Wintering with Horses

Hi Folks,

Those of you that live in a climate where the weather can change in a moments notice understand how difficult it can be to take care of your livestock, especially hard-keeper horses.

We had a snowstorm that hit without much warning. The weather forecast claimed a dusting of snow and temps above 32 degrees. I left all my horses in their shared paddock without blanketing. I woke up the next morning to one of the worst blizzards I’ve experienced in this area. I couldn’t see 20 feet in front of me when I first stepped out of the door in my pj’s. I ran out to check on the goats, gave them some paths in their pen so they could access their water and rotate huts and gave them some extra hay. When I made it out to the horses, I felt so horrible. I found the dominant horses in their shed, but shivering. The horses lower on the pecking order were standing out in the brutal wind and snow. They were covered in ice and shivering. I got the halter on Rio, the coldest and most at risk horse and lead him to the shed closest to the house with the most wind protection. Next was to get Remmy, Buck, and Joe moved over. It was a long process. Once the horses were over in the more protected area, they were able to huddle together to warm up. About 3 hours later, they were finally dry enough to get blankets on. The dominant horses in their pen had to get hand dried for their blankets, and they were fed ample hay to help warm them up from the inside. The eldest and mini’s were moved into the hay barn to warm up, then they got their blankets on once they were dry enough. It was a brutal day for everyone with livestock in our area, and many people lost power during that storm. We were fortunate to still have power.

What I took from that experience is to always just do the best you can, especially dealing with horses. Having the knowledge is key. Knowing which horses get along to put into a tight space or area; which horses are spooky that wouldn’t handle a situation as well; and which you could trust with your life. I didn’t know if Rio would follow me through 3 foot drifted snow, but I had to try. I kept coaxing him along. He trusted me enough to follow me through the nasty blizzard to the better protected pen.

When cold happens unexpectedly, make sure to feed plenty of grass hay. Alfalfa is too rich and gives them too much energy too quickly. Drying the horse off with towels when they’ve been soaked is ideal. Give them a good rub to increase circulation. If you have power, and the horse is calm enough, a hair dryer can be used too. Once the horse is dry enough keeping them dry will be the key to getting them warm enough. Feeding warm water with a sweet taste, such as apple juice mixed in, will help warm them up and get them hydrated. In storms or bad weather horses usually don’t drink enough water.

If you don’t have adequate shelter, proving enough hay for them to continually eat along with keeping fresh warm water available will help get you and your horses through a nasty storm.

All the horses, goats, and dogs on the property made it through the storm without any bad injuries or illness.

May you stay safe and healthy with your loved ones through the year.

Warm Regards,

Kate with OCHS





Ranch Update & Future Plans

Hi Folks,

We have A LOT planned for this summer! I wanted to make it cost effect for folks to learn as much as they can with the time that I can offer. I thought doing a more group-based learning system may work well for some of you. The clinics are based on understanding horses on a more in-depth scale as well as hands-on learning for you, the horse enthusiast. I have different clinics planned, geared for just groundwork, just riding, and a combination of the two. I also added Liberty and Trick training because I feel we need to have FUN when we train our horses. There’s so much more we can do with our horses if we just get more creative. With that idea in mind, I thought, why not have Play Days too? That we it’s a little better cost for joining in a group, but with two hours we get more time to practice the things we learned through lessons or at a clinic. I wanted to be able to offer clinics and group learning for people that don’t have their own horse, and for those that do.

So with that in mind, bring your friends out to the ranch for a fun, safe learning experience that’s all hands-on. I welcome people to come watch us as we train or audit the clinics or group lessons. All the information is on the website, so be sure to check it out!

Jack and Indy are two new horses that I was able to lease for the summer. Jack is a 13 year old Palomino Paint and Indy is a 12 year old Bay quarter horse gelding. Both horses are in training through the month of May to become lesson horses for the summer months. I’ve known these two horses for two years now! I helped their owners Lindsey and Jeremy with their purchase. It’s been fun watching the bond between horse and owner grow over the past couple years. We have plenty of horses for you to come ride and learn from with the new leased horses, our long term boarder horse Echo, and all the OCHS lesson horses!

