December 15, 2017

Is Ground Work Really That Important?


Very often we hear the parents of our beginning students lament, “Why does my child spend so much time on the ground stuff? Don’t I pay you to teach them how to ride horses?”

At CRK Training Stable all students must learn to catch, lead, tie, groom, and saddle their school horse. They must also un-tack, groom and put the horse away. In the beginning of their riding careers, students often spend more time working with the horse on the ground than in the saddle. While we understand that this may not seem like what you signed up for, the ground work is a very important step to becoming an equestrian. Here’s why…

At CRK we teach horsemanship. Not just horse riding- Horsemanship. What is horsemanship? The definition is- Horsemanship- The art of riding, handling, and training horses. While riding is certainly part of horsemanship, it is not the only part. Handling and training is also part of the deal.

When do riders start training a horse? The very first time they step into that horse’s personal space. Every interaction a person has with a horse is affecting it’s training. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes not. We want our students to be good horse trainers and that begins on the ground.

Students learn mastery of the horse from the ground up. By entering the horses space, putting on the halter and leading the horse out of the stall, they are taking control of the horse. The mastery has begun or at least it should have. Grooming, saddling and bridling takes the mastery further.  Making the horse move over, turn, back up or stand in a certain spot all improves the control. These skills help the student better understand the horse and become comfortable around them. Students learn and take ownership of their role as the horse’s trainer/leader. Without that mastery, the student will never advance.

Students must learn how to handle the equipment which is also called tack.  They need to learn what it is called, how to put it on, how it works, and its uses. Since horses are large, horse tack is also large, long and heavy. Having students carry the saddles helps them develop the strength needed to put the saddles on the horse. The more they handle the tack, the better acquainted they will become with it. The better their understanding of tack, the better they will be able to use it.

Horses are living, breathing, thinking, feeling creatures. Just like us, they have good days and bad days.  Working with the horse on the ground gives the rider insight into that particular horse’s mood on that particular day. While working with the horse on the ground we can figure out if they are feeling lazy, crazy, mad, tired, hurt, bored or whatever. This is very helpful knowledge to have before we put our foot in a stirrup. If my horse refused to stand still in the cross-ties, pawing, moving side to side and the like, I might need to work some of the wiggles out before I hop on. If I’m dragging the horse out of the stall, and he stands, head drooped, leaning on the cross-ties, perhaps a crop or some spurs might be in order. Or, more likely, the horse is sick or injured and shouldn’t be ridden at all. I may even need to place a call to the vet. While grooming, I may encounter a cut or other sore spot that needs to be addressed. If the horse is flinching and moving away when I curry his back,  perhaps the saddle isn’t fitting well causing a sore back. That would be very helpful to know before I swing my leg over and place my behind on that tender area.  All these issues and more come to light from the ground.

Many lesson barns will groom and saddle your horse for you. You do pay extra for that service, even though you may not recognize it. Your lesson may only be 30 minutes instead of an hour, for the same fee. Or you will be required to “tip” the groom. Not only are you paying extra for this service, but you are short-changing your education. It may seem like a good idea at first, after all, it’s less work and all you have to do is ride.  But think about all the things you’ll miss out on. All the things you didn’t learn. And then what happens when you decide to lease or purchase a horse? You’ll have to learn those ground skills anyway.

So remember, the best programs always start on the ground. Horsemanship is so much more than just keeping a leg on each side. Allow yourself the time and opportunity to learn all you can. And choose a facility and instructors that will teach it to you.

  Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also an AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 35 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article and photos, in whole or on part, in any medium including but not limited to, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, etc. are reserved. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to



A Shot In The Dark

Every year horse owners are faced with many challenges to keeping their horses well and healthy. First in many owners mind is the cost. Therefore; some owners will not vaccinate their horses or will use vaccines purchased at the local feed store or online. I have done my own vaccinations in the past. However; I now have all my horses vaccinated by my veterinarian. I know he will have the latest information about what is going on in the area and will be able to give my horses the best chance of being protected from diseases. Plus, it gives him a chance to check each of my horses and answer any questions I may have about their care. It has improved my relationship with my vet and I know that being a good client over the years has entitled me to superior service, especially in an emergency.

Recently, I had the great pleasure of attending a meeting of our local riding club where my own vet, Dr. Treser, D.V.M was a speaker. The topic was common diseases and the routine vaccinations used to prevent them. Now I pride myself on keeping up on things, but even with my 30+ years of experience, I learned a thing or two. Here’s a synopsis of the talk.

Tetanus– Potentially fatal to horses and any horse can get it. They do not need to have contact with another horse or person to contract this disease. Any open wound can become infected with the bacteria because it is abundant in the horse’s environment. It can also be transmitted to humans, so owners have a risk as well. This disease is easily prevented by annual vaccinations.

Rabies– Rabies is now considered enough of a risk to horses that the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) considers it to be a core vaccination. This means that the AAEP recommends that every horse in the United States be vaccinated for Rabies. At U. C. Davis Vet School, rabies is more commonly presented in horses than any other animal. Rabies can also be transmitted to humans by simply being in the same area as an infected animal. Some humans have gotten rabies by breathing the same air or having a horse breathe into their face. Since the first symptoms of rabies are drooling and difficulty swallowing, owners will often check the horse’s mouth. This action may cause exposure by getting saliva in a cut or passing the airborne particles into the owner’s eyes or mouth.

Rabies in Southern California is most commonly transmitted by Mexican Brown Bats. Since bats fly at night, a horse owner would not know their horse has been bitten until symptoms appear. Then it is too late. Also, any humans who came in contact with that horse would have to undergo a rabies vaccination program to prevent them from contracting the disease. Rabies is preventable by annual vaccination.

West Nile– West Nile is a virus that affects the neurological system of horses and people. It is transmitted when a carrier animal, usually a bird such as a crow, is bitten by a mosquito and then it bites you or your horse. West Nile has been effectively controlled in California because most horses are now vaccinated twice per year.

