January 16, 2018

An Ounce Of Prevention…

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION: Why Wise People Wear Closed Shoes at the Barn

By Suzi Carragher – suzicomm@gmail.com (Shared with permission)

Look around most reputable riding stables and you’ll likely see a rule “No Open Shoes.” Many folks assume that because they aren’t the ones riding the horse, the rule doesn’t apply to them. To quote that sage Bart Simpson, “Au contraire, mon frère!”

Without a why, many folks dismiss the rule. Real horse men and women know stuff happens at barns – unexpected, nasty, gnarly stuff. We know that an ounce of prevention will keep us out of the hospital and working with our beloved horses and clients. That’s why we suit up for the task at hand. Just so we’re all on the same page here, a closed shoe is one where both the toes and heel are covered, e.g., boots, athletic shoes, a sturdy walking shoe. The shoes should encapsulate your foot in a sturdy fabric or leather and offer foot and ankle support.

Injury Prevention: The most obvious thought that pops in people’s minds when they read the “Closed shoes only” rule is a hoof-on-foot injury. If you haven’t experienced this form of pain, let me tell you from personal experience – IT HURTS… A LOT! In my case, I was escorting a horse back to his stall, when I stopped to answer a quick question. He shifted his weight and lazily put his hoof directly on my right pinkie toe. POP! It was broken. Thankfully, I was wearing my boot, because without it, the toe likely would have been taken clean off. I was lucky.

Other reasons aren’t as obvious. Stables are busy places. Errant shoeing nails, carpentry nails, staples, thumb tacks, jump cups, hoof picks, improperly disposed needles, trash that didn’t quite make it to the bin, and other items are more likely to cause an injury if discovered by a foot in an open shoe than a closed shoe.

One of the most common forms of footwear is the flip flop sandal. They are wonderful things. They are summer, the beach, and popsicles! But, they are terrible for your feet. They lack arch support, which can lead to plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the thick band of tissue along the bottom of your foot. Riders: Try dropping your heel and feel the pain! Flip flops are also blamed for a number of other injuries, including: stress fractures of the metatarsals, stubbed toes, and broken toes. One Washington, D.C. podiatrist says he sees at least one flip-flop related injury weekly from May through September.

Infection Prevention: Remember, barns are busy work places. Vets are in and out treating patients. Dewormings are being administered. Machines are being used. Critters other than horses visit or take up residence in the feed area or shavings. Urine, manure, blood, pus, nasty week old beverages, and other stuff make their way onto the ground. In researching this section of the article, I found enough data on zoonosis, diseases that can be passed from animals to humans, to write quite a few articles. The fact is closed shoes provide more protection against picking up an infection than open shoes. There are a number of infections that can be picked up at a barn ranging from fungal infections, like ringworm, that will ruin your summer swimming plans to rabies.

Tetanus Tetanus is a bacterial infection that occurs when Clostridium tetani bacterial enters the body though a wound and produces toxins that impair your motor neurons. It gets transmitted through wounds like puncture wounds, crush wounds, splinters, and infected cuts. The risk is increased if the area is contaminated with dirt or manure, both of which are plentiful at barns. If you contract tetanus, you can look forward to spasms and stiffness in your jaw muscles, stiff neck, difficulty swallowing, abdominal muscle stiffness and ultimately painful body spasms. You may also endure fever, sweating, elevated blood pressure, and rapid heart rate.

Tetanus can be treated, but not cured, according to the Mayo Clinic article on the subject. Treatment includes the administration of antitoxin medication, antibiotics, vaccination, sedatives to control muscle spasm, other drugs to regulate involuntary muscles, and in some cases, people with tetanus get to stay in the hospital to receive respiratory support. Still think open shoes are okay at the barn?

Campylobacter Does your barn have a mare with a foal? Or kittens? Or bunnies? Do you stand closely to pet them? Campylobacter is a common infection in baby animals that when passed to humans can cause diarrhea. It’s important to know that animals shed the germs for up to seven weeks if untreated, and all it takes to enter your system is a small nick on your foot. “But, my sandals are so cute, and I’m just here to watch the lesson,” you say.

Worms I remember my friend dewormed her new horse, and we stood amazed by what came out of that gelding. It was spectacular! Now, had we not been wearing our boots we’d have been standing in a wide assortment of intestinal parasites, including hookworms, tapeworms, and roundworms. It seems that little ones get the brunt of the worm invasion, because they’re not great at hygiene. Roundworms are intestinal parasites that infect 10,000 children annually. Untreated they can cause blindness. Hookworms attach themselves to the intestinal lining and can cause life threatening blood loss. Infections are treatable with anti-parasitic drugs, but you’re not going to like what happens until they’re cleared out. Are you reconsidering your footwear?

