently private or intimate about breeding. To horses it’s just an important job that they take very seriously. Neither mares nor stallions are monogamous. While they do display preferences for individuals or “types” of individuals, copulation is not a representation of love but of worthiness. The mare’s goal is to find the strongest and most worthy stallion; the stallion’s job is to find as many mares willing to mate with him.
Types of breeding practices:
  • “Live cover” is the practice of having a mare mounted in person by a stallion. Typically the mare would be boarded at the stud’s barn of residence. While there, to determine the mare’s heat cycle she is “teased,” a practice of bringing a stallion that will or will not breed to her and presenting him to her over a barrier. When teasing, the handler looks at the reactions of the mare and the stallion (hostile, passive, attentive, displaying heat, etc…). A mare that is in heat will generally tolerate a teaser and may present herself to him, holding her tail to the side.

    There are two methods for live cover: hand-held and pasture breeding. Both are exactly what they seem: hand-held breeding means that both the mare and the stallion are held by handlers on the ground with lead lines. In pasture breeding the mare is turned out in a pasture with the stallion several days to breed naturally. Hand-held is generally preferred, as it provides a cleaner environment and more opportunities for breeders to witness and ensure that the mare was covered and also places the handlers in a position to remove the horses from one another should they attempt to kick or bite.

    Some registries, such as The Jockey Club that registers the thoroughbred industry in the United States, requires all registered foals to be bred through live cover to guarantee parentage and avoid fraud.
  • Artificial insemination is becoming increasingly popular as technology advances. Nowadays, AI has similar conception rate to live cover, but has several distinct advantages:
    • The mare and stallion never have to meet, reducing breeding accidents such as a mare kicking a stallion.
    • AI opens up the nation and the world to trans-national and international breeding, as semen can be shipped across continents to mares that would otherwise be unable to breed to a particular stallion.
    • A mare does not have to travel to the stallion, reducing the stress load for the mare and also making it easier to breed a mare that may have a foal at her side.
    • Because of AI collection, one stallion is able to breed to more mares as the ejaculate may be split between mares.
    • Frozen semen may be stored and used to breed mares even after the stallion is dead, allowing the lines to continue.
However, this does not mean that artificial insemination is without its difficulties. The first rule of semen collection is that everything kills semen – yes, everything. Even water kills semen. There are multiple fluids that are on the market to feed and nurture semen as it is stored, shipped and used for the breeding and it is important to find out exactly which one works best with the particular chemistry of each stallion.

Even when stored properly there is still difficulty. When using cooled semen, there is a small window of time that the semen can survive before it must be placed inside a mare requiring overnight shipping and tightly aligned windows for collection and the mare coming in heat. While frozen semen is becoming more and more popular because of longevity and ease, the semen of some stallions does not freeze well.

