Horse General Interest Past Articles

The Wild Horse Who Loved the Girl

Edmond Artist Debuts First Novel on Lessons Animals Can Teach

By Heide Brandes

Once upon a time, there was a horse who loved a little girl.

            Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved a horse.

            Once upon a time, the two learned lessons about standing up for what’s right, the true meaning of freedom and the strength of love.

            In Edmond native Jennifer Hustis’ debut children’s book, “The Wild Horse Who Loved the Girl,” readers are taken on a poignant journey through the eyes of a mustang who remembers the wind in his free days in the wild and a little girl who teaches him that humans can be caring and loving as well.

            Hustis, a known artist whose artwork and talks focus on the history and future of the wild mustangs, says her book is based on the true story of her own daughter’s experience in volunteer-training a rescue horse. She didn’t expect that experience to become a dramatic turning point in their family’s life or become a passion project and the start of a writing career.

            “This book is from an experience my family had when we said yes to allowing my 10-year-old daughter to be a part of a local rescue equine trainers challenge,” said Hustis. “It is a fundraiser that also helps place horses in good homes. Some of the horses might come in, like for example this horse that we received, as a cruelty case.”

            As part of the equine trainers challenge, 10-year-old Katie had 100 days to work with the horse and train it to become adoptable.

            “Of course, I said no at first. I thought Katie was too young,” Hustis said. “I had just finished a big exhibit at Science Museum Oklahoma, educating the public on mustangs. At 8-years-old, Katie had a list of how she was going to raise money to train wild mustangs. So I figured maybe we would start with a domesticated horse for her first horse, and we had done it before, so the process wasn’t foreign to me.”

            Although Hustis thought her daughter may have been a little young to train—and ultimately say goodbye—to the horse, the entire process became a growing experience. Just like the novel, Katie and her horse went through challenges, growth, drama and even had a “villain” to defeat.

            And just like in real life, the story has a surprising and touching ending that no one expected.

            “So I have this great story, and my friend Pat had followed me through the mustang art exhibit and really supported the mustang exhibit,” Hustis said. “She said, ‘You gotta write this.’ I’ve written articles as an artist, and I’ve always loved to write. I always thought when I was an old lady, I would sit down with all these stories that animals have taught me over the years and write children’s books.”

             “The Wild Horse Who Loved the Girl” is the story that Hustis created and illustrated, albeit sooner than anticipated. She wanted each page to include beautiful illustrations, and the process of creating the story and the artwork took less than a year.

            “I would say, overall, it took me six months to execute it and do over 30-some-odd illustrations. It was quite a labor of love, but I tried to write the book so that it spoke to all ages,” Hustis said.

            Hustis said upon reading the book she wants readers to come away with lessons and insight, like standing up for what’s right and having a sense of what true freedom is—because the horse had to learn what freedom meant to him.

            Hustis chose to self-publish the children’s book, which was published in September. “The Wild Horse Who Loved the Girl” is available with autographed copies at http://www.oklahomabooksonline.com/wildhorsewholovedthegirl.html and at http://www.oklahomabooksonline.com/jennifer_hustis.html.

                        “My goal is to educate people about horses so that the horse and the person can be successful. I don’t want another bad story out there,” said Hustis. “What profits I make, ultimately, I want to give back to the horse rescue community.”

Horse General Interest Past Articles

Mock Brothers

Mock Brothers Saddlery & Western Wear

Keeping Tradition Alive

By Lauren Cavagnolo

Walking into Mock Brothers Saddlery & Western Wear, it’s immediately clear this is no chain operation. One peek into the back room gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the craftsmanship of the leather goods sold in the store. The walls are covered in photographs of the store’s history, famous customers and the family’s roots in cowboy culture. And according to its 5-star rating on Facebook and dozens of glowing reviews, the service is incomparable.

            Oklahoma’s oldest saddle shop, known simply as “Mocks” if you’re a local, is located in Sand Springs just a few miles from its original location in the old stockyards. The store moved to its current location in December 1976, coinciding with the closure of the stockyards.

            Bret and Greg Mock are the third generation of brothers to own and run the family business. In operation since 1941, it’s anticipated that one day Bret’s sons, Ethan and Daniel, will take over and continue the tradition.

Family of Cowboys

Pictured in those old photographs wallpapering the store are Bret and Greg’s grandpa Albert (or Ab), great uncle Claude and great uncle Archie, the store’s founders.

            “My great grandpa had passed away at an early age, and so my uncle Claude came down; he had learned to build saddles up in Kansas in the ‘30s and was still cowboyin’ around. So he came down, and they opened a saddle shop up at the yards there. And that helped support my great grandma and my uncle Archie,” Bret said.

            Archie Mock was unable to work after he was badly injured in a car accident and left paralyzed from the waist down.

            “They went off a bridge, and he saved the guy that was with him and got him out of the water. Then he passed out and was frozen from the waist down. And so Archie would do the books or dye in belts because he was still bedridden, but it gave him something to do to support him—just kind of made a living for him.”

            A closer look at a photo of uncle Claude on the wall reveals the shadow of the photographer, uncle Archie in his wheelchair.

            “Lot of ranch saddles, lot of rodeo people, barrel racers, team ropers, calf ropers,” Bret describes the family photos on the wall. “You can see in that picture uncle Claude’s got a rope and calf roped a little bit, and, of course, they cowboyed all their lives.”

            After Albert, Archie, and Claude’s run, Bret and Greg’s dad Albert Jr. and their uncle Richard took over the store. “And we bought Richard out in 1984. So we have been here ever since,” Bret said.

Back to Basics

“Grandpa, he’d flip out if he [could see] how big this has grown,” laughed Bret. Over the years, the store has added a variety of merchandise, including boots and Western wear.

            With the advent of the big box chains, local stores such as Mocks have become few and far between.

            “Especially nowadays, since Drysdales has sold out and been bought by Boot Barn, [Mocks is] not a cookie cutter store. Cavender’s has got 20 to 30 stores, and they are basically all the same anywhere you go and same with Boot Barn,” Bret said. But if you want something different, mine’s catered to Western, horse, ag-related people, and that’s what I’ve got. If you want fashion, you’ll have to go to town. Mine’s basic stuff. And we do saddle repair and build chaps and everything horse related. You can’t get that from town.”

            Mock Brothers carries everything from saddles, tack, bits and rope to Western wear, boots, belts and wallets. A good portion of the store showcases the saddles crafted by hand on-site.