Leptospirosis Leptospirosis is caused by Leptospira interrogans, a spirochete. (Spirochete is such a cool word. It means spiral shaped bacteria, so now you can astound your friends at parties.) It is considered to be “the most widespread zoonosis in the world,” according to MedicineNet.com. It is spread through contact with bodily fluids, like urine, as well as contaminated soil and water. It enters the body through minor cuts. Once inside, the spirochete heads for the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system where it multiplies and wreaks havoc. Symptoms include: rash, fever, chills, headaches, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe cases are accompanied by kidney failure, liver failure, and meningitis. Pregnant women who become infected have a high rate of fetal mortality. Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics, though some cases require hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics.

If this doesn’t convince you to wear closed shoes to the barn, then consider that venomous snakes, spiders, mice, rats, staph, and other no-see-ums can also be present at horse facilities. The prevention steps for all these infections all include proper hygiene, e.g., hand washing, and avoiding the pathogen, e.g., wearing closed shoes.

Lastly, consider this message on the University of Connecticut’s Department of Animal Science webpage: Steel Toed Boots

  • If you are working at any of the livestock units, steel toed boots are a must! For individuals concerned about the risks of using steel toed boots, MythBusters Episode 42 has dispelled the myth that you can lose toes if something heavy actually lands on your reinforced boots. In any case, according to Federal Law it is still required.

**One Last Tip on Open Toed Shoes**

It’s the pet peeve of some professors in the department that students wear open toed shoes in laboratories. Closed toed shoes are actually required in all laboratories and at all livestock units even if you are “just visiting”. Let’s try to keep our professors and our toes happy! The bottomline: Your instructor cares about you and your well-being. They aren’t telling you to lose your sandals at the barn to cramp your style or be a cosmic killjoy, but to keep you and your family safe so you can continue having fun with the horses. Tip: Keep your sandals and clogs in your car, so you can change out of your boots after your time at the stable.

Sources that informed this article:

Mind Your Manners!

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Busy, Busy, Busy!

      It’s a busy day here at the barn. Several horses and riders are using the arena. One is lunging at one end. Another is a complete beginner working on just getting her horse to go where she wants it to. Still another is working on barrel racing while another is setting up a jump. What’s a rider to do? How can all these riders co-exist in the same arena without someone getting hurt? This is where simple arena etiquette comes into play. Many different riders and horses can co-exist in the same space if you all know the “rules of the road”. That along with some old fashioned good manners and we can all work in safely the same space.

  1. Lunging should not be allowed in the same arena with riders. Horses being lunged can be very volatile- bolting and bucking just because they can. This behavior can be contagious sending other horses off on a tangent or the horses being lunged may get loose and cause havoc for the riders in the arena. It’s best if a separate lunging arena or round pen is provided. If that’s not possible, make a rule that no one may lunge if anyone is riding in the same arena.
  2. Have separate arenas for specific purposes. One with jumps, another with barrels, yet another for beginners. If separate arenas isn’t an option, set aside separate space within one arena with cones or other barriers. I keep my beginner students at one end of the arena, leaving the opposite end available for my boarders to use. This practice keeps everyone safe and happy. The students don’t feel they have to try to avoid riders moving quickly and the boarders are free to practice their more advanced skills without interference.
  3. Left to left is best!

    Left to left is best!

    Left shoulder to left shoulder. This is the first rule I teach my riders. If I have more than a single person in a lesson this is taught as soon as I feel they can safely pass each other without getting in trouble. It’s a pretty simple one- the riders should pass each other with their left side toward the other rider. Another way to look at it is- the rider tracking left will stay on the rail while the rider tracking right will yield the rail and move to an inside track.

  4. Call your rail. If you are approaching another rider in the ring, call out to that rider where you intend to go- “Inside!” or “Outside!”. That way the other rider will know what track you will take and can change or not as needed. Just make sure you know the difference between Inside (toward the center of the arena) and Outside (toward the rail). Good intentions can quickly go awry if you make the wrong call. A mistaken call here can result in a collision or at the least some very quick stopping practice.
  5. Fastest on the inside. While this may be contrary to some barns arena rules, I feel it’s the safest. The faster rider will be able to change their direction more quickly than a slower rider. Also the rider on the rail has the least amount of flexibility when it comes to changing their course. If they are going slowly, say at a walk or very slow jog, they really won’t have much choice when it comes to making a change of direction. Those off the rail have more choices as to where to go if things get close.
  6. Claim your territory. If you are going to be working on a specific skill, such as jumping, let the other riders know your intended path. “I’m taking the outside line”. That way they know not to cut across in front of the jumps just as you are making your approach. The same goes for trail obstacles, barrels, etc. Just give a shout out and you’ll be all set.

So that’s it. If everyone keeps to the rules, a safer riding environment can be had for all. Now you just have to be sure everyone knows the rules. Post signs on the arena’s if you can, i.e. – This arena reserved for lunging or This arena for jumping practice only. If that’s not possible, just make sure you have taught the rules to your students. They will pass on the information and soon the entire barn will be well informed and riding safely. Have a magnificent and safe ride!


Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. Cheryl graduated from Rawhide Vocational College and Fullerton College. She is also an AQHA Professional Horsewoman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years, training students from beginner up to world level competition. 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 in any format including digital and print are restricted. You must have written permission from the author to use this material.  For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to www.crktrainingstable.com


A Day of Equine Education!