Strangles– Strangles is a highly contagious disease caused by bacteria. It can be transmitted by direct contact from horse to horse, from the horse being placed in a stall where an infected horse has been, or from the hands, shoes, or clothing of a person who has had contact with a sick horse. The highly contagious nature of the disease can cause epidemic-like outbreaks at some stables. It is a nuisance disease that is rarely fatal in horses. Symptoms include abscesses that form under the jaw, fever, nasal discharge and loss of appetite. Strangles vaccines are intranasal, live vaccines that may cause a horse to contract a mild form of the disease. Most vets will recommend you vaccinate for strangles if there is an outbreak in your area.

Sleeping Sickness– This neurological disease takes several forms- Eastern, Western & Venezuelan. The disease is spread when a carrier animal, usually a bird such as a crow, is bitten by a mosquito and then it bites you or your horse. Vaccines exist for all forms, but it is best to contact your veterinary regarding which ones are necessary for your area. Sleeping Sickness or Encephalomyelitis is prevented with annual vaccinations.

 Rhinopneumonitis (Rhino)- This disease can take one of three forms or strains. The first one will make your horse sick with flu like symptoms, but not cause any serious problems. The second will cause abortion in pregnant mares, so they are vaccinated in the odd months of pregnancy (3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th) to prevent problems. The last strain- Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) – causes neurological problems and often death in horses. Some Rhino vaccines have been effective in real-life situations for EHV while others have no effect on the disease. Be sure to check with your vet to be sure you are getting the correct one. Rhino vaccines should be given at least every 6 months or up to 6 times per year depending on your horse’s exposure potential. A horse at a large facility where horses come and go to shows, rides, etc will have a higher exposure potential than a horse kept in a backyard that never leaves home.

   Influenza (Flu)- Influenza in horses is very similar to Flu in humans. There are various strains and most vaccines will cover the common strains. Flu is caused by a virus and will cause symptoms such as-lethagy, off feed, cough, fever and nasal discharge. Flu is not usually a big problem unless it happens the weekend of the big trail ride or show. Flu can be prevented by vaccinating at least 2 times per year or more if exposure warrants.

Potomac Horse Fever (PHF)- Because PHF is no longer a serious threat in our area, we no longer vaccinate for this disease. If your horse will be traveling to the mid-west or east coast, vaccination for PHF may be required.

There you have it, the information on common, preventable diseases and the vaccinations to prevent them. Remember your local feed store or vet catalog may sell you a vaccine, but they will not know which diseases are prevalent in your area or which strain of vaccine will work best for your individual situation. In all health matters regarding your horse, it is always best to consult your veterinarian. This article is for educational and entertainment purposes only and is not offering any medical advice.

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor, Clinic Instructor and an AQHA Professional Horsewoman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to

Happy Summer Solstice!

            Summer solstice. The longest day of the year. June 20th. However you put it, this a very important day in the life of your horse. Or at least your horse’s winter coat. Winter coat you say? Whatever are you talking about? It’s just the beginning of summer! The days are getting hotter. Horse don’t need a winter coat now. It’s nice to have them all in a short, sleek summer coat. They don’t sweat as easily. They look all pretty and shiny. It’s so easy to groom and bathe them. Why in the world would you be thinking about a winter coat now? Winter is months away!

            Summer Solstice, that’s why! Once summer solstice has passed, the days start getting shorter. The number of hours of daylight will get fewer and fewer right up until the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. What does this have to do with a horses winter coat? Everything!

            When the days begin to get shorter, mother nature signals our equine friends that winter is coming. It’s time to prepare. Mares will begin to lose their heat cycles and summer coats will begin to shed out. Once the short coat is loose, the longer winter coat will begin to grow in. This process usually takes a few months, but by the end of August they will be shedding in earnest. You might not notice because the hair is so short it’s easily missed. Not like the winter coat that covers the ground, clogs up drains and gives the birds lots of material for lining their nests. No, this short summer coat is just enough to mess up a brush or curry. But it’s happening all the same.

            So, what should you do, if anything? Well this depends on what you want in the way of a winter coat on your horse. If you don’t care about a heavy coat, do nothing and let nature take its course. By the end of September you should have a cute, fuzzy pasture buddy. However, if you want to thwart mother nature, now is the time to take action.

            As I stated above, the number of hours of daylight is what triggers the response to grow a new coat. Shorter days=shed & grow winter coat. Longer days=shed & grow summer coat. I know it’s not nice, but you can fool mother nature by putting your horse under lights.

 Here’s what you will need-

  1.  A two- bulb 4 ft. florescent light fixture for each 12 X 12 ft space. Indoors or covered works best.
  2. 2- Daylight light bulbs for each fixture. Must be daylight bulbs. Regular ones won’t work as well.
  3. A timer that can be set to turn the lights on and off.     

        How to begin-  

           Install the light fixture(s) in the stall. Be sure to take the horse out first! Add the light bulbs and plug in the timer. Make sure any cords, pull chains, etc. are out of reach of any and all critters.

            Set the timer so the lights are on equal to the summer solstice. Here is Southern California that’s about 14.5 hours. Check the sunrise/sunset times and set your timer accordingly. You can either have them come on at night before dark or early in the morning before the sun comes up. I have mine come on in the morning, because I never take the horses out at 4 am, but I often ride at 6 pm. The horse must be under natural or artificial lights equivalent to the longest day of the year. If you take the horse away from the lights for even a few days, they will start to shed out and grow a new coat.

            Make sure you reset the timer every few weeks. As the days get shorter you will need to have the lights come on earlier or stay on later. If you don’t keep up with it, the effects will end and you will have a fuzzy friend.

            Once winter has set in, be sure to blanket your horse with a good blanket and hood if necessary. You have taken away all their ability to keep themselves warm, so you must do it for them. If you can’t be available to put blankets on or take them off anytime during the day or night, best not to start them under lights in the first place. You can fool mother nature, but you have to be willing to take her place or your horse will suffer.

