I’ve had the great fortune to work with a vast array of breeds and cross breeds.  I gave it some thought, and I came up with a list of over fifty different breeds I have experience with!

American Warmblood, Andalusian, Anglo Arab, Arabian (Polish, Egyptian, Shagya), Appaloosa, Belgian Draft, British Warmblood, Canadian Warmblood, Clydesdale, Connemara, Curly Horse, Drum Horse, Dutch Warmblood, Danish Warmblood, Fresian, Georgian Grande, Hispaño Arabe, Haflinger, Hannoverian, Hessen, Holsteiner, Hungarian Warmblood, Iberian Warmblood, Irish Cob, Irish Draft, Lippizaner, Lusitano, Missouri Fox Trotter, Morgan, Mule, Mustang, Nokota, Oldenburg, Paint Horse, Percheron, Pony of the Americas, Quarter Horse (Appendix, Foundation), Rhinelander, Thoroughbred (American, Argentinian, Australian, New Zealand), Trakhener, Saddlebred, Shetland, Shire, Standardbred, Sugarbush Draft, Spanish Norman, Spotted Draft, Swedish Warmblood, Tennessee Walking Horse, Welsh Cob, Welsh Pony, Westfalian,Trakhener, Zweibruker.

With a few exceptions, I’ve seen most of these breeds in purebred and crossbred form.  I’ve worked with imported and domestic horses.  I’ve heard lots of negative stereotypes about different breeds, and I thought it would be fun to share these stereotypes and my experiences.

Arabians are spooky and crazy. This has not been my experience.  I’ve encountered far more spooky warmbloods than spooky Arabs.  What I do notice about Arabs is some of them tend to be a bit more prone to sulling up when pushed past their comfort level.  That means that if they are being asked to do something they don’t want to do, they can become immobile and not move despite any and all attempts to coerce them otherwise.  I have found some of the kindest and most kid-safe horses to be Arabian mares.

These Arabians are excellent dressage and trail horses 

Appaloosas are stubborn.  This has not been my experience.  I can’t think of any universal truths about this breed.

Draft crosses make good husband horses.   I’ve found draft crosses to be good at ignoring their riders, which has its pluses and minuses when dealing with a novice rider.  If you’re husband is used to being ignored, it could work out.  They are quiet 4 of 5 times in my experience.

These draft crosses are good husband horses

Haflingers make great kids horses. Haffies are draft horses with their legs cut in half.  Some draft horses make good kids horses, and some are unstoppable walls of muscle.  Same is true here.  In my experience they are good kids’ horses 4 out 5 times.

Comet is a great kids horse, and was just about as wide as he was tall!  That is 5’11” me on 13.3h pony.

Holsteiners buck.  My experience shows this to mostly be true of they come from a “C” line.

Morgans…  What do people say negatively about Morgans?  In my experience, they are late maturing and last forever.  I’ve had two Morgan ponies that panted in the summertime.  That was very disconcerting the first time, but I knew what it was the second time.

Poni the pint sized Morgan is 23 and not slowing down.

Mustangs are never truly reliable.  I have a pretty small sample size on this one.  My experience with the 2.5 Mustangs I’ve worked with is that they hold on to a certain quirk, but are otherwise quite even tempered.  

River the Mustang is quite dependable

Paint horses (solid) are crazy.  I’ve heard that when paint horses are born solid instead of spotted that they aren’t given the same attention as their flashier brethren.  This theory is supposed to justify mean behaviour from solid paints. In my experience this can be true.  I’ve seen a solid paint get mad at his rider, jump in the air and land on his side effectively body slamming her.  I’ve also got a solid paint in my program right now so quiet that a dog rides him.

Clifford the solid Paint and Conner the Jack Russell out for an evening stroll

Quarter horses are very quiet.  This is often true.  4 times out of 5 in my experience.  

Standardbreds have bad canters.  Yes, true.  This seems to be a dominant trait as every Standardbred cross I’ve encountered also had a crappy canter. 

Tennessee Walkers are very tolerant. In my experience this is true 4 of 5 times

Thoroughbreds are fast and crazy.  I haven’t found this to be true either.  I’ve seen some unflappable thoroughbreds. I do find them to often be fast but behind the leg 4 out of 5 times.

Commandible the Thoroughbred 

Trakheners are hot.  Honestly I don’t think I’ve had a full blooded Trakhener.  I’ve had crosses though, one was super hot, the other super quiet.