            “I’ve got 200 saddles in here, but we still build custom saddles. We are a year out on those. [We] don’t do a lot of show saddles. They want them so light and moveable, and I understand that for the rider, but they don’t last 10 years,” Bret explained. 

            “I don’t build saddles like that; mine last a lifetime, you know? And I’ve built something like they build, and it’s cheap to me— junk. I’m not doing that; I’m not lowering my standards,” he continued. “I understand why they want it, and they don’t care if it doesn’t last 10 years. They throw it away and go get another one. But that’s not what we do. So mine are too heavy. We still build them like grandpa and uncle Claude did back in the ‘40s.”

            Bret says a plain saddle can take anywhere from 50 to 60 hours from start to finish. Tooling, the stamping of designs and color into the leather, can add another 20 to 30 hours depending on the intricacy of the design.

            Unshaped hats also line the shelves, waiting to be shaped by hand when purchased. One Facebook review notes that “Bret can shape a hat second to none.”

            “I sell a ton of hats; they are all hand creased how you want it. They are open blanks,” Bret said. “And we are the same way with saddles and the service and everything. It’s all pretty personal and everything.”

            And the store has the reviews to back it up.

            “This is back to the basics, personal service with a smile and helpful until the doors close for the day. I wouldn’t go any place else and these folks are well known all over the area since they’ve been in business since 1941. This is your complete store with everything you can imagine,” raves one reviewer on the Mock Brothers Facebook page.

            “Outstanding people! Good quality products. And if they don’t have it, and they can’t find it, they will make it! There’s a reason why they have been around since the 1940s as a family business. They are the best around,” gushes another.

            Other reviewers keep it simple: “Excellent quality, top notch customer service! They always go above and beyond! Our family won’t go anywhere else!”

Celebrity Shoppers

It’s not just the locals and professional rodeo riders who know and love Mock Brothers.

            Bret says when Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood still lived in Oklahoma, they would come into the shop occasionally.

            “Garth and Trisha would come in and buy saddles, and Garth would buy shirts,” Bret recalled.  “Of course, he’s moved off now, so I probably won’t see him again, but they bought shirts and boots and stuff when they were here.”

            Another famous country music duo, Brooks and Dunn, have had guitar straps custom made by Mock Brothers.

            “Dad’s built two pairs of guitar straps for Brooks and Dunn. And Ronnie Dunn just ordered another guitar strap,” Bret said.

            One of those guitar straps can even be seen on the cover of a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box featuring the musicians.

            Reba McEntire and her family have also been known to frequent Mock Brothers Saddlery.

            “Her dad and family’s old cowboys, and we rebuilt his ’53 steer tripping saddle for him several years back,” Bret shared. “But [Reba] would pull up in her bus, and her mom and dad would come in, and they would leave the car parked out here when she was touring close for several days.”

            Bob Wills, whose band Texas Playboys put Cain’s Ballroom on the map with its regular shows from 1934 to 1942, was also a customer.

            “We built four saddles for him and sent them out to California when he was out there,” Bret said.

            Even OSU’s beloved Pistol Pete has his chaps custom created for him by the Mock Brothers.

            “We have built six or eight pairs [of chaps], and two for the spirit riders several years ago,” Bret said. “You do two pair at a time, and it seems they need more every two to three years. We have always had close ties with OSU. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we made saddles for the equine department, so we have always been close to OSU.”

            Hanging on the walls alongside the family photos are headshots of Garth, Reba and even more musicians and rodeo stars, all customers at one time or another.

            While all of the photos and memorabilia strategically placed on the walls and shelves give the shop the feel of a museum, a sign created by one of Bret’s sons playfully reminds customers: “This ain’t no museum, this junk’s for sale.”

            Customers can shop and see for themselves 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Horse Athletics Horse General Interest Past Articles

Beyond the Team

Beyond the OSU Football Team: What Goes Into Game Day

By Derinda Blakeney, APR

We all know there would be no football program at Oklahoma State University without OSU’s talented coaches and players who make up the OSU football team. However, there are many things beyond the team itself that help make each home game a special experience for attendees. There is the extremely gifted band performing in the stands and on the field during halftime. There are the dedicated cheerleaders and pep squads, the fans and our famous mascot, Pistol Pete. And there is one more thing—the thunder of hooves racing around the stadium as Bullet and a Spirit Rider celebrate each touchdown. 

                A Spirit Rider has been celebrating OSU Cowboy touchdowns at home football games since 1984. In 1988, OSU bought its own black horse, and the name Bullet was chosen. (See our September/October issue for a full feature article on Bullet and the Spirit Rider program.)

                Oklahoma State’s own Center for Veterinary Health Sciences has provided Bullet’s veterinary medical care for years. In 2005, OSU took that care to a new level when Dr. Lyndi Gilliam began accompanying Bullet to every home game.

                “It’s important to OSU to keep Bullet safe at all times,” explained Dr. Gilliam, equine medicine specialist at OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital. “By being with Bullet at home games, I can attend to his needs should he get hurt. It takes a very special horse like Bullet to perform in a game day environment.  Things at a football game are never predictable, and it is easy to forget a horse is involved. Although he is an exceptional animal, one mistimed or wrong move and we could have an emergency on our hands.  I’m just there as a precaution, a safety net. I work closely with Ty and Jennifer Cunningham, Bullet’s caretakers, to make sure that Bullet is as happy and safe as possible.

                “In reality, Bullet is also an athlete.  He needs to be in top shape to perform at his best. At OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital, we make sure Bullet gets the proper wellness care to keep him healthy. He is on a routine vaccination and parasite control program and is fed top quality Purina© feed.  He receives a pre-season exam from head to tail by our board certified specialists to make sure he is sound for the upcoming season. From equine internal medicine and surgery to sports medicine and rehabilitation, we have specialists trained in the latest techniques to take care of Bullet should he have any health problems.”   

                One of those specialists is Dr. Mike Schoonover. He is a board certified equine surgeon and a board certified specialist in sports medicine and rehabilitation. In the same way orthopedic specialists look over the football players, Dr. Schoonover evaluates Bullet from an orthopedic standpoint.

                “If I ever have a concern about Bullet’s ability to perform on the field from a soundness standpoint, our surgery and sports medicine specialists will perform an in-depth evaluation,” said Gilliam. “These evaluations may include anything from lameness evaluation to diagnostic imaging, such as radiographs or ultrasound. The Veterinary Medical Hospital’s equine medicine and surgery service also provides regenerative therapies as well. We have the ability to utilize many preventative and treatment modalities to keep Bullet sound and comfortable.”