            Using lights this way will also keep your mare coming into heat year-round. This is great if you want to breed early in the year, but maybe not so great if she gets really mareish when in heat.  Also, if your horse is in a pipe corral or other type of stall where the light will spill over into the next stall, that horse will be affected as well.  If the neighbor doesn’t want their horse under lights, it’s best to move it elsewhere.

            If you need your horse to have a short, shiny coat year round- you can! Just remember it’s still lots of work, the work just changed. If you have any questions about blankets see my previous blog about blankets. Have a great winter! 

Oh, the weather outside is frightful…

            Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also an AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to

Summer Vacation Tips

It’s that time of year again. Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer! By now I’m sure you have all your vacation plans in order but have you forgotten anything? Or anyone? How about your horse? I know, he doesn’t get to go along, but who will be taking care of him?  A few years ago, I was going out of town for work and vacations. All together I was going to be gone for about 3 weeks and I didn’t have anyone at home to work my horse, KT. She was a little younger then and I didn’t trust her with just anyone. I made the decision to send her to my trainer friend for the month. She would receive some excellent training during my absence and would get to know a different place than the one she had lived at since the day she was born. I knew I wouldn’t have time to explain all her quirks and issues, plus who could possibly remember them all? So I made sure to write down all the information I felt the trainer would need.

If you are going out of town soon and leaving your horse behind, you can use this template as your guide.  That way you will be sure the caregiver has all the information they need before you leave.

Today’s Date May 22, 2012

Horses Name, age, breed, weight and height KT Tramps Lace Corset  aka “KT” or “Katie”, 5 yr. old, black & white, tobiano,  approx 16.1 hands, 1100 lbs., APHA/PtHA mare. You could include a copy of papers or a photo of your horse also.

Feed in all its forms, type and amounts-

Feed- AM- 1 flake (8 lbs) orchard or timothy grass hay + 1/2 flake (4-5 lbs) alfalfa. PM- 1 flake (8 lbs) Oat or three-way hay + 1/2 flake (4-5 lbs) alfalfa. For extra energy as needed- Feed 1-2  baggies COB-(corn, oats & barley) or decrease the grass and/or oat hay and increase the alfalfa. KT has been known to be food aggressive in the past, but has also been very well trained to eat carrots. She will do nearly anything equinely possible for peppermints.

HealthMy Vet- Dr. Great Vet – 714-555-3942
My Farrier- Mr. Wonder Shoer – 714- 555-1234
Health careHoof trim- 4/28/12 Vaccinations- WN, Rhino, Flu- 3/18/12,  WEE, EEE, Rhino, Flu, WN, Tetanus 10/11
Last de-wormer- Ivermectin  2/15/12
I authorize any vet care necessary including hospitalization and surgery. KT has no ongoing health issues that I am aware of and is not on any medication. Full health records are available from my vet. KT is currently barefoot. She does require trimming every 4-5 weeks. Insurance Info- Policy holder and number. Phone number of insurance carrier. or KT is not insured.

If they are going to be riding, give this info. If not, you could leave some of it out. You should always include any quirks that could pose a safety issue for anyone handling your horse. (See below) Remember, they may need to move or evacuate your horse, so be sure they know everything they need to in case of any emergency.

KT’s Quirks and Skills~

Tack & Equipment- Bridle & Bit- Smooth snaffle- Any bridle that fits well is fine.  Her bit is an offset D-ring snaffle with a sweet iron mouthpiece. She is fine with draw reins but finds them to be quite tasty and tries to partake often.  She has never been in a standing or running martingale.

Saddles, boots, etc. -She has been ridden both English and western and is fine either way. Red leather latigo straps will stain her white sides.  She is usually ridden in a full-quarter tree western. KT requires over-reach or bell boots as she will forge. Splint boots are recommended also. Don’t leave boots on while turned-out because she will remove them and enjoy them as a light snack. I usually ride her with a dressage whip. She has been ridden with English blunt spurs but, she is really not a fan. Use of western spurs with rowels will prompt her to assist you in dismounting immediately.

Blankets- I usually put blankets on over her head, but I’m the only one who has gotten it done without risk of personal injury.  She really hates blankets and has been known to bite so use of a halter and lead is a good idea. We don’t put a fly mask on her because she just takes it off, throws it to the ground and stomps on it. If an equine neighbor is willing to take those responsibilities off her hooves, she will happily surrender the offending mask as a sacrifice for the greater good of horsekind.

Basic Cues & What (I think) she knows-

KT clips, ties (cross ties or straight tie), bathes, trailers (Slant or straight load. You will need to lead her in. She will back out.), lunges, round-pens, etc. She has never been on a hot walker. She can be cinchy and will paw and move around when being saddled. We usually cinch her up in 2 or 3 steps and this helps.

Voice commands she knows- Words- “Walk”, “Trot”, “Canter”,  “Back” and “Whoa”, cluck for move, kiss for canter.  I try not to be too chatty while riding, but you know how it goes….

Under saddle KT is trained to – Walk, jog, trot, lope, canter, hand gallop, counter-canter on both leads and do simple lead changes.  She will also do- haunches in, shoulder in, leg yield (walk and trot only), side-pass, pivot on haunches and forehand both directions.  She is right hand (hoof) dominant and strongly prefers her right lead.

Of course, all this is in the arena. I don’t know how she will respond out on the trail. She tends to spook in place and doesn’t usually spin or run off. She has rarely bucked with a rider and has never reared. Bucking has only been in response to a disciplinary technique she found particularly oppressive.  She responds well to praise and loves to be scratched on her crest, withers and under her belly.  However, touching her udder will provoke kicking. At you. And her aim is pretty good. Just sayin’.

Our Contact Info-
Hotel California- 714-999-5555
We will be gone between 6/4 & 6/22 or whatever your time frame is.
My Name & Cell Phone #
People who can make decisions in my absence-
Mrs. Best Friend- Phone ##
Mr. Second Best Friend- Phone ##

Add what you wish done with your horse in your absence. You could also include what you don’t want your horse doing.