On to a few other updates: April had her baby goats! She had one white girl, Maybelle, and one brown boy, Dakota! Both are happy and healthy. They will also be for sale in June. Snowbell is due to have her babies any day – her due date is May 4th! I am excited to see what she has. I do plan on keeping one doe for future breeding. Goats have been an absolute blast to have!

The Future Plans of Owl Canyon Horse Services:

So this will be hard to write… I love all my family, friends, and clients that I have here in northern Colorado. Everyone has left a huge impact on me (don’t worry most of it is GOOD lol!). Through lessons and clinics I have learned so much more about horsemanship and myself. I have found that I don’t have nearly the good weather that I need to be able to improve my skills and build my dream ranch the way I wish I could. So, I think it’s time for me to take a leap of faith and take a step in a slightly new direction…

I plan to move to Arizona (Prescott or North Phoenix) in October or November of 2016 and start a southern version of “OCHS”. I would like to start up a high end boarding facility with 12-16 boarded horses. This will hopefully leave me with a nicer climate to ride more, teach more, learn more, and care for more horses. It’s going to be a financial struggle and I will have to downsize my beloved herd to make this step happen. Please think of me and my horses as we start our journey towards greater success and helping more people succeed in their journey with horses. I would greatly appreciate any and all support you may have.


I still plan to run OCHS Summer Camps as well as lessons and a few clinics here in Wellington in 2017! But, I will not be able to set up plans officially until January or February 2017. I would love to be here in Colorado from May through August for the years to come. We will see what is in store for this new chapter and adventure!

Thank you all for being so wonderful!


May the horse be with you.


Kate with OCHS

Ranch Happenings 11/15

Hi Folks!

I am sorry I have been terrible about keeping this blog updated! SO MUCH as happened since the last update I will briefly talk about whats happened over the past year and then talk about plans for the future.

Last September we had a small tragedy happen to one of our dear goats, Crystal. There are pictures from the last update of her if you don’t remember her. Her life was cut short due to a BEAR climbing into their pen one night. I couldn’t believe it, still have a hard time believe a bear came onto our property. April was terrified, and had a bad limp with one of her hind legs. I couldn’t find any breaks or cuts on her. For April’s safety, we took her to my neighbors house who has a livestock guardian dog. We purchased a night game camera to record anything that moves. Sure enough, that camera caught photo’s of that bear climbing right over the fence to finish his meal. We had buried Crystal first thing that morning. We called a game and wildlife warden to come set a trap which was here for 3 days with no luck on catching the bear. Word about the bear had spread through Wellington pretty quickly. Someone a couple miles to the west of us trapped a bear and it was supposedly hauled to the mountains. It might have been “our” bear, we never did find out for sure. Fortunately we have not seen or heard of any problems with bears this year.

We built a much stronger and much larger pen for the goats. April has many new buddies now including Snowbell (who we bred and she had two adorable babies Butterscotch and Snickers on July 25th 2015), Dodge (our new breeding buck), Cowboy, and Nutmeg. I also adopted a livestock guardian dog, Sasha. She turned 1 in March 2015. The newest members are Standard Rex rabbits (5 total) and Californian Rabbits (2 total). We will be breeding the rabbits to sell as pets or meat. They have dug a wonderful burrow under one of the huts in the goat pen. The rabbits and goats get along well together!

We were able to purchase two tractors for maintaining the property! We are thrilled that we can keep the arena and round pen maintained for a soft riding surface. And the property looks more professional than ever before!

Onto new horses.

Rio was a Thoroughbred I purchased from the racetrack in Phoenix Arizona in hopes that he could be used as a lesson horse. Unfortunately after several vet visits we have concluded that he is not suitable for riding. I cannot afford to keep this sweet big guy so we are looking to re-home him to a wonderful and loving home where he can be a pasture buddy and not worry about being a riding horse.