Warmbloods are stupid.  They should call them dumbbloods.  Seriously?  I don’t really understand why people say this.  I have not found this to be true.  I also don’t find a ton of warmbloods who are super quiet these days either.  People like to think they are universally quieter than thoroughbreds, I have not found that to be true.

Warmblood Edward says, ” hey, I’m not stupid!”

I’ve come to realize that every horse needs to be treated as an individual.  Knowing about your horse’s breeding may predict some strengths and weaknesses you encounter, but it also might not.  The concept of a breed is best used to describe a phenotype or genotype, not a guarantee for temperament or attitude.  


I’ve had a bunch of horses recently with really big heads.  That made it very difficult to take selfies with them.  My arms simply weren’t long enough to get their entire head, and my head, in frane.  The thoroughbred brothers have comparatively little heads so we took some selfies!  They really show off their personalities.

Me and the noble Olympic Blue 

Me and Olympic Maize We don’t call him Corny for nothing!

We’re speaking the same language, right?

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, I love Australians.  In college, I was lucky enough to work at a summer camp in Nevada City.   The staff was composed of half Californians, and half foreigners from English speaking countries.  I worked in the barn (naturally) along with one or two Australians.  This is where I learned how to speak the language of Horsey Australian.  

In the camp’s barn, we spent a lot of time trying to figure out what eachother was talking about.  Some words I recognized from horse books, but I’d never heard said out loud .  Now I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic groom from Australia working for me.  Nel has been in California for a little while so she has gotten accustomed to the difference in the way we talk about horse things.  However, since I love  Australians, I find myself parroting back some of the Australian terms for things when I’m talking to her.

Nel helped me make a list of translations for horse words in Australian and Californian.  Let’s face it, I have to say Californian instead of American English because we’ve got our own dialect out here on the left coast.  Before I get to the list, I want to share some of the stumpers that I’ve encountered when talking about horses with Australians.

Numnah (AUS)= fluffy pad (CA)

This one took days for me to figure out. Australians basically pronounce this as “loosen.” Lucerne (AUS) = Alfalfa (CA)

Float boots (AUS) = Shipping boots (CA)

And then there are the different types of mounts you might ride:Clumper (AUS) = Draft Cross (CA)

Hack (AUS) = Horse (over 15h) (CA) 

Galloway (AUS) = Hony (CA). Is it a small horse or a large pony?  This distinction is for mounts between 14 and 15 hands.  It’s a mount I always seem to be in the market for, but is hard to find.

Ponies are ponies in all the world.  This mount is 14.2 hands or shorter.  Ponies are smart, they walk on bridges instead of running through water.

Here is the rest of the list that Nel and I made:

Australian Term        Californian Term 

  • bib                         bra, shoulder guard 
  • breaking in         breaking, starting
  • clumper               draft cross
  • feed bin               feed tub
  • float                      horse trailer
  • float boots          shipping boots
  • galloway              hony, large pony, small horse
  • hack                      horse
  • Head collar         halter
  • hogged mane     roached name
  • joddies                 breeches
  • jodphur boots   paddock boots
  • jump wings        standards
  • jumper                 sweatshirt
  • lucerne                alfalfa
  • long boots          tall boots
  • near side            left side
  • numnah             fluffy pad
  • off side               right side
  • paddock             pasture
  • rain scald           rain rot 
  • rake                     fork
  • roller                  surcingle
  • round yard       round pen
  • rug                      blanket
  • saddle cloth     saddle pad
  • skinny hood     sleazy
  • stable                 stall
  • stalls                  tie rack
  • stock saddle     Australian saddle 
  • tack box             track trunk
  • ute                       SUV
  • wind sucking    cribbing
  • witches hat        cone  

I can dress myself! (Winter Edition)

Most of my clients are from somewhere else. That’s the nature of having my business in the silicon valley.  People get a job here, move to the area, and then break my heart when they decide to go back home or move somewhere more affordable.  My students from cooler climates usually poke fun at me when I show up to their lessons looking like Nanook of the North and it’s only 50 degrees out.

Nanook of the North and his sweet outfit!