Desired skills for you to work on-

1.         Flying changes of lead both directions.

2.         Improve collection and head-set at lope on a loose rein.

3.         Trail riding.

4.         Increase suppleness and turning ability.

5.         Walking on water might come in handy to since she’s not fond of crossing streams!

Thanks, have fun and I hope you enjoy her as much as I do!


Be sure to sign it! Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg. Owner

What information do you leave your equine care givers? Please add your comments and hints below. Thanks and have a great summer!

               Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also an AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to

Shiny As A New Penny!

Shiny As A New Penny!

Should I Body Shave my Horse? This question was posed to me just the other day by a student. She owns a very fuzzy pony that she wants to get ready for the shows. Shows that are going to be starting in just a few short months. I understand why she would ask this question. Her pony, Tony, is the typical Thelwell pony. Short, stocky, and really hairy. Every time she rides him, poor Tony sweats up a storm. She spends hours walking him dry after each workout. Grooming him has become a nightmare (no pun intended). It is nearly impossible to keep Tony even slightly clean with all that hair. Plus, now that spring has sprung, Tony is shedding like crazy. It looks like someone laid down a chestnut blanket after each grooming session.  Bathing is out of the question unless his owner has a full day of sunshine to bathe, rinse and dry Tony before the cool of night sets in.

            So what’s a pony or horse owner to do? Shaving is simply not a possibility for Tony. His owner does not have the time or money to supply the needed blankets. So what should she do to get Tony ready for shows? The best chance she has of getting Tony show ring ready is this four-step process. But with the proper time and attention, Tony will be looking spiffy in a jiffy!

            First, It’s Elbow Grease Time! Tony the Pony needs comprehensive grooming each and every day. Twice a day is best, before and after his workouts. My school horses are always the first horses to shed out each year. Some are blanketed but most aren’t. However; they are groomed to within an inch of their life nearly every day. All my lesson student’s are required to groom before and after each ride. It is not uncommon for the school horses to be ridden 3-4 times a day. That leads up to 6-8 grooming sessions per horse-per day. Even those who have a really heavy coat will be slick and shiny by the end of March.  So, break out those curry’s, dandy brushes, rags and elbow grease. Tony needs a good grooming each and every day to get all the shedding hair off his body. It will also make his new summer coat grow in short and healthy.

            Second, let’s feed for a great coat! Tony will need a coat supplement. I like to begin feeding good quality coat supplements around late February-early March each year. My personal favorite is Nu-Image, but I’m sure there are plenty of others that will work as well. The proper supplement will give the horse the correct nutrients to grow a healthy, shiny, new summer coat. It will also help the hair grow in the proper color. This is especially important if your horse is black, palomino, buckskin or any color that is difficult to keep from fading. Once the coat is established, you may be able to discontinue feeding the supplement. I have found this method works well at keeping the coat looking excellent well into the summer without lots of added expense. Just doing those two things alone will make a considerable difference in your horse’s coat, but there is more you can do.

            On to step three- Cleanliness is next to Godliness– Bathing your horse will help keep the coat clean and free from stains. However; if you bathe your horse often, be careful of shampoos. If used too frequently, they can be drying to the coat. A dry coat is a dull coat. To keep the coat clean and shiny, rinse the horse with plain water after every workout, weather permitting. Once a week or so, bathe your horse with a mild horse shampoo like Corona or Orvus. Stay away from human shampoo or dish soaps. Both have detergents to remove oil. We want to get out the sweat and dirt, but keep the oil in our horse’s coat. I also reserve the whitening shampoos for the day before the show when my paints need to be really white. When the weather is too cold for a full rinse down, spot clean with warm water and a clean towel. This is really important when your horse is sweaty from a workout. If your horse has lots of white, especially on the legs, keep those areas treated with a product like ShowSheen or LaserSheen. This will help keep those white areas stain free. The same goes for white or light colored tails. Spray the tail after every shampoo to keep tangles and stains at bay. Also, keep the tail in a bag to keep it clean, prevent breakage and encourage growth. Of course, keeping your stall clean will help prevent the stains in the first place. Keep your “Tony” on clean bedding and remove manure as often as possible.

            Finally- Shun the Sun! The last thing that will help keep your horse’s coat in top-notch shape is sun protection. Keep your horse out of direct sunlight as much as possible. Strong sunlight will fade and dull any coat. If you don’t have appropriate shelter a day sheet or fly sheet will do the trick. Make sure the sheet covers the horse’s neck along with the body. If you can’t find one with a neck cover, consider a slinky-type hood as well. If heat is a problem in your area, be sure to buy covers in light colors and breathable material.

            If you follow these tips your horse should have a blindingly shiny coat this year.  We’d love to her what you do to make your horse look shiny and new every year.  Please feel free to share your comments and tips!

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also a registered AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted.


It Was The Best Of Times. It Was The Worst Of Times…

It Was The Best Of Times. It Was The Worst Of Times…

            With all the holiday rushing around your horse will often get put on the back burner. Between the shopping, cooking and picking up the kids time becomes a precious commodity. What should you do when you only have a few minutes to spend with your equine family member? Here are some ideas…

Scenario #1- Your faithful sidekick, Horatio-

            It’s a fine day weather-wise but you are running between appointments. With only 15 minutes to spend with your beloved gelding, Horatio, you get out your halter and lead and grab a hoof pick from your grooming kit. Go into his stall and take a look around. Make sure his droppings look normal, his water is clean and he has eaten all his breakfast. Next put on his halter, remove any clothing (fly masks, blankets, etc) then look him over carefully for any cuts or other issues. Clean his hooves, but save the complete grooming for a day you have more time. Now take your horse for a walk round the ranch, arena or round pen. Work on basic obedience such as stop, walk, trot, backing and turns. You can also do a little light lunging but don’t get him hot as you won’t have time to cool out properly. When time is up, return Horatio to the stall being sure to re-check his hooves. Give him a pat on the neck and a carrot and you are on your way!