                “We’ve worked together for years,” stated Schoonover. “Having experts in multiple specialties is a wonderful asset that the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences offers horse owners in Oklahoma.” 

                “We always hope that Bullet won’t need our care during a football game, but it’s a comfort knowing we have such a highly specialized team right here on campus ready with the latest techniques and products in equine veterinary care should the need arise,” added Gilliam. “Game day would not be the same without Bullet, and we take great pride in ensuring that we do our job to make sure fans can hear ‘Heeere comes Bullet!’ at every home game.” 

                For more information on OSU’s equine veterinary care, call (405) 744-7000, ext. 2.

Horse General Interest Horse Health

Winter Horse Care

Winter Horse Care

By Dr. Kris Hiney

Horses are more likely to suffer from inadvertent neglect during the winter. Owners may spend less time with their horses due to colder temperatures and less riding activity. It is also easier to miss changes in the horse, which may be hidden by longer hair coats or blankets. Fluctuations in extreme weather conditions can also put an excessive burden on your horse’s health. Put the following items on the winter to-do list: evaluate how your horse is fed, watered and sheltered.

Should your feeding program change?

Winter pasture quality in Oklahoma is very low. All native and warm season grasses are dormant, and the nutritional quality of standing forage is greatly diminished. Protein content of grazing forage may be as low as 3 to 4 percent by mid-winter. Forage as well as concentrate supplementation is typically necessary until March or April—depending on weather and when spring green up occurs. Ideally, sufficient quality hay has already been purchased prior to the arrival of winter. An average 1,100-pound horse will eat around 22 pounds of hay per day.

When the temperature drops, consider extra hay beyond their normal allotment. Horses use additional calories to maintain their body temperature, plus the hay provides heat as it is fermented in their hindgut. There is a lower critical temperature that will vary based on adaptation to cold and on climate factors. Contact OSU Horse Extension if you need assistance calculating lower critical temperature for your horse. On average, for every drop in temperature of 14 degrees Fahrenheit below the lower critical temperature, they will need 20 percent more energy to stay warm.

It is a good practice to regularly evaluate your horse’s body condition score throughout the winter. When checking horses, be sure to put your hands on them! Many horses lose weight in the winter, but it goes undetected due to their fluffy hair coats. If they are blanketed, remove blankets regularly to thoroughly inspect the horse.

There are additional strategies we can take to prepare our horses for winter weather. If horses are housed outside, they should be provided adequate shelter and allowed to grow a hair coat. Horses entering winter with additional body condition score will also be able to stay warm easier. Fat tissue helps insulate horses against the chill. We really don’t want them to start the winter already thin. It is much easier to keep them in a moderate condition than try to gain weight during the winter.

Does my horse need a warm barn?

Stabling may not be necessary as horses do quite well in cold temperatures if they have become accustomed to them. Cold-adapted horses allowed to grow a winter hair coat do well in temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit. However, horses will have trouble keeping warm if the weather suddenly changes and if the horse hasn’t grown the proper hair coat. But all horses, even fuzzy ones, will have trouble if they do not have protection from the wind or rain, especially sleet. This chills a horse rapidly when the fluffy, protective insulation of its hair coat is slicked down to its body.

What is essential, then, is a shelter that can block the wind or allow horses to escape from rain. If horses are sharing shelters, make sure you monitor them and know for sure they all get along. Shifting herd dynamics may leave a horse out in the cold!  If you are able to ride, make sure to use a longer warm up process. After riding, be sure your horse has been cooled out properly before turning it back outside. A wet hair coat from sweat can cause the horse to lose heat rapidly.

To blanket or not to blanket?

Many horse owners assume that horses need blankets in the winter. Horses that are acclimated to cold weather, have access to shelter and have a good feed supply don’t need blankets.  Blankets are important if your horse is in lower body condition score or is kept with a short hair coat. Blanketing comes with responsibilities. Blanket fit and integrity must be checked. Poorly fitting blankets can either rub on the horse or slip and become tangled. If horses are out in the rain, blankets must be waterproof. Some horses are hard on blankets or may find that blankets on their pasture mates make fun tug toys. Blankets should be removed regularly to inspect the horse and should be removed with shifting weather conditions. With our often-sudden shifts back upward in temperatures, horses may be left sweating in their blankets. With that said, horses do like to be warm and, when given a choice, would prefer blankets when cold.   

What is your water source?

Oklahoma can experience some wild temperature swings in the winter, which can be detrimental to a horse’s health. It is critical that horses drink enough water in the winter. Failure to do so can lead to impactions and colic. Horses often decrease their water intake in winter because they do not like cold water. Older horses may also be more susceptible to dehydration in winter as icy water may irritate their teeth. The absence of fresh, green grass can further compound the issue. A tank or bucket heater in the winter is important. Adding salt or water to the diet of the horse may encourage water intake during winter. Try mixing an ounce of salt into the feed source or add water to pelleted feeds or create bran mashes.

Keeping water flowing

If choosing to use tank or bucket heaters, owners must ensure that these devices are not allowing electricity to pass into the water. Horses are extremely sensitive to electricity and can quickly develop a fear of their water source, which may be difficult to overcome. In an ideal world, owners have electric outlets near their horse’s water source that are covered and protected from elements and correctly installed.

What if an electrical source is not readily available? Industrious horse owners can build solar covers for their water tanks. These are insulated boxes that fit over the trough and cover the top. These capture the heat of the sun and prevent heat losses from the top. Commercial units can also be purchased at www.ranchtanks.com.

If electricity is available but not in close proximity, it is important to calculate the voltage loss to determine if an extension cord is an option for you. The longer and/or smaller the extension cord, the greater the voltage loss. Voltage loss in an extension cord should never exceed 5 percent; this could damage your equipment or cause a fire. There are calculators available on the internet that can help you determine voltage loss. Always plug into a GFI (ground fault interrupt) circuit to ensure safety when running an extension cord outside.

Another option is a water aerator that can run off of a 12 V car battery. The water circulation prevents it from freezing, and these units may certainly be an option when only a limited number of days are predicted to be cold.

Remember, when choosing any of these options, it must be safe for horses. Any electric wire must be protected from inquisitive horses and weather.

Winter should not give you the blues when it comes to horse care. Follow these tips to keep horses healthy, and remember spring is right around the corner.

Horse General Interest

Farriers

A Worldwide Family of Farriers

The Oklahoma Farrier’s Association Hosts the American Farrier’s Association 2019 Annual Convention

By Anna Holton-Dean

Every year, the annual convention of the American Farrier’s Association (AFA) is held in a different location across the United States. This March, the Oklahoma Farrier’s Association is proud to host the AFA’s 2019 annual convention at the Cox Business Center in downtown Tulsa.