In order to have semen available to use for artificial insemination, a stallion is usually trained to mount a phantom mare although a live mare may be used. This process can be difficult for stallions to learn as it requires them to do something non-instinctual. To learn more about the phantom training process and to see how we taught Sierra to mount the phantom at Cornell University go to our previous blog post!
BREEDING CANDIDATES: Which horses to use
Fillies become sexually mature around 18 months old. While, in theory, they could foal as two-year olds, they are still growing at this age. Pregnancy takes a lot out of the mare in terms of nutrition and stress and could hinder the growth of a still maturing mare. As a result, most mares are not bred intentionally until they are four years of age (to foal at five years). Mares often can go on breeding until late in life and suffer no ill effects from it, especially if they have been bred regularly throughout their life. However, it can be more difficult to get an old mare pregnant for the first time late in life.
With colts, the decision is much more important: it’s not about when to breed, but whether to breed at all. There are very few colts (home-bred or from first-rate lines) that are good enough to use as stallions. With so many first-rate stallions available commercially, it is far better to use one of these for many reasons:
  • Because stallions will over time produce more progeny than any one mare, it is even more important that the stallion be worthy of the task: no conformation defects, genetically free of disease, and moreover a kind, calm and trainable personality. Few horses can claim to have all of these assets.
  • Young colts are difficult to handle and a probably better gelded, unless there is a specific reason for not doing so. Both colts and stallions require expert handling with the sort of skills that is ordinarily available only on studs. It is difficult, if not actually dangerous, for amateurs and is not to be recommended.
  • There’s a liability in owning a stallion that vastly outweighs that of any other horse. Because stallions are always “on” if a mare is willing, a loose stallion can be a huge liability for any stable resulting in damage and unwanted pregnancies. Beyond that, the presence of a stallion can be of great disruption to other horses causing unforeseen liabilities that come from beyond the reach of the stallion himself.
CHOOSING THE COMBO: Matching mares and stallions
The irony is that just because you have two great horses does not mean that they will make a good pair. Unfortunately there is no simple answer to which horses make a good match. The goal of any breeding is to have parents that complement one another. Factors to consider:
  • Function: What do you plan to do with the foal once you have it? This is the most important question to ask and needs to be answered and taken into consideration when evaluating the conformation and personality of any breeding sires and dams. Form to function is the backbone to understanding biomechanics.
  • Future Breeding: Will you plan on breeding the foal? It may be important to look at bloodlines and registries needed to make your foal a good breeding candidate.
  • Genetics: There are many genetic diseases that horses only display in homozygous form – meaning that both the stallion and the mare could be carriers. Knowing both a mare’s and a stallion’s genetics can ensure a healthy foal.
  • Color: Color should always be the least important factor when breeding, however if all other factors fit, then it doesn’t hurt to look at what genetic possibilities there are for color!
As with anything, it is important to make a list of the horse’s strengths and weaknesses. Horses that share weaknesses should probably not be matched together. You want to make sure that the stallion will improve on the mare’s weak points and complement her type. Complementing is key; breeding together horses that are on extremes of a spectrum can also cause a variety of issues as well. For instance, if a mare has a very large and blocky head, it may not actually be a good idea to breed her to a stallion with a very small head because the result could not be an average, but a mix and match of features.
BABY IN THE OVEN: While the mare is pregnant
Time passes quickly once the mare is in foal. Throughout the pregnancy there are a couple key landmarks:
  • Month 5, 7 and 9: the mare receives a rhinopneumonitis vaccine to help prevent miscarriage.
  • Month 9-10: the mare should be vaccinated for tetanus, eastern and western encephalomyelitis, influenza, west nile and rabies. Vaccinating a pregnant mare is not only important to maintain her health, but also to provide protection for the foal once it is born. The horse does not transfer antibodies to the foal from the maternal blood supply during pregnancy; however, a mare will produce very thick milk called colostrums for the foal to drink immediately after birth. Colostrum from a properly vaccinated mare contains antibodies that will provide the foal with protection and immunity against diseases.
Other than that, nothing really changes that much until the end of the pregnancy. While the mare may need slightly more food, they should be kept at their usual weight. If the mare has inadequate feed, nutrients and water the foal may be aborted or miscarried because of stress on the mare’s system. Conversely, a fat mare is more likely to produce a foal with angular leg deformities and she will be much more prone to difficulty foaling.
Not only can you still ride mares while they are pregnant, riding can be an important component to the care of a pregnant mare. Many vets advocate for riding a pregnant mare up until the last month of pregnancy as it has health benefits for both the mare and the foal. Strong, healthy, physically fit mares will give birth to strong and healthy babies. And, fact of the matter is that pregnant mares work very well – especially since they will not be experiencing the ups and downs of being in heat.
That said, there are some important things to keep in mind while riding the pregnant mare:
  • Never add workload to a pregnant mare that was not in work prior to pregnancy.
  • As the pregnancy progresses the workload will diminish.
    • 4 Months: no more jumping
    • 7 Months: no more hard, collected work
  • As the belly grows she will lose some of her bending abilities.
  • The saddle that once fit her may start to not fit anymore, especially closer to the end of pregnancy. At the end of the term bareback pads or simply bareback can be a comfortable solution for both the mare and the rider.
BREEDING DECISIONS: to breed or not to breed?
The biggest decision is not only which mare and stallion to select to produce the exact foal, but if you are up to the task! While the horses don’t have many problems in breeding, it is advisable for novices to think twice before putting their mares in foal. Caring for a pregnant mare and being prepared for the needs of a foal isn’t for the faint of heart. Birthing and rearing a foal means extra work, and demands special facilities, skills and experience.
This is one of the reasons that we at Painted Bar Stables strongly support our custom foal program. The custom foal program allows individuals to choose one of our mares here at Painted Bar Stables to breed to our amazing stallion. We'll breed the mare, care for her and walk her through her pregnancy, deliver the baby and take care of the foal before it's weaned and sent home to you. By the time you get your baby it will be healthy, registered, halter trained and well handled and ready for you to help it grow into an amazing adult. You'll be welcome to participate the entire time through the process.