Scenario #2- The Belle of the Ball-

            Today’s weather forecast is for rain. After you drop off the kids at school you have 15 minutes to check on “Belle” before your yoga class at the gym. As you pull into the driveway of the barn, the rain begins in earnest. You dash into the barn knowing the stalls are the only covered area on the ranch. Time to groom! Get out your halter, lead and grooming kit. Find a safe place in the stall to tie Belle or hold her. Start with your rubber curry and give her a through massage being careful not to rub too hard over bony areas like the knees, fetlocks, hocks, etc. Follow with your hard/dandy brush and soft/body brush being sure to work in the direction the hair lays. Brush out the mane and tail removing any shavings, dirt, hay and tangles you may find there. Next clean the hooves and apply hoof dressing if that is your routine. Finish with a wipe down using a soft towel spritzed with some fly spray or coat conditioner depending on the need of the day. When Belle is beautiful, do a quick check of the stall looking at droppings, water bucket and the overall condition of the stall. Send a short text message to the barn manager about the loose board above Belle’s feeder and you are off to yoga class. Just be sure to brush the shavings off your pants and change your shoes before you head into the gym!

Scenario #3- Self Serve Sassy-

            Its morning and you woke up late. You still have breakfast to make, kids to shuttle off to school, critters to be fed and get yourself off to work also. You keep Sassy Sally in your own backyard barn. Currently she is pounding on the stall door waiting to be served her breakfast. Normally you get up early enough to have plenty of time to spend with Sassy before the kids get up, but not today. At best you have 15 minutes to spend at the barn. What do you do? Pull on your boots and head outside. First grab Sassy’s morning ration of hay and grain. This will take very little time if you set it all up the night before, so it’s ready to go. Once Sassy has some feed she is kept busy while you enter the stall. Using a manure fork and muck tub remove all the manure and soiled bedding from the stall. Next, empty the remaining greenish water from her bucket and refill it with fresh water. Finally open the back stall door so Sassy can go out for the day. Put all your tools away, lock up the front stall door and head back to the house. Time to hit the shower and start the rest of your day.

            What is your scenario when you only have 15 minutes at the barn? What do you think is the most important thing to do for your equine buddy? Share your ideas.

            Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is an AQHA Professional Horseman, Certified Horsemanship Association(CHA) Master Instructor and CHA Clinic Instructor. Cheryl has been training horses, teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but all rights to this article are reserved.


Blow Hard

            As winter begins its usual course here in Southern California I am always asked how weather affects the horses. The cold days will cause our horses to kick up their heels some, but our winters are mild, no snow or freezing temperatures. Rain can be a problem, causing muddy stalls and wet arenas. Rain will cause us to cancel our riding plans for a few days but usually nothing more than that. Our stalls are all fully covered, so the horses don’t get wet. Our arena was carefully engineered so it drains well. It also has excellent footing that doesn’t get muddy. We are usually back to our normal riding schedule within 24 hours after the rain stops so not much of a problem there.  However; we do get some wind…
            Now when I say wind, I’m not talking about a little breeze here or there. We get winds that are so strong they have a name. The Santa Ana or Santana Winds. These winds are famous. They have caused wildfires so widespread they can be seen from space. They have many references in song, movies and television. The National Weather Service defines Santa Ana winds as:

“Strong down slope winds that blow through the mountain passes in southern California. These winds, which can easily exceed 40 mph, are warm and dry and can severely exacerbate brush or forest fires, especially under drought conditions.”

            These winds can and do affect the horses in a very negative way. It is the policy of CRK Training Stable to cancel all riding lessons during Santa Ana Wind conditions. While everyone understands why lessons are cancelled during the rain, wind is another matter. I often have clients show up for lessons while the wind howls around us. They just don’t understand what the wind does to the horses. Perhaps this will help you understand why the wind affects the horses in such a negative way.
            In the wild, horses are flight prey animals. Simply stated that means they run away so they don’t get eaten. Horses don’t hunt other animals, they get hunted. In order to survive they run or flee. Horses will only fight when they have no other choice. Flight or running away is always their first choice for survival. Horses depend on their senses to tell them when to run. Let’s start with vision or eyesight first. In the wild, if a horse sees a bush or tree moving, a predator might be hiding inside it preparing to pounce. Or let’s say some brown object is moving quickly toward a horse. In the wild, it’s probably some animal that wants to catch and eat the horse. In both cases the horse runs away to save its life. Now, you take your kind, gentle trail horse “Scooter” out on a windy day. What does Scooter see? Bushes and trees moving all the time. Brown tumble weeds are running at him. Or (horror of horrors!) plastic grocery bags.  Does Scooter understand that it’s only the wind causing these things? NO! Scooter sees a threat and runs away. If you’ve got a great seat and are lucky, you get to go along. If not, well… Scooter is long gone and you’re walking home with hopefully only a bruised pride.
            Now we all know that horses have more than one sense, just like we do. So how about hearing? Horses depend very heavily on their hearing to access danger. Horses listen for threatening sounds. Their ears can swivel around to pinpoint where a sound is coming from. Often the first clue a rider gets that a horse’s attention has drifted is from the ears. I teach my students to watch horse’s ears as the first sign of what the horse is thinking about.
          Horses spend their whole lives learning sounds just like we do. At my barn, they all know the sound of the feed tractor being started. Or the sound of carrots being poured into a bucket. Some of my boarded horses can even identify the sound of their owner’s car pulling into the parking lot. These sounds are good and not scary. During Santa Ana Winds, the horses can’t pinpoint the source or type of the sounds caused by the wind. It’s all around them. If the horse can’t identify the sound as friendly then Noise = Danger.  The scary sounds are all around them so the horse no longer knows which way to run.  Remember when they can’t run away, they fight. A horse that feels surrounded by danger may fight. They will fight you, the hose, the dog, a chicken, your child, or anything they deem to be a threat. Also during strong winds, Scooter might not be able to hear your verbal cues.  You can cluck, kiss and say whoa to your heart’s content and that sound may never get into those lovely, expressive ears. It’s carried away by the wind. My students can’t hear my instructions either. It is really difficult to teach when you have to keep stopping the lesson to give instructions and corrections. If I can get them to stop at all.
            What can you do for your horse when the winds start to howl? Put on a fly mask to keep blowing debris out of their eyes. Check the water buckets often and remove leaves and other refuse you may find. Keep an eye out for anything blown into the stall that your horse might eat. Horses have been poisoned by plants that were blown into the stall and ingested. Check him over carefully for cuts, especially on the lower legs. Horses may run and spin in their stalls causing them to cut themselves with their own hooves or the stall walls. If possible, move him inside. Just make sure it is safe to move him at all.  
Remember- When the wind comes around, stay on the ground. When Santa Ana’s are here, put away your gear. If the winds attack, put your tack back.  Stay safe. It is never worth getting hurt for a ride. Keep that in mind the next time the winds kick up.
Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also a registered AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but all rights to this article are restricted.