SEPTEMBER 21, 2013

“A Day of Equine Education”

DSC03565 DSC03538 DSC03773 DSC03546 078
Great Speakers!
Group Riding Lessons
Private Lessons
Networking Opportunities!
Silent Auction

What is it?- An educational event with Speakers, Riding Demonstrations, Silent Auction, Vendors and Private Riding Lessons

Where Is It? PepperGlen Farms 3563 Pedley Ave. Norco, CA  92860.

Who Can Attend?- Anyone who loves horses!

Who can ride in the lessons & demonstrations? Riders must be at least 9 yrs old, bring your own horse & tack and be able to ride a walk, jog/trot and lope/canter.

How much does it cost?- Spectator Pre-sale tickets $40.00 w/lunch included. Children under 14 years $25.00. At the gate tickets $45.00/$30.00 no lunch. Riders are $25.00 per lesson or $110.00 all day in addition to spectator fee. Stalls $10.00-20.00 per day. Private lessons $25.00/30 min. Lunch tickets $8.00.

How do I sign up?- Spectators may purchase tickets at www.Eventbrite.com. Search for “CHA Conference”. Pre-sale ends September 15, 2013 @ 6:00 pm or when sold out.

Riders must contact Cheryl R. Kronsberg directly. Rider spots and stalls must be paid in advance.

 For More Information-  714-693-4886    

Or to register-      http://crktrainingstable.com/cha-conference-2013/conference-registration/


“A Day of Equine Education”

Speaker and Demonstration Schedule

8:00 -8:30– Registration and Introductions.

       Silent Auction and Vendor Booths Open

Main Arena Riding Demonstrations-

8:30-9:30How to “Open the Doors” for Riding Success- Dallas McClemons- CHA Master Instructor & Clinic Staff

 9:45-10:45-“Sideways”-Teaching Sidepass and Pivot to riders and horses- Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg-CHA Master Instructor & Clinic Staff

11:00-12:00Canter/Lope- From first time to lead changes-  Christy Landwehr- CHA Chief Executive Officer, Master Instructor & Clinic Staff

12:00-1:00- Lunch- Included in pre-sale ticket price!

1:00-2:00Extension and Collection at all gaits- Theresa Kackert- CHA Master Instructor & Clinic Staff

2:15-3:15How to Conduct a Safer Trail Ride– Dallas McClemons- CHA Master Instructor & Clinic Staff

3:30- 4:30Riding Hunter Courses– Theresa Kackert- CHA Master Instructor & Clinic Staff

All Day-  Private lessons– Sign up with your favorite instructor. Only $25.00 for 30 minutes.

Lecture Area-

8:30-9:30–   What Would You Do?- An Interactive First-Aid Experience-  Dr. David Treser, DVM-

9:45-10:45How to Save $$ on Your Taxes- Rebecca Bambarger E.A

11:00-12:00– California’s Dual Agency Law in Horse Transactions- Lisa Lerch, Esq.    

12:00-1:00- Lunch- Included in pre-sale ticket price! Keynote speaker- Christy Landwehr- Certified Horsemanship Association C.E.O., Master Instructor & Clinic Staff

1:00-2:00Bits & Bitting Demystified- Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg- CHA Master Instructor & Clinic Staff

2:15-3:15Risk Management for All Equestrians- Christy Landwehr- CHA C.E.O.,  Master Instructor & Clinic Staff

3:30- 4:30How To Make Your Business Famous!- Suzi Carragher

4:30-5:00- Make your final silent auction bids!

5:00- Close Silent Auction & Award Trivia Contest Prizes

5:30- CHA Region 10 Meeting

For More Information-  714-693-4886    or

Or to register-      http://crktrainingstable.com/cha-conference-2013/conference-registration/

I Don’t Wanna and You Can’t Make Me!

stubborn horse“I don’t wanna and you can’t make me!” Has your horse ever said this to you? I know mine have! They stop, go sideways, back-up, even run away. It’s called Avoidance Behavior…

            Avoidance behavior is anything a horse does instead of what they are supposed to be doing. Let’s say you are taking your horse “Duke” to the wash rack for a quick hose down. Once you have passed the paths to the turnout, barn and arena, Duke has figured out where you are headed and he’s not impressed. The last bath he had was just before a show and took hours! By the time you finished clipping, braiding his mane, giving him a bath, wrapping his legs and put his blanket on, Duke was thoroughly fed up. He is not looking forward to a repeat session, so he stops cold in his tracks. Let the avoidance behavior begin!

            You step back to his shoulder and encourage him forward again. Now Duke has realized you are in earnest so he starts to back up. Slowly at first, but increasing the pace as you get more animated in your attempts to stop him and get him moving forward again.  The next thing he does is try to spin around away from you. Now you are chasing him around in a circle wondering how things got so crazy so quickly? All you wanted to do was a quick rinse off and it’s become an all out war.

