Things To Do With Your Barn Buddies


We spend so much time at the barn, it’s like our home away from home and the people there are like our second family. So of course it is natural we will want to hang out outside of the barn as well.  But what to do? There are many horse-related activities that your barn can do as a group to help build cohesiveness and the team mentality.


Host a fun show.

Hosting a fun show at your barn is a great way to just relax and have fun with your horses with no pressure.  Think of creative games classes like musical cones, egg and spoon race, or an obstacle course.  Costume classes are always fun and can get even non-riders involved.  Also for the non-riders is an option of a “horseless horse show where the humans  act as the horse and jump over a course of small jumps in the fastest time.


Can’t ride? Watch!

When you can’t ride horses, watching others ride helps satisfy that craving. Luckily there are many productions out there that include horses. Check out Medieval times or Cavalia if they are touring in your area. Bonus: there are usually group discounts you can get on tickets.

Horse movies are also very popular so check with your local theatre to see what is playing.

Depending on the time of year, there may be some large horse shows taking place.  The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair   is a very popular choice for barn outings come November but in the summer Angelstone Tournaments  and Caledon Equestrian Park often have large grand prix classes (among other things) at their horse shows and admission is usually free!


If English riding is not your thing, Ontario has a few rodeo circuits that travel throughout the summer such as or If your barn is primarily an older crowd, a night at the races is a fun group activity (and who knows, you might win big!) Some tracks may have group offers/incentives such as presenting to the winners in the winner’s circle.



Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and meet other like-minded people.  It’s even better when it involves horses!  There are many therapeutic riding centres across the province that are always looking for volunteers to help out. The Donkey Sanctuary in Guelph is also a great organization to donate your time to (and who can resist a donkey face!)



Whether or not your barn has a lesson program, auditing clinics is a great way to supplement what you are already learning. Check the events listings on the London Horse Sports events page or Facebook groups such as Horse Shows and News in Southern Ontario to find out about clinics coming to your area.  If there is a particular clinician you would love to see, consider hosting one at your barn.  In addition to clinicians, industry professional may also be willing to come to your barn to give talks/demonstrations on various things such as nutrition, first aid, massage, and much more.


July 21, 2016 |

Horse Shows: Not Just For Riding


Horse shows are not just for showing off the skills of your and your horse. There are also many things that can be learned (and you don’t even have to be riding!) In fact, just looking around and watching at the horse show can help make you a better competitor in many ways.


Horse Show Tip #1: Judge the Judges

When watching from the sidelines, you can see how the different judges judge. As much as judges try to be as impartial as possible, they are still human and can be biased.  You can watch and see if a judge consistently places solid colour horses above the others, what sort of movement they prefer, if they prefer riders to take a bit of a risk in executing manoeuvres, or if they tend to only watch a certain side of the arena. You can get an idea of what preferences they have and whether to change your strategy or skip certain shows if you know your horse isn’t going to (more…)

July 14, 2016 |

Episode 27 – Eat Sleep Ride Repeat


Eat Sleep Ride Repeat is the brainchild of Canadian endurance rider Sarah Cuthbertson.  In 2014, Sarah was selected as the sole Canadian rider that year to race Mongolia’s wild horses 1000km across the Mongolian steppe.  She started the blog to not only allow others to read of her adventures leading up to and during the race, she was fundraising as well to help offset the approximately (more…)

July 10, 2016 |

How To Take The Perfect Horse Selfie

horse selfie

Taking a good selfie is hard. It’s even harder when you’re trying to include your 1000 pound partner with a mind of their own! Here are some tips and tricks to master that perfect picture to post on social media.


There’s a reason some of the best selfies are taken in the car  – natural, unfiltered light, no backlighting (can make you look washed out if not done quite right), main light source coming from front. “Walls” of the car shadow either side of face adding depth to the lighting. Because it is nearly impossible to fit a horse in a car, you can get a similar effect in a door entrance or barn aisle. (more…)

July 6, 2016 |

Fireworks and Horses


As much fun as Canada Day fireworks celebrations can be, it can be particularly terrifying for horses.  If you are worried about how your horses will react, there are some precautions you can take to (hopefully) keep everyone safe.