Let’s Blanket Your Horse!

Lace with blanket

Let’s Blanket Your Horse!

You are ready to blanket! You made the decision to blanket and purchased the correct ones. It’s time! My horses are usually kept blanketed due to their work schedule. My school horses often do lessons in the evening and are sweaty afterward. My students can put their blanket on and don’t need to spend hours walking them. I have one mare, Lace that needs to be shaved because she grows a very heavy coat. Lace also wears a shoulder guard to prevent blanket rubs. The kids call it her “sports bra”.

All of my horses have three blankets- a day sheet and two mid-weight stable blankets. I live in Southern California and the stalls are fully covered, so no real weather issues here. I always have extra blankets on hand in case a client’s horse breaks his blanket or it becomes too soiled to use. I blanket according to the temperature, not time of day. I often see people removing their horse’s blanket as they dash off to work in the morning. That may be fine some days, but often it’s colder when they take if off than it was when they put it on! Not the best time to be removing a blanket, don’t you think?  We check the thermometer several times each day and put blankets on or take them off when it gets to about 60 degrees. If it is a cool, rainy day the blankets may stay on all day. If the blankets are on during the day, I check them often to be sure the horses aren’t too hot. Some horse’s blankets are removed before the temperature hits 60 degrees because it’s heavier or they have a long coat. Other horses will wear their blanket  later in the day because they are shaved or the blanket is lighter weight.  This is how we conduct the Blanket Service at CRK Training Stable. If you or your barn managers aren’t doing these things, perhaps it’s time for a change.

When blanketing your horse always remember- Safety First! Make sure you can control the horse. The last thing you want is to get kicked or have the horse walk away with the blanket half on and the straps dragging under him. If you need to put on a halter and hold the horse, do it. If you need a helper, get one. There is lots of potential for both horse and handler to get hurt here. Better safe than sorry.

Next, determine if you are going to put the blanket over the horses head or not. If it’s a closed front blanket, you don’t have a choice. Over the head it goes. If it has front straps that stay closed, make sure they are buckled and adjusted for the horse.

Follow these simple steps to put a blanket on over the horses head.-

1. Hold the blanket in front of the horse like a bib. If you are holding the horse, put the lead rope through the blanket first. Then, gently and quickly slip the closed front section or chest-straps over his head.

2. Pull the blanket up onto his back and smooth it all the way to the tail.


Putting it in place on the back.


Pull it all the way back.







3. Buckle the belly straps according to their configuration.

4. Attach the leg straps last.


Buckle the belly strap.


Buckle both leg straps from the left (near) side.


 If you have an open front blanket, the steps are slightly different. Here’s how-

Fold the blanket into thirds widthwise.

Gently swing the folded blanket onto the horses back like you would a saddle. Leave it folded on the horses back.  If your horse won’t tolerate a flying blanket, gently place the folded blanket on his back and adjust from there.


Place the folded blanket on the back.


Pull it far enough forward to buckle the front straps securely.


Buckle the front straps.


After the front is buckled, pull the blanket all the way back to the tail. Then continue as above.


Smooth the blanket into place.




A Note on Straps-

Blanket straps come in lots of different configurations. The straps on the blankets always seem to be some sort of elaborate puzzle designed to confuse and confound horse owners. Front straps– These straps should close the blanket completely but not be so tight as to choke the horse. Even on open front blankets, I usually leave these straps buckled and pull the blanket over the horses head.  Side Straps– The simple explanation is this: If the straps are set at an angle (like an open V), they need to be crossed under the belly. If the straps are set straight up and down ( I I ) , they don’t cross. If there is only one, you should be able to figure it out yourself. If you have a gelding or stallion be sure the straps don’t put pressure on his sheath. You don’t want him to stop urinating because the straps are preventing him from “dropping”. Leg Straps- Most blankets these days have leg straps that go around the hind legs. These straps are important because they keep the blanket from shifting. I personally prefer the type that can be detached from the blanket completely. If they break, they are easily replaced. I have even been known to use bailing twine in a pinch. I also like that they can be buckled without having to go to the off (right) side of the horse. This saves time when I have 20 horses to blanket and is much safer. Some horses really object to being blanketed. I don’t want to give them a chance to demonstrate their displeasure by landing a well placed kick as I squeeze behind them. Or pinning me to the wall while I’m reaching for a strap. Even the kind, gentle ones might be annoyed at having to leave their dinner so you can get to the other side and buckle straps. This can lead to blanketing issues that I would rather not create.  To cross or not to cross? I cross the leg straps on geldings (i.e. Left strap goes between the hind legs and attaches on the right side and vise-versa).  I don’t cross the straps on mares (Right strap goes between the hind legs and attaches on the same side). Crossing the straps keeps the blankets on better, but on mares, not crossing the straps keeps them cleaner due to the mare’s anatomy. If you have any more questions about that, call me.