“Each state has a local chapter of members that take on the responsibilities required to make such a large event successful,” says OFA President and AFA Certification Committee Chairman Craig Stark.

The convention will bring in farriers from around the world including Europe, China, Japan and Australia and will offer educational opportunities in addition to the annual North American Farrier’s competition. 

Close to 100 farriers from across the globe will compete for cash and prizes. The contest is broken down into three separate blacksmithing classes with the top 20 competitors advancing to demonstrate their skills shoeing live horses.

The top four open competitors that live in North America will earn the opportunity to be named to the American Farrier’s Team. Additional competitions include one for those 60 years of age and over, and for those new to forging, the Intermediate Division offers a “great challenge as well,” says Stark.

Attendees will take part in lectures, forging demonstrations, live horse demonstrations and hands-on opportunities. A large trade show will also offer farriers the opportunity to see the latest products and speak with vendors, gaining valuable input and assistance if needed.

A Family Affair

“There are also nightly gatherings and social opportunities for farriers to visit with old friends and make new ones from all over the world,” Stark says. “Oftentimes, it is in this down time that farriers get their most valuable ideas and strategies from others farriers. In some ways, it is like a very large family reunion!”

For many within the farrier community, those familial relationships may be the most memorable takeaway from the annual convention.

“The farrier industry is an amazing and unique group of individuals,” Stark continues. “I have never seen an industry where professionals, that are in effect in competition with each other for business, are willing to share their techniques and help their associates. In their free time, farriers will gladly help each other, go to clinics and teach or learn with other farriers. To my knowledge, plumbers don’t get together in the evenings to show each other how to run pipes or plunge a toilet; electricians don’t show each other how to wire outlets or gladly give constructive criticism, then show the individual how to improve their skill set.

“Yet this is exactly what farriers do for each other. Both the state and national associations have disability or injured farrier funds in place. These are funded by donations from the farriers themselves. We are also very well-known for getting a group together and taking care of an injured colleague’s clients, sending the injured farrier the proceeds. This is what I refer to as the ‘farrier family.’ And just like our own families, we all have that weird uncle or cousin. But they are still family, and we are more than happy to take care of family. After all, a true friend, in my opinion, is the family we choose. These yearly contests, clinics and conventions are a chance to reunite and catch up with our ‘farrier family’ and, thus, are like family reunions! We come from not just North America but all over the world and are always glad to see one another and catch up.”

AFA History

The American Farrier’s Association was established in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1971. According to the AFA website, it began with a small organization of farriers who wished to help organize the farrier community and provide direction for the future. Since those humble beginnings, the AFA has grown into an association of international scope, providing direction and growth for the farrier community. Today, the AFA represents farrier interests throughout the equine world. In addition to its primary concerns of promoting equine welfare and providing continuing education for working farriers and the equine community, the AFA stays abreast of the equine community and acts as an advocate for farriers in relation with veterinarians, breed and sport associations, and state and federal government agencies.

The AFA centers upon five foundational tenets, which reinforce its mission and drive all of its efforts and programs: education, certification, communication, research and innovation. These five timeless tenets provide the basis for all AFA programs and serve as the focal points of the AFA, past and present.

For more information on the 2019 annual convention, visit the “American Farrier’s Association Annual Convention” page on Facebook.

Horse General Interest

Smart as a Donkey

Smart as a Donkey

AssN9 Ranch’s title-winning miniature Mediterranean donkeys prove the stereotypes wrong

By Lauren Cavagnolo

Stubborn, stupid, lazy or slow might just be some of the words that come to mind when you hear the word donkey. From the depiction of donkeys in movies like “Dumbo and “Shrek” to expressions like “making an ass out of yourself,” donkeys have gotten a bad rap.

“A lot of people think that donkeys are stupid or stubborn, but they have a lot more self-preservation than a horse. They are not a flight animal like a horse,” explains Kim Winton who, along with her husband Jim Speck, raises miniature Mediterranean donkeys. “They are really very intelligent.”

Winton and Speck, who own AssN9 Ranch in Shawnee, breed, raise and train award-winning miniature Mediterranean donkeys. They currently have about 30 donkeys and operate under the motto “pretty, performance, perfection,” a far cry from the stereotype.

Winton says she has always been around and owned horses. After moving back to Oklahoma, she and her husband had some issues with dogs chasing their colt.

Winton had always heard that donkeys were good watch animals and a natural enemy to coyotes or dogs.

”And so we got a standard size donkey. Sure enough, those dogs would run out there, but they would never cross that fence,” Winton said.

Thinking their donkey might like to have a friend, Winton and Speck bought a miniature donkey that incidentally turned out to be pregnant. Winton recalled the day the miniature donkey gave birth. “Oh my gosh, I’m pretty tough for a girl, but that little baby hit the ground, and I just boo-hooed. It was the cutest thing I’d ever seen in my whole life.”

Shortly after, Winton and Speck attended an expo to learn more about donkeys: how to groom, feed and show them.

“We thought it kind of looked like fun, and it was something neither one of us knew much about. So, it was something to learn about together,” Winton said. “Long story short, we got more involved and bought some, really studied a lot, started buying high quality stock, and we are now one of the leading breeders in the business—especially when you talk about performance animals. We are in it for the performance aspect, not just to breed a pretty donkey.”

Unlike miniature horses that have been bred down, miniature donkeys are naturally occurring and stand between 30 to 36 inches high through the hip. Originating from the Mediterranean area, they were imported to the United States in the 1930s and can live to be up to 40 years old.

The classic colors for the coat are gray and brown, but after years of breeding, miniature donkeys can now also be found in several shades of red or even have spots.

Winton and Speck say they sell their donkeys for anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000, depending on if it is a pet quality animal or a title-holding show animal.

Breeding for Competition

The couple has plenty of title-holding show animals. In 2017, Winton and Speck’s donkeys swept the National Miniature Donkey Association year-end high point awards, taking the top spots for jacks, jennets and geldings.

“They were all animals that we had raised,” Winton added. “Those three were the epitome of what we do try to breed for. With that particular three, I’ve won grand champion jack, grand champion gelding and grand champion halter.”

Winton said it has taken about six to eight years to really see the results of their breeding efforts.

“Ultimately, what we have tried to do is breed nice performance, our high-end performance animal back to a halter donkey,” Winton explained. “We are at a point now, I compete very well in halter as well as performance, but that took quite a while.