My look when I teach a lesson and it’s below 50 

After a year in California, my transplanted students usually get soft and start to complain about the cold at increasingly higher temperatures.  I like to consider myself an expert on dressing for cold weather comfort at the barn.  Here is how I do it:

First start with your base layer.  Wear your usual bra(s), and then put on a smartwool shirt and smart wool socks.  Unlike cotton, smartwool won’t get cold if it gets sweaty.  I asked for a smartwool sports bra for Christmas, to avoid clammy boobs, naturally.  My non horsey sister was confused by this request, and was convinced that I made a typo and meant to ask for a white bra.  

This is not a smartwool bra, but it is what you get if you do a google image search for “sheep boobs”.  You’re welcome.

Now that you have your wooly base layer, add your breeches and a fleece pullover.  There are other technical sweatshirts that are great too, I just like my quarter zip pullover here.

Next, I wear my air bag vest, which is pretty warm.  If I didn’t wear the air bag, I would wear a down vest.  Finally, I put on my jacket.  Unzipped of course, I don’t want to impead my air vest if it is activated.

My winter riding look

Other details are my insulated riding gloves, and disposable toe warmers.  

These stick to your socks like a maxi pad and ward off frozen toes.

I don’t like to ride in a scarf, but have been known to ride in a cowl pulled up over my face.  Ear warmers are also nice, but my long hair does an adequate job for me right now.  Insulated breeches are a thing, as are insulated riding boots.  I tend to prefer layers to make adjustments throughout the day.

Tomorrow, I will talk about ways of keeping your equine partner toasty warm as well.  


I’ve been accepted to be one of the trainers at the Thoroughbred Makeover in October 2017!  I’m not sure if both horses will get to go yet, but Kentucky here we come!

As a celebration, I bring you a music video that reminds me so much of Corny:

Little Red Horse

What you want for Christmas

My last post was about my lesson with Ellen Eckstein.  Years ago, I went to a dressage show in Pebble Beach with her.  It was fourth of July weekend, and one of Ellen’s local clients had invited Ellen’s whole group to her home for a Fourth  of July barbeque.  That client turned out to be Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Jane Smiley.

July 4 at Pebble Beach Equestrian Center.  A damp affair.

When we arrived at her home, Jane greated each of us warmly.  She took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye, and said something like, “wonderful, you are tall too!” She told me to follow her to her office where she showed me a book she was writing a forward to entitled, “The  Tall Book: A Celebration of Life on High“.  I was unable to provide any unique perspective on being tall, after all I’m only 5’11”, but I was very flattered that Jane took the time to show me something she was working on.

At dinner Jane talked about the new project she was working on, a series of young adult novels about the daughter of a horse trader.  She was calling the first one, “The Georges and the Jewels.”  In it, the horse trader father and his daughter buy cheap horses, train them to be kids horses, and sell them for a profit.  Dad didn’t want daughter getting attached to the horses, so each gelding was named George, and each mare was named Jewel. I’ve had a few Jewels in training, but no Georges yet.  Closest I came was Jorge/Giorgio.

We sat at the table and Jane told us about the formula for writing a strong going adult book.  “You gotta make the kiddies cry” she said.  We also talked about our shared fondness for illustrators of young adult horse books that we read as kids, Sam Savitt and Wesley Dennis.

This is the Sam Savitt poster I had in my room as a kid

Anyway, after a wonderful time at Jane’s house, I decided I should probably read some of her books.  I started with the novel that won her the Pulitzer Prize, “A Thousand Acres.”very well written, but what a downer!

Next, I switched to audio books.  I shared (mooched) an audible account with a friend and was excited to listen to “Horse Heaven.” It is a fantastic story centered around thoroughbreds.  I rode some training horses while listening to it, and I remember the sluggish Arabian pony I was on never moved so fast as she did when I was listening to one of the racing scenes!  I definitely recommend the book, however the audio version has some jarring pronouncing errors.

After several years, “The Georges and the Jewels” was finally on Audible along with the rest of the Horses of Oak Valley Ranch series. 

Wow.  WOW.  I’ve read a lot of horse novels, especially young adult horse novels, but never ones like these.  These books are special because not only do they have compelling stories and character development, but there’s some really great horse training instruction in there too.  I learned some horse training techniques from listening to these novels, and I still practice them today.  

My experience with the ex-racehorses I’m working with has reminded me of these books.  There is a chestnut thoroughbred in many of them, and even a thoroughbred named Blue!

So if you are a young adult, or a horse lover of any age, I highly recommend you add the books in this series to your Christmas list.  