It’s time to take the blanket off-

To remove the blanket, remember- Safety First! Halter the horse and hold or tie as needed.

1. Unbuckle the hind leg straps first, belly straps second and the chest straps last.

 2. Fold the blanket in thirds as you move it from the tail to the withers.

3. Remove the folded blanket, either off the horses’ side or over the head.


To Remove: Pull the blanket up from the hip.




Fold it in thirds to the withers.


Store the folded blanket away from the horse. One of my horses thinks they make a tasty afternoon snack. Others believe they make wonderful throw rugs and lousy stall-wall hangings. Still others prefer to ignore them and hope they go away altogether. Either way, be sure your blanket is stored in a way to keep it safe and clean. With proper care, blankets can last many years making them a very worthwhile investment.  


How To Choose A Blanket For Your Horse

Which one do I need?

How To Choose A Blanket For Your Horse

            You made the decision. You are going to blanket your horse this winter. Now you need blankets. How do you decide which one to get?  What weight do you need? How many? There are so many different types, how do you choose? First you need to ask yourself these 6 simple questions…

  1.      Is your horse body-shaved or under lights? This horse will not have any natural winter coat and will need more protection than one that is a little fuzzy. You’ll need to use a heavy blanket or two mid-weight blankets on really cold nights. You should also plan on providing a hood or neck cover. Some very short coated horses will get blanket rubs on their shoulders or hips. This is a spot where the blanket rubs the coat causing it to be shorter, discolored and kinked.  To prevent this problem, provide a “slinky” shoulder guard or as my students call it, a “sports bra” for these horses.
  2.      What is the lowest temperature you are likely to have?  Most blankets are rated for a temperature range, so be sure to get the ones rated for your weather.  In So Cal, you probably won’t need anything heavier than a mid-weight blanket for most nights. I always have two blankets available for each horse and double up on these few below freezing nights we get. Just be sure to apply the right blanket(s) for the weather that day. Too light is better than too heavy. A horse that’s a little cold will grow a heavier coat to compensate. A too-heavy blanket will cause your horse to sweat overnight possibly compromising his health.
  3.      Why are you blanketing?  If your intent is to keep your horse’s coat in show shape, you will need many blankets- One day sheet, two mid-weight blankets, a light, day-sheet type hood and a quilted hood or neck cover. These will need to be adjusted often, sometimes several times a day as the weather changes. If you are just trying to keep the coat under control a little, two mid-weight blankets will probably suffice. If you live where it gets below freezing, add one or two heavy-weight blankets to the list.
  4.      Is your horse inside or outside?  Horses kept inside, completely out of the weather, will do well with a “stable” blanket. These blankets are usually quilted, have back seams and do not have any waterproofing.  Horses that have access to the weather will need a “turn-out” blanket. These blankets are smooth, seamless and have been treated to make them waterproof.  If your waterproof blanket has been washed, you may need to have it waterproofed again. I have often had to remove a soaked stable blanket from a horse that stood outside during a rain storm. I then have to find a replacement blanket for that horse, so be sure you buy the right type. Horses like to stand in the rain. I have heard stories from animal control agents who were called out because of horses standing in the rain. They check the premises only to find a warm, dry stall available to the soaking wet horse.   
  5.      Can you pull the blanket over your horses head easily?  If so, you can purchase a closed front blanket. These blankets do not open in the front which will keep the horse warmer and the front straps won’t ever break or be a problem. However; you can’t adjust the front so if it doesn’t fit correctly, you are stuck. Some horses object to having a blanket put over their head. If your horse is one of those, this type of blanket could be quite a challenge to put on. It’s amazing how tall a 15.1 horse can get when it’s time to put a blanket over their head! You’d think you had a giraffe in the barn! Most horses can be trained to accept this procedure; you just have to be willing and able to train your horse. You may need to contact a trainer for assistance or have them train the horse for you.
  6.      What Size Do You Buy?  You will need to measure your horse or ask a professional for help. To measure you will need someone to help you. Have someone hold the horse. Best not to tie him if you think he might react to the tape measure. (If the tape measure is a problem, use a long rope, then measure the rope.) Have your helper hold the end of tape measure on the muscle line in the center of the horse’s chest. You are then free to pull the tape straight along the side of the horse to the center of the tail. Keep the tape straight and the same distance from the ground over the entire length.  This is the measurement you need. A 76 inch horse will take a size 76 blanket. For my clients, I start by looking at their horse and making an educated guess. Then I bring out several blankets around that size and try them on the horse. It’s easy to pick the right size this way. I also use this opportunity to demonstrate how to put the blanket on and off correctly and explain some safety issues to be aware of.  

    Hold the tape in the center of the chest.


Finish at the middle of the tail

Keep the tape straight!









So there you have it- The In’s and Outs of blankets. I trust this has given you a better understanding of blanket types and what you need to keep your horse warm, comfy and healthy this winter season. I hope you enjoyed this article and welcome your comments. Please feel free to share with anyone you know that may benefit from this information. Happy shopping!


To Blanket or Not To Blanket?

It’s Blanket Season!

By Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg
Published in The Instructor (Fall 2011)

            Ok, I know that as I write this, its 100 degrees outside and blankets are the furthest thing from your mind. But… It’s BLANKET SEASON! This small fact was made abundantly clear today when I went to my local tack shop. I held the door for someone carrying 6 freshly washed blankets. Yep, it’s that time of year again…Blanket Season!

            Why do people in Southern California blanket their horses? I mean really? We don’t get snow or sleet or freezing weather. Heck, most days it’s really nice here. That’s why people move here, for the warm winters. The horses won’t suffer without a blanket. Especially if they have a shelter to keep them dry and protected from the wind. They will grow a nice, warm, fuzzy winter coat to keep them toasty. Horses also possess the ability to make each and every hair stand up or lie down to adjust the amount of insulation the coat provides. Pretty cool! With the natural winter coat, you don’t have to worry about putting it on and taking it off. Horses in the wild do just fine without a blanket, why does my horse need one? Blankets cost money and take up time that I don’t have to spare. Besides keeping the horse warm, what does putting on a blanket really do? 