            How about this one- My school horse’s favorite- If the rider asks for anything more taxing that a shuffling amble, the horse moves closer and closer to the rail until the rider is so afraid for the wellbeing of their leg, all thoughts of trotting have gone out the window. The rider watches that fence like it’s going to take on a life of its own while desperately pulling on the inside rein in an attempt to move away. Sometimes they even lift their leg up over the saddle in order to prevent it from being squished. The horse has changed the riders entire focus with a minor avoidance behavior such as moving toward the rail.

            So what’s a rider to do? How do you deal with this kind of behavior without risking life and limb? Let’s take scenario #1- The Wash Rack Walk- As soon as Duke stopped you should have stopped also and determined that there wasn’t a legitimate reason for his behavior like a bear lurking behind a bush.  Nothing? Ok, now ask again for the walk, making sure your are cueing correctly i.e.. walking at his shoulder, facing forward, using your body posture, voice and hand to move Duke in the correct direction. If he still refuses, it’s time to get serious. I usually give several quick hard jerks on the lead rope. If that doesn’t do the trick, I will use the long end of my lead rope to tap him on the rump or anything I can reach that is behind his shoulder. Make sure you are still facing forward while you do this. Not only will your body language match your other cues, you will be in a safe position in case Duke decides to make a break for it and runs or jumps forward. Also, if the correction works, you are prepared for a nice quiet walk forward.

            Now let’s assume Duke has made a run for it- backwards! The first thing you need to do is get him stopped. That is usually best handled by the firm use of your stopping word first (Whoa, Ho, Peanut Butter, whatever!) along with some quick, hard jerks of the lead rope. Never try to out-pull a horse. Unless you are a bigger horse, it simply won’t work. 1000 lb. horse beats the 150 lb. human every time. You need to outsmart him. He can only pull against steady pressure, so don’t give him any. Pull, release, turn or push. It all works eventually. If you can’t get him stopped, turn him until he is backing in the direction you wanted to go in the first place. If he won’t walk there, back him there. If he stops, resume your usual cue for forward and make him miserable until he complies. I’m not talking abuse here, just lots of short jerks, taps with the lead rope, pulling into tight circles, backing up,  yelling. Whatever he doesn’t like, until he moves forward again. Reward the forward steps with a quick “good boy” and perhaps a pat on the neck.

          Always remember to quit on a good note. Even if it means you don’t get all the way to the wash rack today. Might not be a bad idea to skip the hose-down anyway. It will just put more bad memories on the old ones. If you get him to the wash rack, reward him and take him away. Now do it again. And again. And again. As many times as it takes until he walks up willingly and quietly, without a fuss.

            Scenario #2- The Wall Flower- When you ask for a jog, your horse, Flower, moves closer and closer to the rail until your leg is in genuine jeopardy. How do you fix this one while keeping your leg intact? Flower uses this behavior to get out of working. It usually happens by accident at first, but if it works out well, Flower learned a new trick! Again, you need to catch this one before your limb is at risk. Always make sure you start well off the rail, so you have some room to react and correct the problem. As soon as you cue for trot, Flower starts moving sideways instead of forward. This is where you need to catch it, at that first sideways step. Immediately cue with the outside leg to direct Flower forward. If she continues to move sideways, give a firm kick or two with the same outside leg. Resist the urge to pull on the inside rein as this will push Flowers rump into the rail more quickly. Use the inside rein instead by moving your hand up and across the withers toward your inside hip. This will bend Flower’s neck and head into the rail which is not where she wants to be, its where she wants you to be. If she straightens out and moves forward, continue with your trot cue. Give her a pat on the neck when she complies correctly.

             If she does succeeds in getting your leg all the way into the rail, it’s game over time. No more Mr. Nice Guy! Using your outside rein, pull her directly into the rail until she is facing the rail. Now stop and back her up very firmly. Once you are a safe distance from the rail, turn to the original direction and start over.  You can also turn a complete circle, thus moving Flower away from the rail and starting over. Just remember to make these little side trips unpleasant ones. After all, she started it! I like to use firm kicks and perhaps some taps with a crop or whip if I happen to have one handy. You may have to repeat your actions several times before the message is received. Be persistent and you will prevail.

            The most important thing to remember is what you expect of your horse. Never accept anything less than that. Any avoidance behavior can be corrected if caught quickly enough. That first stop or sideways step needs to be corrected quickly before it gets out of hand. Don’t wait until the horse has total control of the situation. By then it’s too late. Always remember your expectations and accept nothing less.

            You can never expect more than what you accept.  If you accept these kinds of naughty, avoidance behaviors, you can expect your horse to repeat them. If you don’t accept them and expect good behavior, you will get that as well. Happy Riding! unstubborn horseCheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor, Clinic Instructor and AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl graduated from Rawhide Vocational College and Fullerton College. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 35 years, training students from beginner up to world level competition. 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 www.crktrainingstable.com

How To Clean An English Saddle

english saddle

            Every day we ride in our tack. We use and abuse our saddles, bridles, halters, pads, and bits. Unless you intend to replace these items every few years, you had better plan on taking care of them. Our saddles are our biggest investment next to the horses themselves. They are also the most used and often the least cared for. Our safety depends on the condition of our tack, so you should set aside time to clean and condition it. English saddles are not too complicated. They don’t have lots of hard to reach places and are usually made of good quality leather that can be easily cleaned. With some simple supplies and a little elbow grease you’ll have that saddle looking great in no time.

