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.