Try to make sure fireworks aren’t set off near your horse’s field or stable. DO a check to see if there are plans for local displays, and tell neighbours and local firework display organisers that there are horses nearby so they can make sure fireworks are set off well away from (more…)

June 30, 2016 |

Summer Reading List for Equestrians


Whether you’re on vacation relaxing on the beach or killing time in between classes at the horse show, here is a reading list of horse-themed novels to keep you occupied.  If you read anything on this list, feel free to send us your review of the book! (Book summaries are from

The Red Pony – John Steinbeck

Raised on a ranch in northern California, Jody is well-schooled in the hard work and demands of a rancher’s life. He is used to the way of horses, too; but nothing has prepared him for the special connection he will forge with Gabilan, a hot-tempered pony his father gives him. With Billy Buck, the hired hand, Jody tends and trains his horse, restlessly anticipating the moment he will sit high upon Gabilan’s saddle. But when Gabilan falls ill, Jody discovers there are still lessons he must learn about the ways of nature and, particularly, the ways of man.


Riders – Jilly Cooper

Set against the glorious Cotswold countryside and the playgrounds of the world, Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles, Riders, Rivals, Polo, The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, Appassionata and Score!, offer an intoxicating blend of skulduggery, swooning romance, sexual adventure and hilarious high jinks.

Riders, the first and steamiest in the series, takes the lid off international showjumping, a sport where the brave horses are almost human, but the humans behave like animals.

The brooding hero, gypsy Jake Lovell, under whose magic hands the most difficult horse or woman becomes biddable, is driven to the top by his loathing of the beautiful bounder and darling of the show ring, Rupert Campbell-Black. Having filched each other’s horses, and fought and fornicated their way around the capitals of Europe, the feud between the two men finally erupts with devastating consequences during the Los Angeles Olympics.


Summer of the Redeemers, by Carolyn Haines

Along with the sweltering heat of the Mississippi pine barrens, the summer of 1963 brings intruders to Kali Oka Road: The Blood of the Redeemer churchers, members of a secretive religious sect, and Nadine Andrews, a single woman of marrying age more interested in her horses than starting a family.

Both threaten the predictable sameness of this rural, tightly knit community. And both provide irresistible temptation for thirteen-year-old Bekkah Rich, who is willing to risk hell fire in her efforts to spy on the newcomers.

But then her best friend’s baby sister disappears, surrounding Bekkah in a web of kidnapping and murder. Suddenly, summertime antics become deadly serious, and those who were once a curiosity are now tainted with evil.


Riding Lessons – Sara Gruen

As a world-class equestrian and Olympic contender, Annemarie Zimmer lived for the thrill of flight atop a strong, graceful animal. Then, at eighteen, a tragic accident destroyed her riding career and Harry, the beautiful horse she cherished. Now, twenty years later, Annemarie is coming home to her dying father’s New Hampshire horse farm. Jobless and abandoned, she is bringing her troubled teenage daughter to this place of pain and memory, where ghosts of an unresolved youth still haunt the fields and stables—and where hope lives in the eyes of the handsome, gentle veterinarian Annemarie loved as a girl and in the seductive allure of a trainer with a magic touch.

But everything will change yet again with one glimpse of a white striped gelding startlingly similar to the one Annemarie lost in another lifetime. And an obsession is born that could shatter her fragile world.


Trail of Secrets – Laura Wolfe

Spending three weeks of her summer at the elite Foxwoode Riding Academy in northern Michigan should have been one of the happiest times of sixteen year-old Brynlei’s life. But from the moment Brynlei arrives at Foxwoode, she can’t shake the feeling she’s being watched.

Then she hears the story of a girl who vanished on a trail ride four years earlier. While the other girls laugh over the story of the dead girl who haunts Foxwoode, Brynlei senses that the girl—or her ghost—may be lurking in the shadows.

Brynlei’s quest to reveal the truth interferes with her plan to keep her head down and win Foxwoode’s coveted “Top Rider” award. Someone soon discovers Brynlei’s search for answers and will go to any length to stop her. As Brynlei begins to unravel the facts surrounding the missing girl’s disappearance, she is faced with an impossible choice. Will she protect a valuable secret? Or save a life?