            I have spent many a morning at shows putting saddles back together after a student took them apart to clean. The students simply didn’t know what went where after it was scattered in pieces all around them. Therefore; you might want to begin by taking a picture of your saddle while it is still put together. That way you will have something to compare it to when you start putting all the clean pieces back together. Also, mark which stirrup leather is the right and left. You will want to switch them when you reassemble the saddle.

First gather all the materials you will need. IMG_0347

  1. A bucket filled with warm water. You will use this water to clean the leather.
  2. A soft brush
  3. Your favorite leather cleaner.
  4. Your favorite leather conditioner.
  5. Several small sponges.
  6. Several clean towels. Small ones work well.
  7. Optional- Silver cleaner or polish
  8. A saddle rack
  9. Industrial type vacuum cleaner such as a Shop-Vac or a household vacuum with attachments.  


     Next remove the saddle pad, stirrup leathers, irons and girth from the saddle. The saddle pad and girth should be removed every time you ride, but if you tend to leave them on, remove them now. Place the saddle on the saddle rack. Be sure to mark the stirrup leathers with a right and left sticker or label. I used painters tape in the picture.IMG_0349 Every time you clean the saddle, you should change which side the leathers are on. That will help them stretch out evenly and they will last longer. The saddle pad should be machine washable so you can do that while you work on the saddle.

            Use the vacuum with a brush attachment to remove all dust, sweat and hair from the entire saddle. Pay extra attention to the underside of the skirt, the stirrup bars, along the stitching and grooves. If dirt is still visible, use the soft brush to help remove it. You can also use the vacuum on the stirrup leathers and treads if they are caked with dirt. Take a moment to check that all the stitching is tight and intact, especially on the billets, girth and leathers. Loose stitching could come apart at the most inopportune moment resulting in a slipped saddle or lost stirrup. Also check for protruding nails. Most saddles are held together with some nails. Over time they can come loose and work their way to the surface, injuring a horse or rider. Finally, check for overly stretched elastic on girths or stretched out billets. These worn parts need to be replaced if you are going to continue to use the saddle safely.

 IMG_0350      Once you discern that the saddle is in good shape, you’re ready to clean. First dampen a sponge in the warm water. Now apply a small amount of leather cleaner to the sponge, not the saddle. Begin by cleaning both sides of the stirrup leathers. Work up a lather to remove all the dirt and metal residue. Use a clean, slightly damp towel to remove all the excess lather, thus removing the dirt as well. Make sure you get all the stitching clean. Soap residue can prematurely rot the stitching. If you have a leather girth, clean it as well. Set all pieces aside to dry. Now it’s time to focus on the saddle itself. Put it on the saddle rack. Using a damp sponge and leather cleaner begin at the pommel and work your way along the seat. Work up a good lather in each area. Use a clean towel to remove the lather before you move on to another area. It’s best to do one small section at a time, cleaning then wiping, until you have finished the entire top of the saddle. Next move to the flaps using the same technique. Make sure you get both sides of the flaps and the billets. Finally turn the saddle upside down and clean the panels and underside of the saddle.  IMG_0352

      Now it’s time for the conditioner. Starting with your leathers and girth, use another clean, dry sponge to apply conditioner to the piece. Rub it in well. Using your hands will help the conditioner penetrate. Repeat until the leather is no longer absorbing the conditioner. Several light applications works better than one heavy one. Use a dry towel to remove the excess and buff lightly to make it shine. Set that piece aside and continue with the next piece. Next, start at the top of the saddle and condition in the same order that you cleaned, working a small area at a time. Repeat until the entire saddle is conditioned, dry and buffed to a slight shine. Once it’s all clean and conditioned it’s time to put it all back together…

      Put the saddle right-side up on your saddle rack. Find the left stirrup leather. Run the leather through the stirrup iron and then put it on the right side of the saddle. Repeat with the other leather and iron. By changing the leathers from one side to the other, you assure they will stretch out evenly and keep the stress damage on the mounting side to a minimum. If only we could do this with western saddles…


      Make sure the irons are facing the correct direction if they have a front and back. Most irons can go either way, but some, such as peacock irons, have a front and back. On peacock irons, the open side or rubber band must go to the outside when the rider’s foot is properly placed in the iron. Therefore, that side would face the front of the saddle if the iron is hanging flat against the saddle.  Make sure to run up the stirrups. Now place your clean girth on top, run the ends through the irons and you’re ready to put it away. Or on your horse! Have a great ride!



Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. Cheryl graduated from Rawhide Vocational College and Fullerton College. She is also an AQHA Professional Horsewoman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years, training students from beginner up to world level competition. 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 or post it on web sites are restricted. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to www.crktrainingstable.com




Tips for Safer Trail Riding

trail riding            Trail Ride! Many riders begin riding just for this activity. Trail riding provides a relaxing break from the day to day grind. It gets you out in nature, connects you with your horse and gives you time to spend with friends. However; problems can and do arise. Can you diminish the likelihood of issues and handle those that occur? With proper planning you can! Here are some simple steps you should take before, during and after every ride.

            Before you go– Dress the part- You’re not going to the beach, right? Long pants, sleeved shirt, riding boots and outerwear appropriate for the weather are a must. Everyone should also wear an ASTM/SEI approved equestrian helmet. Be sure to check the manufacture date on your helmets. All helmets should be replaced after 5 years of use. All helmets have the manufacture date printed on a tag inside the helmet lining. You may be surprised at just how old that helmet really is.

 Groom your horse- Groom your horse completely taking special care to check legs and hooves. Fly spray is also good idea.  If you are concerned about bugs, use an ear net or some gnat repellant in your horses ears. Horses can become downright dangerous when they are bugged by bugs.

 Check your tack- We use the same tack every day, but do you really take a good look at it?  Before you tack up, check the stitching and wear points- buckles, billets, latigo, girths/cinches – everywhere metal meets leather. Make sure the leather is not cracked or worn. These weaknesses could break if stressed. If you use Chicago screws, make sure they are tight. Check the pad for cleanliness. Built up dirt or hair can cause sores. Be sure the bit is clean, fits correctly and is properly placed in the horse’s mouth. If you are using leg or hoof boots, make sure they are clean, fit properly and are in good repair.  After you cinch up, run your hand under the girth to smooth the skin.

 What to bring- Most saddles are designed to hang things on. Saddle strings and dee rings just beg to be used. Therefore; every rider should carry with them a halter, lead rope, identification, emergency contact numbers  and a hoof pick. The designated lead rider should also carry a cell phone or walkie-talkie (carried on themselves not the saddle), first aid kits for both humans and horses and items for simple tack repair (baling twine, leather laces and a sharp knife) are always a good idea.  If you are going out for a long ride, perhaps a bottle of water and maybe a lunch or light snack. Don’t forget a collapsible bucket and a treat for your horse!

Leave a ride plan- This can be as simple as a note scrawled on the barn marker board or a detailed list with maps. Regardless of which method you use, always include some basic information such as- where you are going, how long you intend to be gone, who is going, what horses they are riding and a contact number.

            Mount up- Start in the arena- Before you put your foot in the stirrup, take your horse to an arena. Re-check your tack, tighten the girth and mount up. Complete your usual riding warm-up before you head out the gate. A little time spent in the arena will give you some insight into your horse’s mood that day. An arena warm-up will also prepare both horse and rider for the task ahead. If an issue does comes up, you will be much better equipped to deal with it here than on the side of the mountain or along a city street.

            During the ride- Plan your ride and ride your plan- Keep to your intended route. Be aware of any issues that may be present on the trail, such as mud or downed trees. Make sure all the horses and riders know how to handle them. As you ride along make sure to alert the riders behind you to hazards such as low tree limbs.  Proper spacing will keep anyone from being kicked, but make sure no one gets left too far behind. Many horses don’t like to be away from the herd and will cause problems for their riders if this situation occurs.

Watch out for the group- If any segment of the ride will be faster than walk, ensure that all riders can handle and are prepared for the changes.  The rider leader should announce how fast the change will be and for how long. It could go something like this- “Hey Riders! It’s almost time to canter! We are going to start cantering at that first tree up ahead and bring it back to walk at the top of the hill. Everyone ready? (wait for conformation) Ok, let’s canter!” The lead rider should do just that, lead, along with setting a nice controlled pace. No one should pass the leader. The drag rider should make sure all the riders are handling the change well and that no riders got left behind, either mounted or in the dirt!

Heading home- Always ride the final leg back to the barn at a walk. Horses are usually glad to return to the barn after a long ride. If you return at a fast gait, the horses may get overly excited and try to run off, causing a very dangerous situation for everyone. It can also teach your horse some bad habits and cause them to become barn sour.  Riding the last leg at a walk will allow your horse to cool down so he’ll be ready to un-tack when you arrive back at the barn.

            After the ride- You’re not quite finished yet. Dismount, loosen the girth/cinch and cool your horse out if he is still hot. Once your horse is cool, tie, un-tack and groom your horse. Make sure to check hooves for rocks or debris. If it’s a warm day, perhaps a bath is in order. Properly store your tack and put your horse back into his stall or pasture making sure he has plenty of fresh, clean water. Grab cool drinks for yourself and all your riding buddies, find a comfortable chair in the shade and reminisce about your great day!

