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:

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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: https://owlcanyonhorseservices.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/halter-safety/

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmCFQfH4HUk

(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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CL3bnTeYBXI

(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








Ranch Update ~ May 2014

Why hello everyone!

We are excited to announce the new arrivals, Crystal and April, to the OCHS ranch! They are registered Nigerian Dwarf goats.  They arrived on Saturday, May 3rd. Crystal is a lovely 4 year old Sundgau (fancy goat color pattern name for black, brown, and white) doe. April is a super sweet 2 yr old red buckskin doe. Crystal can be a little shy at first, but with animal crackers in hand, she is the first to meet you, and will headbutt April out of the way for more crackers! April loves a good scratch behind her little horns. They are adjusting well to their new home with a teeter-totter, dwarf size goat hut just right for them, and they will soon to have other fun climbing toys. April is already known for being the jumper, as she likes to get on the roof of the goat hut when the horses come by to check them out. I think she just wants to feel as tall as a horse. Crystal isn’t quite agile enough to jump very high. This is great because she would be the first to escape, no doubt!

Why did I decide to get goats? Well, I have been researching goat breeds for quite some time. I had it narrowed down to two breeds, the Nigerian Dwarf and the Miniature Myotonic (Tennessee Fainting) Goats. I became fond of the Nigerian for their small size and ability to produce milk. I became fond of the Fainter’s for how stinkin’ adorable and funny they are. Both breeds are known to be great family pets, which is another reason I became so fond of the little hooved creatures. They are so much fun to have around already. I can’t wait for everyone to meet “The Girls”. Below are some adorable pictures from their adventures so far. Enjoy!


April and Crystal chillin'

April and Crystal chillin’





Perfect balance, April!

Perfect balance, April!

Goats and Horses!

Goats and Horses!

April, queen of the hut

April, queen of the hut

April is wondering why I am peeking into their hut to get a picture

April is wondering why I am peeking into their hut to get a picture. Crystal is thinking, get out, please!


Happy Ranching,

Kate Thomas with OCHS

Q & A for Hauling Horses

Question: How should you tie a horse in the trailer?

Answer: With a quick release halter or knot. Use a nylon or leather halter for tying a horse in the trailer, not a rope halter. A rope halter can get caught on things too easily and it is so thin, if it does get stuck, it can seriously injure the horse. If you use a nylon halter, make sure you tie the rope in a knot that will come loose easily in an emergency; or use a quick release halter; or a lead rope with a quick release snap. Also, make sure to tie the rope short enough so that the horse cannot step over the rope.

Please note, if the horse does not know how to give to halter pressure, do not tie this horse. Please see hauling an untrained/wild below.

Question: Is it safe to leave a horse loose in the trailer?

Answer: No, I do not think it is very safe to leave a horse loose in a trailer, especially in a two horse trailer. A large horse can get to walking in circles and cause the trailer to move too much. An untied horse can fall or injure himself much easier if he is not restricted.  Horses may also try to nip or bite each other which can lead to a multitude of problems. Ponies and mini’s under 500lbs are okay for short distances without being tied as long as there are no dividers in the trailer. However, I still recommend tying them. A horse or pony that is tied will not be able to move about the trailer.

Please note, if the horse does not know how to give to halter pressure, do not tie this horse. Please see hauling an untrained/wild below.

Question: What is the safest way to trailer an untrained or wild horse?

Answer: Loose in a stock trailer. Do not try to tie this horse because they do not know how to give to pressure; doing this can put this animal in serious danger to injuring himself. A stock trailer is open and stable enough for these horses to move around. Drive extra cautious because there is a risk of an accident, however, this is the safest approach for hauling the untrained horse. Do not have anything (no, not even a halter) on untrained or wild horses when hauling.

Question: If hauling on horse in a straight two horse trailer, which compartment should the horse be loaded into?

Answer: On the left side, behind the driver (in most parts of the world). This is because roads are crowned by design to encourage good drainage. Your trailer will want to pull a little to the right when driving on the right side of the road. By loading the horse in the left compartment in a two horse, straight load trailer, the rig is better balanced to counter-act the crown of the road.

Question: Is it okay to haul a horse that is already saddled?

Answer: It is not recommended to haul a horse that is already tacked up. The saddle and bridle can get caught up loading the horse in and out of the trailer. If the rig is involved in an accident a saddle or bridle left on the horse can cause even more injury to the animal. Instead, plan to arrive early at your destination to tack up your horse.

Other Quick Tips:

  • Make sure there is the proper amount of air in your tow vehicle and trailer tires. When airing trailer tires, make sure the trailer is empty.
  • Be sure to have mats in the trailer so the horse cannot slip around while he’s inside.
  • Never allow a horse to stick his head outside the trailer while on the move.
  • Always check your spare tires (for both the two vehicle and the trailer), even for a short haul.
  • If you must get in the trailer with the horse to load/unload him/her, make sure the escape door is open AND/OR there is plenty of room for you to get out easily and safely.
  • If there’s a butt bar, clip it before you close the rear trailer doors.
  • Close the trailer doors quietly so as to not startle the horses.

May you have safe travels with your equine companion.

~Kate with OCHS