Remington / Remmy / Rems: An 11 year old Palomino roan. We got him in July of 2015. He had been used in many different events including polo, dressage, reining, gymkhana, as a lesson horse and as a trail horse. He has had some time off and is currently in training to be a reining horse and lesson horse. He is coming around nicely and is a lot of fun to work with.

Now onto future plans: Since we have started boarding clients horses (yay!), we are running out of shelter for our resident horses… To solve this problem, we are getting ready to build a new 12 by 36′ shed and a new paddock for the main herd! We are hoping this will provide some wind block for the round pen and perhaps part of the arena.


Thanks for reading! I’ll get pictures posted of the new shed when it happens, so stayed tuned!
Also, APRIL IS PREGNANT! She should kid in April 2016. Snowbell will be bred soon for May kids! BABY GOATS coming soon to a ranch near you, spring 2016!


IMG_1646 9.29.14_Sasha(2) L_00989 IMG_7457 IMG_1535 IMG_4593 IMG_4745 snickersandnutmeg dodgeandcowboyandbo goatpen_2015



Kate with OCHS

Echo Update

Since the last update on Echo, he has been used in 2015 horse summer camps for kids as well as lessons during the summer! He has grown so much that he is now taller than Bandit, Buck, Anira, and yes even Joe. He can pick up the correct lead at the canter with ease and has nice control at the walk and trot. He is confident and doesn’t spook easily. He loves kids and was happy to be a camp horse. He was patient while getting painted. I do think he liked his toes painted! He played in the water when he got a bath and he got some kids wet too. He will be in training during 2016 to become a reining horse. CONGRATULATIONS to Echo’s owner, Kelci, who is expecting a little girl in May, 2016!!

Enjoy some pictures of Echo from summer camps:

IMG_0943 IMG_1316 IMG_1271 IMG_0746

Introducing the halter

Horses need to be comfortable with our presence before we put a halter on. I spend quiet time with my horses. I let them come up to me to check me out before I attempt putting a halter on. I do this with any new horse as well. I’ll find a spot to sit down and just watch the horse interact. I’ll learn if he’s curious, fearful, uninterested or naughty. This is not recommended for dangerous or aggressive horses.

I’ll start to pet them after they are comfortable with my presence. I’ll start with just letting them sniff my hand, once they sniff my hand and keep their head near my hand, that’s a sign that I can attempt to give them a soft rub or scratch. Eventually I can rub their neck then their withers. Once they allow me to rub them from the withers forward, including all over their head, I will introduce the halter.

I’ll let them smell the halter. If they are accepting, (by “accepting” I also mean if they are not shying away or if they seem uninterested) I will attempt to rub their neck or withers with the halter. Approach and retreat if they are shy about the halter. I’ll try to remove the halter before they feel the need to leave me. Once I can rub them all over their neck and withers, I’ll slowly rub their nose with the halter. I spend a lot of time just letting them enjoy getting scratches and rubbed down. Approach and retreat is so important. If they have been accepting of me rubbing them down with the halter, I will pull the halter away and sometimes even walk away for a little bit. The retreat is also a release of pressure, it gives the horse time to think about what happened. Once I can rub their face, neck and withers without them showing much concern (some concern is okay as long as they don’t leave), I will put the halter on.

Here is an article about properly putting on and adjusting halters:

I choose to start with a rope halter because it has pressure points (the knots on the nose) and it releases pressure immediately when the horse gives or when I give slack to the rope. Horses can learn to push against thick nylon or leather halters, thus they get heavy in the face and can even learn naughty habits.  I believe with the rope halter, we can teach them to give and be soft without ever needing use any harsh equipment. I will switch to using a nylon or leather halter once I have established a very light and willing horse.

If the horses is too nervous or has not been handled before I will start training in the round pen before I put a halter on. Round pen training to come in future posts.