“The halter competition is judged by how well the donkey’s body conforms to breed standards. A performance donkey has a little bit longer body; the hips may be a little higher than their shoulders, and their heads are a little bit bigger.

“I have some halter donkeys that can move well, but they have to have a good mind,” Winton continued. “They have to have the willingness; they have to have the disposition. That’s not to say that all halter donkeys aren’t willing to learn. Our particular bloodline, we are not just focusing on the body; we are focusing on building a very trainable, willing animal.”

Depending on the show, there might be anywhere from 8 to 15 different classes, ranging from performance driving to in hand races to game classes with names like Hurry Scurry, Scramble and Pleasure Driving.

Obstacle courses can be as straightforward as maneuvering through cones and around barrels or as complicated as jumps of varying heights, backing into a small garage, opening a mailbox and retrieving mail or getting on a teeter totter.

“You might do lead line race, that means just get the donkey in your hand and run as fast as you can. It’s a timed event, down around the cone and back,” Winton said. “That sounds easy, but frequently it is a drag race. Or you get down halfway, and the donkey says, ‘Hmmm, no, I don’t really want to go around that cone.’ Or the donkey gets going faster than you, and you do a flip in front of everybody. I’ve done all of that,” Winton said with a laugh.

Sometimes, props are used to distract the animals from the task at hand.

“One of the shows we go to, they have a taxidermy wild pig. You don’t have to do anything to the pig, but you have to execute an obstacle by it, and a lot of times the donkeys are afraid of it,” Winton said.

In the cart classes, people are pulled in carts behind the donkeys. For the Pleasure Driving category, contestants dress the part.

“Most people have kind of a fancy little cart or, at a minimum, a cart they keep very neat and very clean; you’re dressed up like you are going to church. So, most of the women have the big fancy hats,” Winton elaborated.

Winton says for the cart classes, she competes with a specific type of cart called a sulky.

“It is much shorter, therefore, my donkeys, when they come around a barrel, they will cross their front and back legs; I can cut a lot closer to the barrel. In that sulky, I can almost touch the barrel all the way around it,” Winton explained.

Ultimately, however, success in competition is all about the relationship between the donkey and trainer.

“It really comes down to a lot of the trainability of the animal and the trust that the animal has in you,” Winton said.

Outside of competitions over the last several years, Winton and Speck have also participated in Remington Park’s Extreme Racing Day charity event. Their miniature donkeys race other donkeys to raise money for a variety of charities. Camels, zebras, pigs and ostriches are also included in the event with charities assigned to different animals. The winning animal raises money for its assigned charity.

Golden Retrievers With Hooves

Though the couple focuses on breeding donkeys for competition, a lot of the people who purchase the animals want them for pets, Winton said.

“A lot of people buy them for kids, and they are extremely tolerant of kids,” Winton said. “These are really like a Golden Retriever with hooves. A horse will come up and see if you have anything good to eat and then leave. The donkeys really want to be up in your business: ‘Oh, you’re fixing the fence? Let me help you fix the fence. Oh, you’re moving some hay? Let me help you move that hay.’”

Winton says when she walks out on her property, she looks like the Pied Piper of donkeys: “I’ll have a trail of 30 donkeys walking behind me.”

In addition to wanting to be around people, they also want to be around each other.

“They are herd animals. They interact with each other a lot, they talk to each other, they groom each other, they play and they chase,” Winton said.

That being the case, money is not incentive enough for Winton to sell a donkey if it is going to be by itself. And though the donkeys will acclimate to dogs that belong on the property, a dog is not a substitute for companionship, though the two animals do have their similarities.

“Every one of their brays is different. Just like you have dogs and know which dog is barking,” Winton said. “They make a lot of different noises.”

Winton says training a donkey is extremely similar to training a dog.

“Most of them are pretty food driven, but more than anything, it’s just the praise, scratch on the shoulder, attaboy,” Winton remarked. “And they all have their own personalities. My two favorite jennets, they just know when I get up in the morning, and by the time I get my coffee and sit in the sunroom, they are there waiting for me.”

To learn more about AssN9 Ranch, visit their website at www.AssN9ranch.com.

Horse General Interest

Is this a pig problem or a people problem?

Is this a pig problem or a people problem?

Protecting our native systems from feral pigs

By Josh Gaskamp

Feral pigs have been a hot topic within university extension and special educational programming across the southern states. With agricultural damage estimates reaching more than $2.5 billion annually in the United States, much attention is being placed on techniques to properly manage feral pigs. 

A more difficult impact to measure is that associated with displacement and endangerment of native animals. Feral pigs are not native to the U.S., and like many other introduced species, they have become invasive, decimating native ecosystems (soil, water, plants and animals) and agricultural land, and threatening livestock and native wildlife species with competition, disease and predation. 

Currently, management of feral pigs in Texas and Oklahoma emphasizes protection of several threatened or endangered species. Whooping crane, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, interior least tern, prairie chicken and black bear are among the species of largest concern.  Left unmanaged, feral pigs will be a contributing cause to the decline of other ground nesting birds, reptiles and amphibians, as well as sensitive habitats and rare plants.

Feral pig is the term given to descendants of once-domesticated pigs that have been released or escaped to live in the wild. It is the same species as the Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa). But at the opposite extreme of the Eurasian wild boar lies a very different animal: a highly selected breed desirable for the domestic pork industry. Through genetic selection, humans selected traits such as high fecundity and accelerated growth from each generation of pigs to design the perfect pig for pork production.

Consequently, research has documented higher growth rate and fecundity in feral pigs than in their native counterpart in Europe. Subsequent releases of domestic or feral pigs, rapid annual population growth stemming from high reproductive rates, and well-intended incentives that perpetuate their existence has led to the explosion of feral pig populations across much of the U.S.

Some of the reasons for introductions of pigs to live in the wild include intentional releases and escapes from free-range pig farms, stocking for recreational hunting and proliferation of heritage breeds. After released, feral pigs have demonstrated that they can flourish in a wide range of habitats not intended for them. They often demonstrate that they can do it better than some of our native wildlife, forcing an ethics discussion on which species is more important to protect. Feral pigs compete for food, predate on, and damage habitats that indirectly impact many native species. Being a large opportunistic omnivore, feral pigs are the worst kind of invasive species. This isn’t a problem that will just go away. Conservative management practices (e.g., fencing and scare tactics) that favor feral pigs and wildlife co-existing are irresponsible and inhumane to the native species that evolved on these landscapes.