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. Cheryl graduated from Rawhide Vocational College and Fullerton College. She is also an AQHA Professional Horsewoman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years, training students from beginner up to world level competition. 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 www.crktrainingstable.com



“Holding on to anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.”               Buddha

            Anger. It seems to permeate our society. We see road rage, spousal abuse, child abuse, and anger management classes. Why has anger become such a problem? Or was it always there we are just more aware of it now? Do you ride angry? I know I get angry at my horses sometimes. Sometimes I get angry at clients- mostly when they break the rules or don’t pay on time (or at all!). I’ve been angry with my kids, siblings, parents, spouse, dogs and even a chicken or two. What makes you angry? How do you handle it? Does your horse bear the brunt of your anger? Do you hold on to your anger? Or do you let it go?

            Lately, around the ranch here in good ole’ southern California, it’s been hot. Really hot. Upper 90’s- low 100’s kind of hot. Every day for over a month now. When it’s hot, I schedule my lessons for the early morning or late afternoon hours, when it is cooler. Now that doesn’t leave me much time to ride except during the hot part of the day. Therefore; I haven’t put a lot of wet saddle blankets between my horse and me. Yesterday, it was slightly cooler (only 85!), so I saddled up for a ride. Now I didn’t have high expectations for my mare because she hadn’t been ridden much lately. I figured I’d just hop on and do some bending exercises, walk, jog, trot and canter a little. I certainly didn’t expect her to work at peak show form, just respond to the basic cues and do what I asked.

            Surprise! She didn’t really think that was necessary. She figured since she had all this time off she finally had gotten her wish of being a Trophy Horse. You know the type- hired for their looks and don’t have to work for a living. Well this is a pretty mare, but I still expect some basic compliance under saddle. Especially when I’m not really asking for much beyond basic obedience. When I mounted up, it felt like someone had hidden a basketball under my saddle. I walked her in circles until her back finally lowered to its normal position, then I asked for a jog. That went just fine with her picking it up promptly and keeping a nice, slow pace through the circles and reverses I asked for. After that, I asked for her favorite gait- the medium trot. Now this mare is 16.1 and loves to trot. It’s been the one gait I can always count on and today she didn’t disappoint. She lengthened her stride to a lovely speed that I could easily post to. Around and around we happily went, loosening up both of us along the way.

             Most of our ride was now complete. I just needed some canter and we could quit for the day. It was already getting too warm for my taste so a few laps at canter was all I had in mind. I brought her back to a nice easy jog and then asked for the first canter. I started with her best side, a right lead (which is different than most horses, I know). This is what I got- She threw her head up, grabbed at the bit and trotted. Quickly. Not the nice, long strided trot we had before. Not a nice easy canter. Noooo- she gave me a short, choppy, quick trot along with a huge dose of attitude! I pulled her back to a jog and cued for the canter again, this time with a little more enthusiasm. Now she pinned her ears in anger and sped off at the fastest, choppiest trot she could muster. This time when I asked her to stop, she refused. In her anger, she grabbed at the bit and kept on trotting down the rail.

            OK, fine then! You want to be angry, I can show you angry! I started yelling at her at the top of my voice!

             “Oh yeah? Don’t want to stop, huh? I’ll show you who can stop and who can’t! Now I said Whoa! You had better stop right now!”

            While all this yelling was going on, I ran my hand down the right rein, pulled hard to my right hip and booted her with my left leg as hard as I could, executing a one rein, emergency, pulley stop. Now this really wasn’t an emergency. I knew I could ride out the pitiful attempt at running-away she was working up to. But, hey. Enough is enough! She disobeyed and that made me angry. She was angry too, which she proved by trying to run off. There’s that word again- ANGER. With all the yelling, pulling and kicking I was doing it sure seemed that I was incredibly angry. But was I really? Was she angry? Or just trying to get out of some work on a hot, summer day?

            After she finally came to a stop when I used the pulley rein, she stood quietly while I took a deep breath and readjusted my reins. Next, I resettled myself in the saddle. Then I took her back out to the rail, put her back in a jog, and once again asked for the right lead canter with the same result- faster trot, head up, etc. So I tapped her just behind my left leg with my whip. Off we went in the ugliest, bumpiest, choppiest canter you have ever seen. No impulsion, no head set, no frame. But- it was a canter and it was on the correct lead. Under normal circumstances, my first response would be to fix the canter. Keep riding it until it got better, but not today. I let her go in that awful, horrible canter for about 10 strides, then I transitioned back to walk.

            “Good girl! That’s better! ” I cooed and rubbed her neck.

             Does that sound like the actions of an angry person? Of course not! I wasn’t angry. I just made all that noise and did all those corrections to let her know I wasn’t going to allow her to misbehave. Once it was over and done with, I let it go. I moved on. On to the next thing. Or perhaps back to the first thing. But either way it was without anger.

            Next time you ride and get less than stellar responses, correct the horse. Then let it go. Don’t expect another bad result to the next cue. Expect a proper response. Chances are you’ll get it. Or at least a better one what you got before. If not, do it again. Then let that one go and start over. Again. And again. And again. As often as you need to until you get it done. Always rewarding the baby steps in the right direction. Never, never letting yourself get angry. If your anger gets the better of you, step off and go have a cool drink. Calm yourself down before you step back on. Only two emotions belong in the saddle- patience and a sense of humor. Never, ever anger.