What Blankets Do (And Don’t Do).

Blankets DO prevent your horse from growing as thick a winter coat. A blanket won’t keep him from getting a winter coat altogether, it will just keep it shorter. He will still get a full coat on his head and neck, unless you add a hood or neck cover. A shorter coat helps keep the horse cool during workouts. Let’s just imagine you are going for a run on a cold winter evening. You put on a t-shirt, sweatshirt, two pairs of sweat pants, two pairs of socks and a jacket. It’s a cold night so everything is fine, at first. Now you have been running for awhile and you’re starting to sweat a little. You decide to take off a layer or two so you don’t get overheated. Good idea! Now you can continue your workout in comfort. When you’re done running, you cool down and start adding the layers back on so you don’t get chilled. Or you go into your nice warm house. Either way, you can manipulate your clothing or environment to your best interest.

But your horse can’t. He can’t take off a layer of hair because he is working now. All he can do to cool off is sweat. So sweat he does. Lots and lots of sweat. Now your horse is soaking wet. Like he just went through a car wash kind of wet. All that long, fuzzy, warm winter coat held in all that sweat.  When you are finished working him you take off his tack. He is cool, but still very wet, plus now he’s going to be cold. He can’t add a nice dry jacket or go in the house. You have to do that for him. You have to put on his cooler (you do have one, right?) and spend loads of time walking him until he is dry. Then you need to brush off all that dried sweat so his coat isn’t matted down. If you leave the hair matted down, he can’t stay warm. Remember that part about horses lifting each hair? That can’t happen if it’s matted down with sweat & dirt.  Hopefully, you love to spend time with your horse and will do all this before you put him away.

Blankets DO keep your horse clean. A clean horse is much easier to groom, thus saving time each day. Blanketing your horse every day will also get them used to wearing clothes. This can come in handy if you ever need to blanket due to illness or injury.

Blankets DO save time.  Remember the scenario I talked about earlier? The one about the horse that went through the car wash? A blanket can help! First the blanketed horse won’t have as heavy a coat to begin with. That means he won’t sweat as much. After you have finished working and cooling him out he might still be a little damp, but not soaked. You can put a blanket on a damp, cool horse and put them away. The blanket will keep him warm until his coat is dry. The blanket will also rub the coat as the horse moves around, helping it to dry. After the coat has dried, the blanket can rub it and help remove the dried sweat just as brushing might. The next time you remove the blanket, your horse will look better than when you put the blanket on.

Blankets DO get smelly, tangled and messy.Horses sleep lying down. On the ground. I know that’s a surprise to most non-horsey types, but it’s just a fact. Because horses sleep on the ground, their blankets will get dirty. Just the fact that a horse is wearing the blanket will make it dirty and smelly. Horses do have a certain aroma to them. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it will rub off on the blanket. Some horses are capable of Houdini-like escape acts to get their blankets off. Once off, those offending blankets must be ripped, torn or made umm… shall we say …“unclean”. 

Lace makes a statement about blankets.






Sometimes, Horse/Houdini doesn’t quite get it right and gets trapped in the blanket or hood. I have rescued many of these unsuccessful types from their efforts. Often, just the blanket is the casualty, sometimes it’s the horse. Either way, you will need to keep a spare on hand just in case. And hope your horse doesn’t hurt himself.

Lace is only steps away from a problem!









Keeping all those things in mind, should you blanket your horse(s) this year? How do you know? Here are some things to determine if you should blanket or not.

1. Do you ride your horse often at night? Yes- A blanket might be necessary to keep the chill off if he is sweaty from work. Also, a blanket will keep his coat shorter and prevent some heavy sweating in the first place.  No– If you have plenty of time to ride during the day, he will probably be dry before the chill of night sets in and causes a problem.

2. Are you concerned with your horse’s appearance? Do you show your horse year round?  Yes– Then you should not only consider a blanket, but lights as well. A blanket and hood will keep your horse looking great and in show shape year round.  No– If a shaggy coat isn’t a problem, consider leaving your horse without a blanket this year. He’ll get fuzzy, but it’s kinda cute, isn’t it?

3. Is your horse body shaved?  Yes– If you have removed your horses’ winter coat, you must replace it with a blanket. You might need more than one to adjust for different weather. No– He will grow enough coat to take care of his own needs.

4. Can you properly manage the blankets or pay someone to do it for you? Yes– You have the time to remove and put on blankets when the outside air temperature is 60-65 degrees every day. This means you don’t just put it on at night and take if off as you dash off to work in the morning. Often early morning temperatures are colder than evening temps. Taking it off when it is still really cold is worse than not putting it on at all. Or leaving it on as the day warms up will cause your horse to sweat under it. Both are far from ideal. Perhaps your barn manager will do this for you for a fee. They are often in the best position to do this as they are at the barn all day. No– If you are unable to dedicate the time to properly manage the blankets daily it might be best to forgo the blanket. Let your horse get a heavy coat and regulate their body temperature themselves.

5. Can you afford the cost? Yes– You have the means to purchase at least 2 blankets for each horse. You can have the blankets repaired and washed in a timely manner. Blankets can cost $200.00 or more. Repairs and washing can easily reach the cost of the blanket over a season or two. Understand that blankets should be washed every 30 days if your horse is wearing it every night. Neither you nor your barn manager will like putting on blankets that can stand up by themselves!  If you are paying someone to manage your blankets, that cost needs to be figured in as well. No– Buy one blanket to keep on hand for emergencies. You can use it as a cooler also.

So that’s the scoop on blanketing your horse. I hope this helps you make the proper decision for you and your furry friends this winter. These 100 degree days will soon be just a memory, so plan ahead. 

We welcome comments and questions. Please feel free to leave us a message.

Oh, the weather outside is frightful. …Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!