The Perfect Distance – Kim Ablon Whitney

Seventeen-year-old Francie Martinez rides with one of the best equitation trainers in the country, and works as a groom to pay her way. For as long as she can remember, she’s dreamed of winning the Maclay finals in Madison Square Garden—the most prestigious horse event in the country for this age group—and now that it’s her last year to compete, the pressure is really on. But just when Francie needs to focus more than ever, the arrival of a new student at the barn upsets the careful balance she’s created for herself, and soon she’s not so sure if winning is really all that important, much less the point.


Borrowed Horses – Sian Griffiths

When her mother’s MS takes a turn for the worse, aspiring Olympian Joannie Edson moves back to Idaho with her aging horse to be closer to home and family. She has given up everything (career, romance) to pursue her goal of riding for the US Equestrian Team, but now, with no horse to ride and no money to buy or support a young prospect, she finds herself faced with a choice: should she take a chance on a relationship with the attractive stranger pursuing her, or invest her time in training her coach’s abused and violent mare? As she explores each option, Joannie finds that a fully lived life is much like the jumping courses she’s always ridden, every path bearing obstacles that she will have to clear to find her way forward.

Borrowed Horses is inspired by Griffiths’s love of northern Idaho, her experience working for the US Equestrian Team, and her devotion to Charlotte Brontë, whose novel Jane Eyre lends Edward Rochester’s plot line to this novel.


Boys Don’t Ride – Katharina Marcus

17-year-old Tull has loved horses ever since he can remember but as the son of a single mum with more pressing things to pay for than riding lessons he’s never got closer than stroking them over the fence. Until one day a chance encounter with the most unlikely of girls opens the door to his dream. The question is, is it still the same dream? And is he tough enough to prove he’s worth living it?


A Sunday Horse – Vicky Moon

Everyone is looking for that somewhat elusive special mount that will bring them fame and fortune in the Grand Prix ring, a horse for Sunday afternoon, a horse that can be found at the bargain rate of $1500 or more than $1 million. Following the US national horse show and Grand Prix jumping circuit, Vicky Moon starts in Palm Beach with the Wellington Winter Equestrian Festival, moves on to America’s oldest shows in Upperville, Virginia, and Devon, Pennsylvania, then to the Indio Circuit in California, to Long Island for the classy Hampton Classic, down to the prestigious Washington Horse Show, and finishing at the National Horse Show. Just like “Best in Show,” you’ll meet the riders, trainers, owners, judges, and the personalities such as “The Carrot Man,” “The Masseuse,” and the other fascinating characters who follow the horse show circuit. Big names and big money are all part of this intriguing world.


Horse People by Michael Korda

Bestselling author Michael Korda’s Horse People is the story — sometimes hilariously funny, sometimes sad and moving, always shrewdly observed — of a lifetime love affair with horses, and of the bonds that have linked humans with horses for more than ten thousand years. It is filled with intimate portraits of the kind of people, rich or poor, Eastern or Western, famous or humble, whose lives continue to revolve around the horse.

Korda is a terrific storyteller, and his book is intensely personal and seductive, a joy for everyone who loves horses. Even those who have never ridden will be happy to saddle up and follow him through the world of horses, horse people, and the riding life.


Horseplay: A Novel – Judy Reene Singer

When Judy Van Brunt finally decides to leave her cheating husband, she makes immediate plans to quit her teaching job, take the money she inherited from her mother, and run off, leaving a note on her husband’s pillow. There is only one problem: Where is she going?

During her weekly riding lesson, her instructor makes a suggestion just crazy enough to work—and before she knows it, Judy has a position as a groom at an exclusive North Carolina horse farm. There, she shares an apartment with three remarkable women who also work at the farm, and she puts in long hours caring for the horses in addition to learning the demanding sport of dressage from the farm’s owner, a former Olympic champion. Exhausted but fulfilled, she learns for herself that a horse in the barn is worth far more than a husband at home. Her housemates gladly supplement her education with lessons not found in the riding ring, such as how to avoid the farm’s snootier patrons and weed out unsavory suitors. Her devotion to horses is far more rewarding than her marriage ever was—after all, horses never lie or cheat, and even the most hot-blooded stallion won’t kick her when she’s down.