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. Cheryl graduated from Rawhide Vocational College and Fullerton College. She is also an AQHA Professional Horsewoman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years, training students from beginner up to world level competition. 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.


Should I Change My Horse’s Bit?

Should I Change My Horse’s Bit?

     This is a question I received last week. The client wanted to know if they needed a new bit for their horse. Since this customer was a boarding client and not in a lesson or training program, I hadn’t really paid much attention to how the horse worked. The question was asked in the barn aisle, so I couldn’t see the horse work either. The owner was not willing to pay for an evaluation so I was reduced to giving out some general information. The next time I saw them riding, the bid had been changed.  The owner stated that the horse went better with the new bit. Happy ending?  Maybe. Maybe not. I didn’t evaluate the horse either time, so I don’t really know for sure. I guess time will tell.

     So the question of the week is- Should you change your horse’s bit? There are several reasons it could be time for a change. The most common one is that the horse isn’t responding to the bit correctly. Sometimes the horse will be non-responsive. That might call for a change to a more “severe” bit. Sometimes the horse is over-responsive. That could mean they need a “milder” bit. Just remember that no bit is a “magic-bullet”. Often what a horse really needs is training, not a different bit. Or perhaps, the rider isn’t cueing the horse properly. But those are talks for another day.

     Another reason to change bits is due to horse show rules. Let’s say you ride western and compete with your horse. Your horse is great at western pleasure and the trail classes.  Western horse’s younger than 6 may be shown two-handed in a smooth snaffle bit, which is the bit most horses are started in. Once that same western horse is 6 years of age or older, they must be shown in a curb bit ridden with one hand on the reins. Therefore, when they turn six, it becomes necessary to change to a curb bit. A curb bit is generally more “severe” than a snaffle bit. If you want to continue showing western you have no choice in the matter. You must make the change in bit and be sure your horse is trained to handle it.

     Today, I’m going to address the first scenario. How do you know your horse is in the wrong bit? An over-bitted horse will display some of the following signs when the reins are pulled. If the horse is over-bitted long enough, these signs will show up even without any rein pressure. (FYI- I have found more over-bitted than under-bitted horses during my years as a trainer.)  Here’s what to look for:

  1.  Over-flexing to the side or at the poll.
  2.  Refusing to move forward.
  3.  Head tossing.
  4.  Pulling on the bit.
  5.  Rearing.
  6.  Refusing to stop or give to the bit.
  7.  Chomping on the bit.

 The under-bitted horse will show some or all of these signs:

  1.  Not turning or bending when asked.
  2.  Pulling on the bit.
  3.  Head tossing
  4.  Nosing out
  5.  Refusing to stop.
  6.  Not giving to the bit.
  7.  Hanging on the bit or leaning on the riders hands.
  8.  Being very “heavy” on a bit he used to respond well to.

      Now that you recognize you have a problem, how do you know which one you have? As you can see, the signs of over-biting and under-biting can be similar or exactly the same! It may be best to consult a professional to help. This situation can be very complex and requires personal attention. If your horse is displaying some of these signs, be sure to address it quickly, before it becomes unsafe. A horse you can’t control, that is uncomfortable or in pain can very rapidly become hazardous to ride. Contact your local Certified Instructor and set up an evaluation lesson. They should be able to tell you what the actual problem is and help you resolve it.

      When I have been presented with this situation, I follow these steps. First, I will observe the horse being ridden while asking relevant questions. Sometimes I will ride the horse. If I decide the problem is indeed the bit, I determine if the current bit is too mild or too severe. Then we will try out a few different bits to see which one helps. After we have settled on one bit, I will let them borrow it for a week or so.

     After the trial period, if the new bit is still looking good, I write a description of the bit including size, type, etc. I may even take a picture or let them take my bit as a reference when they head to the tack store. I just want to be sure they purchase the correct one. People who work in tack stores don’t always know enough about bits, so the description helps. I have even had our local tack store employees call me to ask if a bit they have in stock with a slight variation will work. Sometimes we will just order a bit from one of the many catalogs I keep on hand for just these occasions. However we go about it, I try my best to be sure the correct bit is purchased.

      What you shouldn’t do is start buying bits and trying them out on your horse. You could be making the problem worse or not solving it at all. Good bits are expensive. Many bits cost in excess of $100.00! Buy a few of those and you could pay for several months of lessons!  While a good bit is a very worthwhile investment if it works on your horse, it might become an extremely expensive paperweight if it doesn’t do the job. A trip to a trainer will cost you a little money and time, but may very well save you plenty of both in the long run. And who knows, it might not be a problem with the bit at all. In that case, think of all the money you saved not buying new bits! As an added bonus, working with a trainer, even for an hour or two, will give you new insight about your riding and your horse. And you might just have some fun as well! 

      I welcome your comments and questions about bits or other topics. Or you may attend my free Bits and Bitting class to be held in early November. Dates and details of upcoming classes will be announced soon. Feel free to share this article with your friends!