Hunting and trapping of feral pigs has occurred for decades. Early on, these activities were done for sport or food. More recently, it is to control populations to reduce damage to agriculture and competition with native wildlife species. As feral pig populations expanded and continued to make negative impacts, incentive programs surfaced and were mostly aimed at increasing the number of people participating in control and the number of animals removed from the landscape. Some incentive programs were in the form of bounties and hunting contest venues. Eventually, a market for live (e.g., commercial hunting) or dead (e.g., gourmet meats) feral pigs was established, which provided a more consistent income stream for people regularly trapping feral pigs. Though these programs had good intentions, giving landowners the opportunity to recoup some of the investment made in repairing damage or trapping feral pigs, they may have spread or perpetuated the existence of this invasive species. In other states, new and disconnected populations (presumably from trap and translocation) of feral pigs have emerged, immediately following changes in legislation favoring landowners with feral pigs. Additionally, the payment schedule for pigs delivered to these markets typically rewards those bringing in large animals and prohibits the sale of small animals. Consequently, piglets captured in traps may be released to be captured later when they are of marketable size. Irresponsible practices such as releasing trapped feral pigs leads to a whole host of new challenges when dealing with this species.

Pigs are among the smartest mammals on the planet, and feral pigs that gain experience from unsuccessful trapping events are called trap-wary pigs. Imagine a common and often unavoidable scenario where a sounder (family group) of pigs approaches a trap. Half of the group walks into the trap and are captured, while the other half remains outside of the trap. The segment captured in traps are the most naïve pigs in the population, while the segment left outside the trap, and on the landscape, are the wariest and contribute to future generations. Much like we selected traits that got us a faster growing pig capable of producing six piglets per litter and two litters each year, we have more recently selected for pigs that are good at avoiding traps. Years of research at the Noble Research Institute focused on delivering solutions to this challenge. 

Though trapping is often the most effective method to mitigate damage and control feral pig populations, previous trap designs (specifically box and corral traps) have resulted in only a fraction of the population being removed, occasional non-target captures, and trap-wary pigs. In 2011, we introduced drop-nets as a potential tool for more effective control. The results of that two-year study indicated that 86 percent of feral pig populations can be removed with drop-nets as compared to only 49 percent with corral traps.

Certain characteristics of the drop-net proved to be vital to its success, while others limited its usefulness. A suspended net could capture a large group of pigs, but an observer was needed on-site to activate the drop and remove the pigs. A corral trap did not need an observer to activate the trap but typically would only capture a portion of a sounder. Using the advantages of both techniques, a new trap was developed.

The BoarBuster™ trap system is a fully suspended corral trap that can be observed and dropped remotely from anywhere with internet service. The automated trap has been designed to send text or email messages upon motion activation and streams live video through a designated web server. This trap technology allows the user to observe and activate the traps via smartphone or computer. The suspended feature of the trap allows animals to enter or leave from all directions, eliminating trap-wary behavior associated with stationary corral traps. The user-activated trigger eliminates non-target animals from being captured and facilitates the capture of entire sounders when users are disciplined to wait for the last pig to enter the trap. The small-mesh corral design allows for captured pigs to safely remain in the trap until removed at a convenient time. The BoarBuster™ trap system has the potential to capture 88 percent of pigs from established populations, while reducing the labor time per pig to one-third of that needed by drop-nets and conventional corral traps.

The BoarBuster™ trap system can be effective at reducing feral pig populations long term, but if 88 percent of the pigs are removed on one small property and neighboring property owners do not implement any control, collectively, no progress has been made. Even worse, one neighbor grows corn and controls pigs to protect their crop while another, directly across the fence, sells hunts for trophy wild boar periodically released on the property. Lack of consistent management strategies for this species makes progress in controlling them extremely difficult. It will take continued and increased landowner and agency collaboration to win the battle against this invasive species.   

The feral pig problem in the U.S. is a problem that we created and is hurting our native wildlife and natural ecosystems. We have to work to protect our native systems by using the best techniques to remove feral pigs from the landscape. If we do not, society suffers.

Josh Gaskamp is a wildlife and range consultant with Noble Research Institute. He can be reached at jagaskamp@noble.org.

Literature Cited:

Gaskamp, J.A.  2012. Use of Drop-nets for Wild Pig Damage and Disease Abatement. Thesis, Texas A&M University, College Station, USA.

Taylor, R.B., E.C. Hellgren, T.M. Gabor, and L.M. Ilse. 1998. Reproduction of feral pigs in southern Texas. Journal of Mammalogy, 79:1325-1331.

Tolleson, D., W. Pinchak, D. Rollins, M. Ivy and A. Heirman. 1994. Effect of habitat type on depredation of simulated quail nests. Page 87 in Proceedings of the Society for Range Management Meetings, Colorado Springs, CO, USA.

Yarrow, G.K., and J.C. Kroll. 1989. Coexistence of white-tailed deer and feral hogs: management and implications. Proceeding of the Southeast Deer Study Group Meeting 12:13-14.

Horse General Interest Horse Training

Should You Be With horses?

What Would the Old Ones Say?

By Ruella Yates

I’ve been thinking of my grandfather, who told me of the old Native American ways with horses, and remembering perhaps the deepest horse knowledge I got from him. Should everyone have access to horses? His answer, and my answer, is no.  

            My grandfather was a first-generation American, born in Illinois to German-immigrant parents on their way west. The old stories from Deutschland came to him with his mother’s milk, and when he spoke of them to me, they had a mythic quality, knowledge as old as time. He was a man of few words, of great knowledge, profound faith and deep love of horses. He and I shared this, almost as a secret society existing within the busyness and hard work of a farm family.           

            As we walked the land together, one day he said, “Little girl, I want to tell you about horses. In the old times in Deutschland, not everyone was allowed to have horses. It didn’t have anything to do with affording them. The Old Ones said only special people could be with horses. You are one of those people. You are only 7 years old now, but you are one of us. When you grow up, I want you to always remember this, and learn why you can be with horses—why the Old Ones would choose you.”
            And so today, I ponder that again. Why did the Old Ones choose me?  Perhaps in reading this, you, too, will give this deep thought. Are you one of the chosen ones? In this 21st century life, are you?  

What is needed to truly ‘be with horses?’
Notice I didn’t mention anything about riding or what the horse can do for us.  What were the Old Ones looking for?
Spirituality
First of all, I believe that to truly “be with a horse,” one must have a deep spiritual connection to life, to the land, the sea, the sky and all living things. This, for me, has been a circuitous lifetime journey: the more spiritual I am, the more successful I am with being a part of every horse. The more I am with horses on a deep level, the more spiritual I become.  