Video 1: How to put on a rope halter.

(Quick note about video one: I would prefer to use a rope halter without a metal end to the crown piece. Even though the crown piece – the top part that goes behind the horses ears – is facing back towards the horses tail, it can be long enough to still flop forward and potentially hurt the horse.)

Video 2: How to put on a nylon halter.

(Quick note about video 2: I would like to see this halter fit a little higher on the horses nose and be a little tighter fitting. Having a nylon or leather halter that is too loose will not send correct signals to the horse when you ask the horse to move.)

Please stayed tuned for the next phase in groundwork!



Kate Thomas OCHS


Introduction to Groundwork

Hey Folks,

Have you heard about ground work? What is it and why do we do it?

I believe ground work is very important for all aspects of working with horses. You are able to gain the horses trust and respect through perfecting different exercises from the ground. Maybe we should call these exercises “games” instead. Working with horses is suppose to be fun right?!.  Well, in order to gain the horses trust, you have to prove to the horse that you are worthy of his trust by being calm, fair, and providing steady leadership while also listening to what your horse is trying to tell you. There’s a fine line between when to apply “trusting” type of games and when to apply “respecting” type of games.

So where do we start in gaining a horses trust and respect? Lets start by figuring out the horses personality in a herd, by himself in a pen, and lastly with a human present (but without physical contact).

1. Within the Herd:

  • What ranking is the horse within the group?
  • Is he playful?
  • Is he interested in his surroundings?
  • Is he the first to spook at a something?
  • When he spooks, will he stop shortly after or does he just leave?
  • What does his body language say?
  • How does the herd interact with him and how does he interact with the herd?

2. By himself:

  • Does he stand around or just mosey around?
  • Does he start habits such as cribbing?
  • Does he become mischievous or more playful?

3.  With people:

  • Is he curious or timid around people?
  • Does he walk right up to any person or just one person in particular?
  • Does he crowd space?
  • Is he mouthy with people?
  • Does he ignore people and do his own thing?
  • Is the horse aggressive towards people?

Determining how the horse behaves in these different environments will help determine how we go about ground work with this horse.

With each horse we have to teach them how to give to pressure. For some horses we have to overcome the fear they may have and others we have to work through their resistance. Going slow and taking your time will gain more progress than pushing a horse too hard, especially in the beginning.

Stay tuned as we get started with the “Ground Work From the Beginning” booklet. We will cover how-to’s, trouble shoot problems, and give you new idea’s for playing with your horse.


Kate with OCHS

Joe trusting and following his leader.

Joe trusting and following his leader.

Body Condition

How much we feed our horses is determined by how much they weigh, their overall body condition, and the condition we want them to be.

Measure your horses body weight by measuring his heart/girth area and his length. Be sure you measure from the same spot each time to get an accurate reading. Your horses weight will equal his heart-girth times his heart-girth times his length divided by 330.

Heart-girth X heart-girth X length / 330 = Weight

Heart/Girth and Length

Heart/Girth and Length

While important in determining your horse’s overall nutrient requirements, knowing how much your horse weighs still doesn’t tell you if it is too fat, too thin, or in good overall condition with respect to fat coverage.

Since the 1980s, veterinarians and horse owners alike have been using the Henneke Body Condition Scoring (BCS) system to estimate fat coverage of horses. This system uses a scale of 1 through 9, determining body weight and ideal condition where 1 represents an extremely emaciated horse and 9 represents a grossly obese one. Areas of the body that are examined include the shoulder and elbow region, the ribs, the withers, the loin and tailhead region, and the crest of the neck.