Nevertheless, her new life doesn’t keep her away from men entirely. She finds her early vow of chastity and cheeseburgers weakening as she is drawn to one especially eligible bachelor. But after a few escapades with studs of the two-legged variety, is she really ready to be with someone?

Set against the alternately glamorous and grimy world of competitive horse shows, Horseplay is a jubilant ride.


Eighty-Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts

Harry de Leyer first saw the horse he would name Snowman on a truck bound for the slaughterhouse. The recent Dutch immigrant recognized the spark in the eye of the beaten-up nag and bought him for eighty dollars. On Harry’s modest farm on Long Island, he ultimately taught Snowman how to fly. Here is the dramatic and inspiring rise to stardom of an unlikely duo. One show at a time, against extraordinary odds and some of the most expensive thoroughbreds alive, the pair climbed to the very top of the sport of show jumping. Their story captured the heart of Cold War–era America—a story of unstoppable hope, inconceivable dreams, and the chance to have it all. They were the longest of all longshots—and their win was the stuff of legend.

reading list


June 29, 2016 |

Leasing – How Much Does A Horse Cost Part 2


Perhaps after reading our previous article (, you are still not quite sure if buying a horse is right for you.  Lucky for you, there are other options, such as leasing, that may better suit your needs.


Leasing is a great way to test out how ready you are for horse ownership. You are responsible for the day to day costs of the horse and you are the only one riding it, but since you do not have full ownership, you can return the horse upon the expiry of the contract and not be in a long term commitment. When leasing a horse, you will be required to pay a “lease fee” to the owner. This fee can vary from horse to horse but is generally a percentage of what the purchase price would be. An example of a lease fee could be $4,000 a year on a $40,000 horse.  The biggest benefit to leasing is being about to ride a horse that you may not have been able to afford outright.  This can give you more riding experience or allow you to attend a show that you may not have otherwise been able to qualify for. If you situation changes and you can no longer commit to a lease, or would like a different horse (to help you move to a higher level), once your contract is up, you are free to move on.  You are not committed to the horse any longer than your contract specifies.  Leasing is also great for junior riders as they can move up on ponies to horses as they grow without having to go through the hassle of buying and selling every time they outgrow the horse.

In addition to the lease fee, you will also be required to pay boarding costs, lesson fees, and routine vet and farrier bills. Depending on what your contract states, you may also be responsible for things such as tack, supplements and showing costs as well.


Free Leasing

Free leasing is the exact same as regular leasing in that you are still responsible all of the day to day expenses except there isn’t a lease fee.  You are more likely to find free leases on greener (less skilled) horses. Owners may free lease their horse when they cannot commit the money or time to taking care of their horse but they would still like to retain ownership.

Similar to leasing a car, your contract is most likely to have a clause that the horse is returned in good condition.  If the horse is returned injured or has drastically lost weight, be prepared to pay for any veterinary care that may be required to bring the horse back to the way it was (if possible) when you first took it on lease.

Breeding Lease

There is also such a thing as a breeding lease. Mares are frequently loaned out as broodmares. The lessee agrees to look after the mare and in return will put the mare in foal and the foal subsequently becomes theirs. While it can be a way to get a quality foal out of a broodmare you may otherwise not have been able to afford to purchase, there are many potential issues that can pop up with this type of lease. What happens if the mare doesn’t conceive? What if she loses the foal or dies during labour? What if, mid-term, the mare is not being looked after and the owner has to take her back for her own welfare? Who ‘owns’ the foal?  The key thing here, like any lease, is to get everything in writing and consider all possible things that may happen during the course of the lease.


Stallion leases are possible as well.

June 26, 2016 |

How Much Does A Horse Cost?


One of the questions I most often hear from non-horse people is “How much does it cost to keep a horse?”  Horse ownership is a huge responsibility and like any large purchase, requires some thought and research. Hopefully this article will help you in making your decision and understanding the costs involved in horse ownership.