            Young children can have this, as well as older people.  What I mean by “spiritual” has little to do with organized religion but a complete openness to God, by whatever name you choose to say; it also has little to do with “New Age” philosophies. Horses live their lives in this state of spirit, if humans give them the chance to live naturally. If you join with them in this state, they will know. Perhaps it’s something like the Old Testament referral to Abraham: “Abraham walked with God.”  

            My horses walk with God. And, so do I.

Empathy
Feel for the horse. Know him on a deep level. Often, I refer to this as “having a heart for horses.” My students hear this frequently; I think it’s necessary. I’m not referring to sympathy, which is a good thing, too, of course. There’s nothing syrupy about this kind of empathy, although sometimes the feelings in me cause my eyes to fill with tears, as I realize over and over again just who horses are. Some are born with this kind of empathy; I see this in some young children. To develop it fully requires years of study and simply being with horses. In a nutshell, however, consider the words of poet Robert Frost: “There never was any heart truly great and generous that was not also tender and compassionate.”

 Clarity
To “be with a horse” fully, one’s mind must lose the clutter of everyday life. When I go to a horse, everything else leaves my mind and time stands still. I never know if I’ve been there 10 minutes or an hour. Again, little children often have this, until adulthood “civilizes” them. But it can be relearned. Grounding exercises, along with meditation, will bring this to you if you “have a heart for horses.” I recommend sitting, standing or walking meditation, with your only thoughts horse-like: the breath, the earth beneath your feet, the wind in your mane, the sun on your withers. All thoughts of neediness for the horse, for anything must be released. Which brings me to…
Release of Ego
Turn loose of all thoughts of how you might look to other people, any feeling of power and importance, any goals and plans.  Check all that “stuff” at the gate. Volumes have been written on this by great thinkers of the past and present, so I won’t try to re-invent that wheel. Ghandi, Tolle, Chopra are a few names that come to mind.  Jesus stated it simply in two words: “Deny thyself.”

Openness to the Horse
Open your heart and mind and listen. I have been called a horse whisperer, but I think perhaps a better term would be horse listener. Listen and be amazed at what you hear. Don’t doubt yourself. If you have accomplished the points above, at even a beginning level— if you have released your horse to live naturally and free, it will happen. If it hasn’t happened spontaneously for you, there are books available with practical suggestions on horse communication. One I particularly like is by Leta Worthington, “Learn How to Talk to Animals.”  

            Many of the things I’ve pondered about who should or could have a horse—in the feelings of the Old Ones—have brought me to myself as a child and youngsters I see today. I had that quality as a child, kept it with me and find it still deepening with time and wisdom. In this photo, on a horse she loves, a 4-year-old is in deep communication with him. Look at their faces, their bodies. Her grandpa and I stand close for safety, but this is strong. When she was lifted from his back a few minutes later, she looked up at me with wide and shining eyes, saying, “Renn said, ‘I like other people, too, but I love you most of all.’” I believed her. Whatever you hear from a horse, believe it.

Horse General Interest

Horses Welcome at Precious Pets

Cremation and Burial Options for the Largest of Pets

By Bill Snyder

The cemetery is like any other. It’s quiet and peaceful. There are trees for shade and benches for quiet contemplation. A chapel sits among the flowered grave markers while silent statues keep watch over it all.

            The sound of a lonesome train whistle can be heard from time to time, but otherwise you just hear the blowing of the central Oklahoma wind.

            Like any other cemetery, this one is filled with dearly departed loved ones. However, unlike other memorials you may have visited, those remembered here had four legs in life.

Located in Spencer and opened in 1985, Precious Pets Cemetery’s focus is easing the burden of animal owners in difficult times and providing them a place to mourn and remember.

            Since 2008, the cemetery has offered equine services, including full body cremation.

Traditionally, full body cremation has been unavailable for horses because of their size. The best horse owners could hope for was the head and heart of the animal, which was nice, says Precious Pets owner Linda McCullough, but not enough for her family.

            “We started this because we respected animals,” McCullough says. “The rest of the horse goes to the dump, and I just think that’s disgusting. I didn’t want to be a part of it. I felt like if people wanted their pet cremated, they’d want the whole thing cremated. We waited to do horses until we could afford to buy the big cremator to do them in because I felt like that’s what we wanted to be involved with.”

            McCullough’s family owns two human cemeteries, but it was a tragedy with a beloved family pet that led to their venture in Spencer.

            “My sister’s cat got hit out in the street while she and her kids were outside and saw it, and that got us thinking that we needed someplace nice to put a pet, too,” she says. “Of course, when we started, cremation was just getting started in Oklahoma, and burial was our main focus. Now, that’s totally switched around; we probably do half as many burials as when we started and thirty times more cremation.”

            She says that animal cremation was very popular because people like to keep their beloved pets at home. However, the remains of a cremated horse can weigh as much as 40 pounds, typically requiring burial.

            “Most people take them home,” McCullough says. “We provide a burial container, which comes with cremation, and we have eight or nine horse urns if they want to purchase an urn. Most people that choose cremation want their horse buried in their home pasture. We have a garden for their horse called ‘The Last Corral’ if they want to bury their cremated horse out here.”

            The Last Corral is an area at the cemetery dedicated to horses, although a camel is interred there as well. It’s marked off by horse fencing and features a statue of a horse.

Having a dedicated place to lay animals to rest is important because people move, McCullough says. Many municipalities do not allow animal burial at home.

            “People come from all over the state,” she says. “Horses, people will bring them to us from states like Kansas, Arkansas and Texas that don’t have a horse crematory available. We can offload at the cemetery out of their horse trailer. We also have a veterinarian that can come out here and put them to sleep if they want to transport it here and euthanize it. We have a vehicle and all the equipment to move them around. We’ll even come out and pick them up in their pasture.”

            She says the work is rewarding because horses are family members. Precious Pets works quickly to see to a horse owner’s needs.

            “If somebody calls us, we try to get there that day or the next because you can’t leave them out a long time. We do have refrigeration available if we have to store it, but we try to get it as soon as someone calls us and get it right in the cremator. It takes two or three days before they get the remains back because it takes several hours to cremate. Then the crematorium has to cool down for 12 to 14 hours before we can walk in and get remains out.”