The Horses of Oak Valley Ranch series, by Jane Smiley

Rorschach testing

Blue has a cool roan splotch on his shoulder.  Anyone know what it is called?My Google search only came up with “roan patch.”

He didnt seem to have this mark at birth, check out this cute baby picture of him:

My groom, Nel, thinks the marking looks like a Santa face.   I think it looks like a portly stick figure running with his arms up and a fart cloud coming from his butt.  What do you see?

Fart man diagram courtesy of Leah Deffenbaugh 

Incidentally, last year, well before I meet Blue, my then 16 month old daughter drew this on her magna doodle.  I may be reaching, but I think it bears a striking resemblance to Blue’s marking, if the image was flipped.

Do you see it?  My husband and I titled this masterpiece “man runs out of butt”

Ok, enough about butts.

What’s in a name?

In yesterday’s post, I introduced the two geldings I am hoping to take to the 2017 thoroughbred makeover in Kentucky. 

As any of my clients can tell you, I love calling horses by diminutive names.  Usually it’s some bastardization of their barn name, but my long time clients know that I really just call them whatever pops into my head.  Previous examples of the horses that have fallen victim to my scheme include:

  1. Donnie=Donna
  2. Susi=Snoozer
  3. Sparty=Smarty Pants 
  4. Pacifico=Paco the Taco
  5. Bandita=Band Aid
  6. Giorgio= Old Fig

You get the picture.  Often their nicknames are also a reflection of their personality or behavior.  

Olympic Blue and Olympic Maize have names that harken to their parents, Olympio and Blue Corn.

Olympic Blue’s barn name is “Blue” and that’s great!  I like the name Blue for a red horse.  Someone told me once that Australian cattlemen love to name their blue dogs “Red” and their red dogs “Bluey.” I love  Australians, so I was pretty happy with that.  

In working with Blue, I’ve been trying very hard not to call him “Blue balls” because that is inappropriate and disrespectful.  Instead I end up calling him is “Bluebell.” That name suits him because he’s very sensitive, like a delicate flower.  I can also say, “oh no, I didn’t call him Blueball, I would never!  I called him Bluebell!”

Blue’s brother on the other hand, never really settled on his barn name.  He’s registered as Olympic Maize.  Ann, his owner, said “Maize”doesn’t quite suit him.  They call him “Baby Blue,” but who wants to go around their whole life with the identity of their big brother defining them?  Personally I would hate it if I had to introduce myself like that, “Hello, I’m Baby Byron.” Yuck!

Luckily, Olympic Maize made his personality known right away.  He loves twisting his head, making funny faces, and playing with his lips.  Now we call him “Corny.” It suits him perfectly and sets me up for plenty of further diminutives.

Corn cob

Corn hole

Corny Collins

Corn Maze


Dressage Camp at The Monkey Tail Ranch

Getting ready to embark on an orchard trail ride at HC Equestrian's dressage camp at Monkey Tail Ranch
Getting ready to embark on an orchard trail ride.

This year’s HC Equestrian camp deviated from the usual eventing format to focus on dressage.  The Monkey Tail Ranch in Hollister graciously hosted our campers for 3 days of riding, including private lessons with Ellen Eckstein, obstacle course training, trail rides, and an introduction to equine bodywork.

Carla and Feety practice lateral cervical flexion.
Carla and Feety practice lateral cervical flexion.

Campers also were able to enjoy puppy socialization with Monkey Tail’s young service dog hopefuls. A continental breakfast was provided each morning, and teams of campers worked together in the kitchen to provide some scrumptious home-cooked meals.

We asked our campers to share some of their favorite parts of dressage camp:

Having three lessons in a row with Ellen; stuff was really staring to click. Hanging out with a really nice and nonjudgmental group of Horse People.”  –Kathie

Getting to see Elise, finally taking a lesson with the amazing Ellen, getting to ride Boo, and of course the puppies!”  — Annalisa

Everything! Horses, puppies, spending time with great people! Can’t wait to do it again!”  –Erica


Erica tacking up Blackberry
Erica tacking up Blackberry
Carla and Feety taking a lesson from Ellen Eckstein
Carla and Feety taking a lesson from Ellen Eckstein







Belle's tarp training goes easily
Belle’s tarp training goes easily







Ellen gives Shayanna some pointers
Ellen gives Shayanna some pointers