The Purchase

First things first, you need to come up with a budget.  The free horses are never actually free and may come with more issues than you bargained for. It is not fair to the horse to buy it, realize you can’t afford it, and then have to turn around and sell it. Make a list of what you absolutely need in a horse and what you can live without.  Talk about this with a trusted trainer or horse-savvy friend who can help keep you on the right path when you can’t take off your rose coloured glasses. Trainers/coaches are a great resource to help you find a horse due to their network and connections but ask ahead of time if they charge a commission fee and find out what that fee is. Also keep in mind the cost of gas as you drive around looking at horses. Try to plan to look at a horses in the same area around the same time to save some money.

Your first large expense before you even purchase the horse is the pre-purchase exam (or PPE), which usually runs around a few hundred dollars depending on what types/how many tests you want done.. The vet will perform a series of tests, xrays, ultrasounds, etc. to find out if the horse has any health or soundness issues. Generally these are used on high performance horses but don’t discount the PPE if you’re buying a horse just to pleasure ride on.  The time and money spent now could save you the heartache when you find out your horse is unable to do what you want it to due to a pre-existing health issue. If the horse doesn’t “pass” the PPE and you decide not to purchase it, don’t look at the cost of the exam as a waste of money. It would have been an even bigger waste to purchase the horse only to find out down the road that that your horse is unusable for what you wanted, or that you now have large maintenance costs in order to keep the horse comfortable.

If you purchased your horse in the United States, you will also have to consider paying for a Coggins test and health certificate (fees vary depending on vet).

Once you decide to purchase a horse, you are going to have to figure out how to get it home.  If you don’t already own a truck and trailer, you will have to hire someone. There is usually a hook up fee (can be anywhere from $25-$75 or more) plus a rate per mile. Keep this in mind if you plan on taking your horse to shows or events as well. If a friend offers to haul for you, keep in mind that trailering puts wear and tear on the truck and trailer as well as takes up their time, so offer to pay them comparably.



Are you going to keep your horse at home or are you going to board him out? Does your horse need a stall at night or is it going to live outside 24/7? There are many variables to consider when choosing a home for your horse.

The closer you are to a major city centre, the more expensive board is going to be. For example, in the GTA, full service indoor board can run anywhere from $400-over $1000 per month. Obviously the more amenities the barn has, the more you are going to pay. Consider whether or not you require an indoor arena, trailer parking, trails to ride on, grooms, lessons, etc.  Remember, just because a place looks fancy and expensive, doesn’t mean it is going to have the best care.

Other options are self care or pasture board.  These are more “no frills” options and you only pay for what you need but you may have to put in some more work. You will have to decide whether or not your time is worth the money you save. Also keep in mind hay, feed, bedding, vet and farrier appointments are usually your sole responsibility as well, unlike full boarding barns where they take care of this for you.


Standard veterinarian expenses include vaccinations, dental checkups and dewormer. You should also consider having a “rainy day” fund in the event your horse decides to injure himself or needs veterinary attention. There is lots of variation on cost here depending on your area and what you require (a horse that travels a lot will need more vaccinations than one that stays at home). Expect to spend roughly $500 annually on standard veterinary procedures.


Depending on your horse and the type of work he will be doing, your farrier costs will vary.  Approximately every 6-8 weeks, your horse will need to see the farrier for at least a trim. Trims can run anywhere roughly from $25-$60. If your horse requires shoes, expect to spend around $200-$400 each time depending on whether your horse requires shoes on just the front feet or all four and whether or not shoes from the previous visit can be reused or not.


Tack and Equipment

Looking at a tack store catalogue is the easiest way to estimate your equipment expenses. Tack swaps, Facebook groups, Kijiji, and keeping an eye out for sales are the best ways to save some money. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for so expect a cheap piece of equipment to not last as long as its slightly pricier counterpart.

Other Expenses

Other things that are not necessarily necessary but are out there for you to consider include the cost of lessons, showing, clinics, supplements, insurance, equine massage or chiropractor, saddle fitter, and discipline-specific equipment (jumps, barrels, extreme cowboy obstacles).