            In addition to The Last Corral, there are other uniquely dedicated resting spots at Precious Pets. The Furry Friends Garden is leafy and green. The Eternal Companions Garden has marked graves and a columbarium for the above-ground internment of cremated pets and a memory wall for pets buried elsewhere. The St. Francis Garden features a statute of Saint Francis and his dog, while the Faithful Guardians Garden is dedicated to police and service dogs, who are buried with full honors.

            Katrina Henderson says that one of the things that stands out about Precious Pets is their empathy.

            “My most recent experience with Precious Pets was when I helped a good friend who had to put down her service dog last week,” she says. “They assisted her with all the arrangements. They see it as helping, not profiting.”

            Henderson’s friend had had her service dog, Noble, for over 10 years. Service animals serve a unique role in their human’s life.

            “My friend says that Noble was less like her pet or companion and more like an extension of herself. I went out and talked to Linda about it because my friend wanted some kind of service. They took Noble, put him in a casket and placed it in the chapel. There was a reading and a recitation of the ‘Rainbow Bridge’ poem. The bridge is a place pets go to wait on you when they die.”

            Trust, Henderson says, is key. When she took her own cat to Precious Pets, she was confident that everything would be done properly, and she’d receive the remains of her pet.

            “You have to trust in the facility to leave your pet with them,” she says. “It’s reassuring during a very hard time. You don’t have time to go out and check all these places before you use them. You have to trust these people, and I do.”

            Due to their size, horses are buried in single graves. However, McCullough says it is not uncommon for families to buy a single plot and inter multiple cremated animals in it.

            “There’s just a lot of love there, and a lot of people want to have their animals buried out here,” she says. “They can buy a lot and put numerous pets in it. It’s more economical than buying a lot and burying each pet. A lot of people do that.”

            McCullough’s son Robert Erdman is the managing director of Precious Pets. He’s been working there for 23 years. Growing up, he got experience at his family’s human and pet cemeteries.

            “I worked both sides, but I loved the pet side more,” he says. “It’s more emotionally fulfilling to me to work with these families.”

            He said that pet owners don’t have to use their service, or any funeral service for that matter, so he has great respect for the feelings and emotions of the animal’s human.

            “These pets are everything to them,” Erdman says.

            He says that families appreciate the care and attention they give animals. Precious Pets offers full witness cremation.

            “I’d encourage anyone with questions about getting pet cremation or looking at a plot to call up here,” he says. “We have an open-door policy.”

            Precious Pets has two pet cemeteries. The first is at 5510 N. Spencer Rd. in Spencer. The second is at 17560 Oklahoma 9 in Norman.

            Call (405) 771-5510 or visit www.preciouspetscemetery.com for more information.

Horse General Interest Past Articles

Life Coaching With Equine

‘Horses are an honest mirror of how we show up in everyday life.’

By Addison Kliewer

Britton and Milli Collum, a couple from Guthrie, Oklahoma, are no strangers to the horse industry. However, about a year ago, they found themselves in unfamiliar territory––life coaching using horses.

            The couple began life coaching with equine because of their passion for horses and their love for helping others navigate through life’s turns. While it is certainly a unique occupation, the Collums have experienced noteworthy success.

            The pair has been involved with horses throughout both of their lives. Britton, who is the sales manager and internship coordinator for the Lazy E Ranch, and Milli, a certified life coach who has ridden and shown American Quarter Horses since she was young, were married in 2016, and they began life coaching soon after.

            “Life coaching is a little different than therapy or counseling in the fact that you just ask people empowering questions to help them find their truth and help people get unstuck from certain areas,” said Milli. “Whether that be in life purpose, relationships or spiritual relationships.”

            Although Milli had started her life coaching business called Courageous Commitments LLC, where she coaches individuals with and without horses, the two had not always been familiar with this unusual coaching style. When Milli was training to obtain her coaching certification, the couple attended a session where they were asked to write down their visions for the future.

            “We had never even talked about this. I didn’t even really know coaching with horses was a thing. So, when we broke for lunch, Britton and I asked each other what our visions were. We had both written down the exact same vision of coaching with horses,” said Milli.

            Soon after, the two had their first coaching clinic in Mesquite, Texas, and Britton said, “We knew none of the horses; we knew nothing about the location, and we only, kind of by association, knew the people––not necessarily any of their stories.”

            Since then, Britton and Milli have coached 11 equine-related clinics, including one held in Namibia, Africa.

            “We can do it anywhere in the United States if we had someone who had an agreeable location, and the amount of horses that it required. We could do it anywhere,” said Britton.

            While their coaching clinics have created many opportunities for both Britton and Milli, these clinics have also given others the opportunity to grow in their relationships and self-confidence.

            The pair said they have seen many extraordinary things during their time coaching with horses, and while it is easy to credit the couple, Milli said she believes God does a lot of the work for them.

            During a coaching clinic, Britton said he began talking about relationship boundaries. After he told the group that every relationship has to be 50/50, he went and drew a line in the sand with his hands. Prior to this, the horse being used had hardly been engaging with a client. However, Britton said as soon as he drew the line, the horse walked over and stood with its front feet at the line, looking at the person, and the horse never violated the boundary.

            “I’m telling you stuff like that happens all the time,” said Britton. “And you can’t train it.”

            However, while this seems like a fairly unique approach to life coaching, the pair said there are others who do it. While Milli and Britton said they believe a lot of good comes out of these other clinics, the couple’s approach is different than these.

            “I think what’s different for us in our coaching with equine is we focus more on the person than the horse,” said Milli. “Although we are both passionate about horses and love horses, the horse isn’t just some magic animal that has healing powers or anything. They are just simply a mirror––a very honest mirror––of how we show up in everyday life.”

            People, regardless of who they are and what they do, show up universally the same to everyone in one way or another––even to horses. Although some people may try to mask this, Britton said they do not inherently change who they are based on who they are engaging.

            “Because there is no physical way that you can make 1,100 pounds walk over and willingly engage you, when that kind of stuff happens, that person can’t refute the fact that they were accepted right then for exactly how honest they were, which is what every one of us wants,” said Britton.

            While the couple specializes in relationships, the Collums have coached, and will continue to coach, clinics for individuals struggling in all walks of life.

            “I have never met one person who couldn’t tell you some aspect about a pretty significant hurt or trauma in their life,” said Britton.

            Britton said this training can be done on any person, using any horse, anywhere in the world.

            During 2019, Britton and Milli said they will host 13 coaching-with-equine clinics. They also plan to revisit Namibia, as well as coach a clinic in South Africa toward the beginning of the summer.  

           You can learn more about the Collums at courageouscommitments.com.