Body Condition Scores

General Description Neck Area Withers Shoulder Elbow Ribs Loin and Tailhead
1 Poor No fatty tissue felt; bone structure obvious Very prominent Scapula prominent No fleshy tissue Ribs obvious Spine and hip bones prominent
2 Very thin Prominent bonestructure Prominent Prominent Minimal fleshy tissue Ribs clearly visible Spine and hip bones visible
3 Thin Lean Lean Obvious Little Fleshy tissue Outline of ribs visible Moderate visibility of hip bones
4 Moderately Thin Some fleshy cover Some cover Moderate blend into body Some fleshy tissue Faint outline of ribs Faint outline of hip bones
5 Moderate Moderate fleshy cover Moderate tissue cover Blends into body Moderate tissue Not visible but easily felt Back level, tailhead fleshy
6 Moderately fleshy Fleshy cover Fleshy cover Well-blended into body Extra fleshy tissue Spongy cover over ribs Soft tailhead
7 Fleshy Fat deposited along neck Fat deposited along withers Not obvious Obvious fleshy tissue Ribs felt with pressure Soft tailhead; ridge beginning to appear
8 Fat Obvious fat on neck Not obvious due to fat coverage Faint scapula Fat Barely felt with pressure SCrease down back
9 Extremely fat Obvious fat and potentially cresty neck Bulging fat; withers indiscernible Bulging fat; scapula not visible Bulging fat Difficult to feel ribs due to excessive fat cover Crease down back due to bulging fat on either side of spine


The scale is useful because it is easy to learn, but there are several drawbacks. For instance, it is very subjective; one horse owner might label a horse a 3 while another might label it a 2 or 2.5. This discrepancy generally isn’t an issue unless different people are keeping records. For example, if it wasn’t known that different people were scoring the horses, one might assume a horse has suddenly lost or gained weight. It is also difficult to use the scale when tracking a horse over time to observe small changes in body condition score. In this case, careful record keeping and photos can be helpful to monitor body condition score changes with dietary management.

Another problem with the Henneke system is that not all horses follow the chart smoothly. For example, some horses may carry more weight around their ribs but won’t have much coverage along the hind end. Therefore, it is possible for a horse to be a 6 at the ribs but only a 4.5 or 5 in another region. In these kinds of situations, owners and clinicians must average the entire body’s scores to obtain the horse’s true overall score.

So what is the ideal body score in horses? At this point, veterinarians and nutritionists aren’t certain. Most horse owners, veterinarians, and nutritionists agree that, in general, a leaner animal is healthier (within reason). In this sense, a horse with a body condition of 5 is generally considered to be in good condition. However, in some cases a leaner or fatter condition may be desired, as described below.

Determining an ideal weight for a horse is difficult, in part due to vast breed differences affecting bone and musculature. Muscle accounts for more than 50% of body weight in most athletic horses (and is usually still around 45% in non-athletic horses), compared to 30% to 40% in other species. As in humans, muscle weighs more than fat; therefore, a muscled horse will weigh more than a fat one for a given height and body type. Thus, it is difficult to make claims such as a 16-hand horse should weigh 1200 lbs. In reality, based on breed differences a 16-hand horse may weigh anywhere between 1000 lbs and 1800 lbs. This is another reason why body condition scores are useful.

In some cases it might be wise for a horse to have a slightly higher body condition score. The original work by Henneke studied reproductive efficiency in mares and found that mares with more condition (higher BCS) had higher conception rates than their leaner counterparts. So, it may be wise to keep a broodmare at a slightly higher condition (for example, around a BCS of 6), though keeping any horse at a body condition score greater than 7 may increase the risk of metabolic issues. It may also be recommended that older horses be kept in higher condition (BCS 6). As the ability to maintain weight during disease or times of stress becomes increasingly difficult with increasing age, having a bit of a “buffer” in body weight could be beneficial. However, the overall health of the animal should be taken into consideration, as an older horse with arthritis or a history of laminitis may do better without the excess weight.

Horse owners should work with their veterinarians and trainers to determine the ideal body condition for their horse and discipline, as serious consequences can result when a horse is too thin or too fat.


Hope this helps you understand the horses weight, condition and why it’s important to feed quality food to our equine partners.



Kate with OCHS