Don’t let the costs of horse ownership turn you off of being involved with horses. Take the time to do your research and create a budget (and stick to it!) There are ways to have a horse, and keep it happy and healthy without spending a fortune.  If you are not quite ready to dive into buying a horse just yet, check out one of our previous articles on different options available as an alternative to buying.

Are you ready for horse ownership?

June 22, 2016 |

Horse Trailer Tips


Owning your own truck and trailer is expensive but it can be freeing. Imagine being able to load up at any time and go ride with friends or knowing you have the means to get your horse to safety in an emergency situation.  Here are some tips to keep in mind when utilizing your trailer:



  1. Just because you don’t own a horse trailer doesn’t mean your horse shouldn’t load easily just in case you need to take them to an equine hospital or evacuate an area.
  2. If possible, carry two spare tires for your horse trailer and a trailer jack (and know how to use them!)
  3. Special trailer tires, not passenger car or light truck tires, should be used. An ST tire has about 10 percent more load capacity than an equivalent LT tire and nearly 40 percent more than a P tire when each is filled to its maximum PSI rating.
  4. Check to ensure that your ball hitch is the right size for your trailer. The last thing you want is for your trailer to become unhitched from your truck!
  5. If you feed hay in transit, make sure it’s not dusty.
  6. Get a service/safety performed least once a year—checking lights, brakes, suspension and floor. Check with the MTO on their regulations as the annual safety may be mandatory for your rig.
  7. The wheel bearings will need servicing roughly every 12,000 miles or once a year, whichever comes first.
  8. Give your rig a thorough once-over the day before a trip or show. Pay close attention to your tire inflation and sidewall wear.
  9. Get in the habit that before every trip, you check trailer tire pressure. truck tire pressure, along with the oil and fluids.
  10. A head bumper and shipping boots/wraps are advised but know how to apply them properly.
  11. Double check that your hitch, brakes and lights are connected correctly. Cross your safety chains for extra security.
  12. Chock your wheels whenever your trailer is parked. If you can park your trailer on a hard surface (such as concrete) versus grass, your tires will be better off.
  13. Once your horse is loaded, physically handle each latch to ensure that all doors are secure before you drive off.
  14. Allow plenty of distance between you and the cars in front of you. Remember that it takes longer to stop when towing a trailer and drivers may cut you off.
  15. It’s not advisable to unload your horses on the side of a road. If you get a flat tire, try to drive slowly to the nearest service station if it is safe to do so.
  16. Never load your trailer with horses unless it is hooked up to a vehicle.
  17. Research roadside assistance programs to make sure your rig and horses will be taken care of in the event of a breakdown. CAA does not handle horse trailers with a horse on them, although you can ask them for contact information for nearby towing companies that can help you. USRider is one plan designed specifically for equestrian motorists and can be utilized in Canada (although, they may not cover all areas).
  18. Just because your tow vehicle can pull your trailer doesn’t mean it should: Check its ratings to ensure it can safely handle  the task.
  19. Always carry an equine first-aid kit. Other items that are good to have in case of an emergency are extra halters and lead ropes, a supply of water for your horse and extra hay/feed.
  20. Only haul the number of horses your trailer is designed to handle.
  21. Make sure drop down windows are screened so that your horse can’t get his head out, and road debris can’t get in. Note it is illegal in many parts to travel with the side windows down if there isn’t bars or a screen in place.
  22. If you’re traveling a long distance, stop roughly every four hours to give your horse a break; let him drop his head to the ground if he’s been tied and offer plenty of fresh water and hay.
  23. If you’re hauling your horse by himself in a two-horse straight-load trailer, always put him on the left side. It helps balance the trailer on roads that slope to the shoulder.
  24. Always clean out your trailer after each use to increase its life span and keep your horse’s environment sanitary. Check under mats before and after each ride as well to inspect for floor wear.
  25. Check ramp springs for rust and wear. It will take your horse a long time to trust ramps again if it breaks while he is standing on it.



June 16, 2016 |
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